WHY ‘THE CHURCH?’
August 25, 2021
I am as confused and uncertain as any of you. What does the future look like? What kind of church will we become? What kind of people does God call us to be? These past months of mandates, arguments, frustrations, conflicting reports from trusted sources…is there even a way forward?
I desperately want to believe that God has a future for our church. Let me share with you tonight several thoughts (I will also provide a link to this on our FACEBOOK page. PLEASE take the time to read it):
OUR MISSIONAL MOMENT
1. Our address IS our mission
I won’t retell the story of our church’s birth. What I will do is remind us that we are not here by accident. The physical place we occupy is significant because the space we occupy is a daily, visual reminder to our community that we care.
In September we will launch 2 new initiatives related to our address:
a). PRAY AND GO
Earlier this summer we offered a brief overview of the process. In order to fully launch I need some help. (SEE ATTACHED FOR MORE INFORMATION)
b). Bless Every Home
The Northwest Baptist Convention, our regional ministry partner, has graciously provided a church-wide subscription to this resource. If you sign up you will be sent names and addresses of neighbors (at least the name on the property deed, available via public records) via email daily. Bless Every Home even provides prayer prompts as you pray for your neighbors.
This should be available to all who are interested my mid-September.
2. The Gospel is our only resource
“Now brothers, I want to clarify for you the gospel I proclaimed to you; you received it and have taken your stand on it. You are also saved by it, if you hold to the message I proclaimed to you—unless you believed for no purpose. For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:1–4, HCSB)
What is the gospel?
a). The gospel begins with the affirmation that God’s world as He created it is good (Genesis 1).
b). The gospel reminds us that humans are born sinners by nature (see Genesis 3, Romans 1-3). People are not born ‘good’ and educated into ‘badness.’ People are born sinners and apart from the good news of Jesus Christ they are lost, destined for an eternity apart from God in hell – no matter how ‘good’ their live may be.
c). The gospel tells us that there is only one remedy for sin. The remedy is not ‘church’ nor is the remedy ‘living a good, moral life.’ Only as each individual accepts the death of Jesus in their place can one be set free from the sin that condemns. Only the death of Jesus is sufficient to erase the debt of sin with which we are born.
d). The gospel offers hope. Through death – Jesus’ death in our place – we can discover new life. There can be no new life except through the death –
“For if we have been joined with Him in the likeness of His death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of His resurrection.” (Romans 6:5, HCSB)
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! Together with Christ Jesus He also raised us up and seated us in the heavens, so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4–7, HCSB)
d). The gospel sets us free to live as God intended human beings to live.
Make no mistake. If we miss this we miss the entire purpose for which God planted us here. If we lose sight of the gospel, we become nothing more than another social group. Proclaiming the gospel – the good news that Jesus saves – is our lifeblood.
3. The gathered church is as necessary as the sent/scattered church
I know it’s difficult to ‘attend’ church. It’s an effort. Should we mask up? Should we just stay home and offer worship virtually? Why bother with a building?
A. The Gathered Church:
Worship – ascribing worth to God – is first and foremost between the individual and God. Yet there is a longing in all of us – part of the nature of God which indwells even those farthest from the Kingdom of God – to be with one another. God Himself acknowledged that it is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18; see also Genesis 1:26-28).
We are to worship God alone, but we are also commanded to gather to worship. There are far too many Scriptures to list here that call us to worship. When we neglect gathering together we are telling God that His ways are unimportant, that His commands are unnecessary. It is a denial of our new life in Christ to avoid gathering with other believers regularly for worship. (You know I’m not talking about being on vacation, being home ill, and other legitimate reasons one might miss a weekly gathering).
Instruction – Learning together from the Word of God is crucial. No, I am not suggesting we meet and ask, ‘what does this verse mean to you?’ Rather, gathering together to present God’s truth in ways that all ages can comprehend is our heritage as believers. In Acts 2, as soon as 3,000 new believers were added to the group of just over 100, they began meeting regularly to hear the apostle’s teaching – that is, their memories of all Jesus taught them.
Fellowship – One of the pictures of ‘church’ developed in the NT is the of the church as a body (1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4; 1 Peter 4). We all know what it feels like when one part of our body is hurting. The whole hurts! Isolation, avoiding others – it may be part of the protocol for recovering from COVID, but as a long term strategy for life it fails. Being one ‘body’ in Christ encourages us to gather for multiple reasons – from celebrating life’s beginnings to sharing together the transitions from life here on earth to life with Jesus in heaven.
Expression/Evangelism – Sharing the good news of Jesus happens most effectively one on one. It does happen in larger groups like Vacation Bible School, gospel concerts, family oriented films, or any number of ways God’s people get together. In times of crisis gathering as the people of God can be a powerful witness to the world in which we live of the unity of the Father and the Son and the Spirit (See John 17).
B. The Scattered Church:
When God’s people leave the building – for whatever purpose they have gathered – they are still the church! God never intended His people to live sequestered apart from the rest of the world. Jesus didn’t order His followers to huddle together in buildings waiting for His return. No, Jesus commanded His followers to make disciples – AS THEY WENT ABOUT THEIR LIVES.
The book of Acts in the New Testament is not about a group of people who hid themselves from the world. Rather it is an account of how the Holy Spirit empowered Jesus’ followers to penetrate the Roman Empire, indeed the entire world, with the good news of Jesus!
4. This Missional Moment
None of us knows what the future holds. Though I can’t predict the future, let me make a couple of promises:
1. We will leverage our building in any way possible to reach the community around us with the good news of Jesus Christ.
Pray for us – next month I will meet with the Winston-Dillard Food Bank to open discussions about how our part of our property might be available for use as a permanent home for the food bank.
I continue to look for ways to open our building to community groups needing places to meet.
2. We will promote and proclaim the gospel in all we say and do.
Any event our church hosts will provide an avenue to present the gospel. It might be a gospel tract, it might be a film, it might be handing out Bibles, it could be many different ways. But the gospel is the only hope for people who are dying and going to an eternity without God in hell.
3. We will continue to encourage believers of all ages to worship God together; we will do all we can to provide biblical teaching in ways appropriate to every age group; we will gather as often as we can to encourage one another, to pray for one another, to experience joy and/or grief together; we will endeavor to present the gospel clearly and boldly.