Monday, August 28, 2006

The Church - Part 5

So before I get into what I would see a local church looking like what are some characteristics of the local church that should be common among any local church.

First, based on the simple understanding of the church being a group of called out saints or holy ones I would surmise the church is made up of believers. Of course there may be those that are not truly believers but it is made up of those professing Christ as Savior and Lord. For the church to be made up of regenerate people that takes the Gospel truly being preached so that people are not making pragmatic decisions but ones truly wrought by God from a changed heart. This would also preclude infant baptism since only those that have professed faith would be considered and simply baptizing infants does not make them believers.

Second, since the church is to be made up of believers then the function of the church is to equip those believers and disciple them. For now I am not dealing with how this is done but instead simply want to make it clear that the church is to be there for believers and not the unbeliever. This does not preclude unbelievers attending services and such but it does mean that the meetings of the church are molded around believers based on scripture. So we do not take polls of what an unbeliever would like in church and we do not simply look at the surrounding culture and mold the church to that but we look at the church from a scriptural perspective. There may be items that culture may mean making changes. By this I mean that if one is in a foreign country the cultural aspects such as language would be implemented. But cultural aspects that are unbiblical would not.

Thirdly, just as Paul exhorts Timothy in 2 Tim 4:1-5 preaching the word needs to be central to the church life. There may be other things that are done but the primary thing is that God’s word is preached. The Word of God is central to all that is done. God had a reason He instilled in Paul such a heart for preaching and that is because it was God’s ordained means to proclaim His word. So if the activities of the church take away from the preaching of God’s word then those extraneous activities need to be curtailed so that the church can be saturated with God’s word. We will not know what to do without knowing what God wants us to do and it is His word that informs us of that. This also does not mean we simply hop around God’s word but that we work through it as it comes to us and take the uplifting along with the convicting. This is best done through expository preaching and I think this best accomplishes what Paul claimed in Acts 20:27, that the whole counsel of God is to be preached and this truly only happens if we preach and teach through the Bible. If we stick to thematic sermons we will by nature skip those difficult passages. Also from this preaching will come the doctrinal statement of the church which helps the church to define where it stands on key beliefs about God and His economy. So, it is important to have doctrinal statements so that people truly do know where it stands on certain topics. In today’s post-modern times it is even more important because all too often it is not simply what one claims it is what meaning is meant behind the words that says the most. Doctrinal statements often help to solidify that area and in the long run bring unity and cohesiveness.

Fourth, churches need to be structured as God called them to be in scripture. This would mean that churches should strive to have Biblical Elders (a plurality) and Deacons and not simply positions as they are commonly filled today. Again, the specifics of how many and such is for another time but the main point is that God had a purpose in calling for Elders and Deacons and when we do not aim for God’s best we are basically telling God we know better.

I do not like to say “lastly” as I am sure there are other things and I will add them as I go so I am going to leave it here for now and as I begin to try and formulate what I see the church to look like I will bring out other important areas. Mark Dever at 9Marks has a couple good books on the church that I highly recommend: 9Marks of a Healthy Church & The Deliberate Church. These books have more items that I would also say are important I simply here wanted to list a few things that I think the church as a whole has lost sight of. Things like: Regenerate Church Membership, The Church Being for Believers rather than Unbelievers, The Preaching of God’s Word as Central to the Church, The Organization of the Church. While I only listed four things in truth those four items carry with them a whole lot of other issues and each one can be fleshed out to much broader issues. If the church is inhabited by believers and the word of God is taught diligently then the commands and desires of God will be done by the power of the Holy Spirit then the church will begin to look different from the world rather than a poor copy. If scripture is preached and the Holy Spirit works in the people of God then such things as Biblical church discipline would be practiced, the correct focus on intergenerational aspect of the church would flourish, Biblical evangelism would ensue and so on. So as more things come to me I will add them.

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