The Church

Posted by Scott Lowther on

Dear CBC Family,

This email is long so know you will need about 7 minutes to read it.

Though this week has been difficult on some fronts it has been really rewarding on others. The Lord has given me many opportunities to talk about truth the last few days. While many of the discussions have been with people from our fellowship, quite a few have come from those outside. Some of these non CBC folk were believers and some were not. The believers were in good churches which, as a pastor, made me happy. The unbelievers however seemed to have a hostility to churches in general.

One man declared “churches are irrelevant now.” I told him that God, the Bible and church was 100% relevant to every person, in every generation that has ever lived. The problem seems to be that church got reinvented by the liberal to please a changing culture and that ruined its reputation because it was no longer the church.

The idea that church doesn’t matter anymore is biblically false. In order to uphold the truth that church does matter some people make church their small group or gathering of friends. Doesn’t getting together with a few friends to pray and read a verse or two constitute church? The answer is no.

Below is part of a long article that was sent to me to read for input. This is right on and brings clarity to this issue.

“Just because Christians get together with other Christians doesn’t mean they are involved in a biblical Church assembly. To a growing number of believers, the best of intentions and a desire to meet are the only parameters for gathering as a local Church. But having our heart in the right place doesn’t indicate doctrinal accuracy.

For those of us who value our good intentions too highly, the Bible has some hard lessons to teach. Remember the return of the Ark of the Covenant in 2 Samuel 6:7? The physical movement of the ark must not be carried by anyone except those of the Levite tribe (see 1 Chronicles 15:2). In that account, Uzzah (who was not a Levite) tries to prevent the Ark from falling off the cart by steadying it with his hand and is instantly struck dead by God. Uzzah’s intentions were pure as the wind-driven snow. But, God wasn’t interested in his good intentions. God wanted obedience to His command.

Where God has spoken, he expects compliance—not from some rigid sense of duty but from a heart that desires to please him. If the way we are gathering as the local Church is contrary to the direct teaching found in the Bible, it’s time to change. The example of the Church at Corinth should encourage us by demonstrating that a local assembly can be tremendously wrong and yet still be a part of God’s Church . . . as long as we don’t forget that change is required when we’re walking contrary to God’s ways. The only way to know if we are being obedient in the matters of the Church is if we are ordering our gathering according to the Bible.

Many Christians tired of institutional Christianity act like Anarchists—no order, no accountability, no government, and no consistent commitment to regularly attend a gathering with other believers. They’re “over it” and done with “all that” and “Thank God, Almighty, we’re free at last!” Or maybe you believe that because Jesus is your Sabbath, you aren’t required to meet at all. What does the Bible say about the meeting of believers and how that meeting should be led?

First off, not attending the Church gathering is not an option. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good worksnot forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Biblical Christians gather regularly with other believers. It’s not a matter left up to personal desire, schedule, or creativity. We see from Acts 20:7 and the unmistakable inference of 1 Corinthians 16:1,2 that the disciples met weekly. This is the norm, practice, and instruction for the Church gathering from the very beginning.

Not gathering, gathering infrequently, or gathering in a manner out of step with biblical teaching indicates either ignorance or rebellion and is not an option for the Christian who desires to be obedient to the Word of God.

If you’ve already bought into the idea that we, as Christians, should gather regularly, great. But, how we gather matters, as well. The Bible is not silent on the purpose, structure, and content of the gathering of the Saints this side of Heaven, which is why three couples meeting for a little Sunday evening Bible reading and prayer is not a Church gathering. But wait, didn’t Jesus say, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

Welcome to one of the most abused verses in the Bible. This passage has, literally, nothing to do with the general Church gathering of any size. If you read just a few verses prior, you’ll quickly realize Jesus’s statement is about the divine support you will receive when two or three that are meeting in his name come to deal with a sinful and unrepentant brother. It’s not about Jesus being present and validating your small group because you and a friend met and prayed in His name.

If simply getting together with your Bibles isn’t enough, then what constitutes a biblical Church meeting? For the vast majority of Christians today, it doesn’t seem to matter—not because they are willfully opposed to what the Bible teaches but, more typically, they don’t know what—or even if—the Bible has anything to say about the regular gathering of Christians.

There are two types of information regarding the Church meeting that can be found in the Bible: description and prescription. When we encounter a description of what the early Church did, we shouldn’t automatically take that account as a doctrinal requirement. A report of what was done isn’t the same as teaching what must be done. For instance, we see in the early Church that everyone held everything in common—the first Christian Commune—but this is descriptive of what they choose to do, not prescriptive from what the Bible teaches all local Churches to do.

Prescriptive instruction in the Bible is the universal teachings for the local application of the Church Body, wherever it may be.

To someone raised in the typical protestant, evangelical church, it’s often surprising to be told that the Church meeting is not for the unbeliever. Many Church meetings are geared, specifically, to entice unbelievers to come into the meeting. It’s a nice idea based on good intentions—let’s bring people in and expose them to the Gospel—it’s just not something you’ll find in the Bible.

Nowhere in the New Testament is the idea of inviting unbelievers into the weekly gathering of the Body of Christ, making it, essentially, an evangelistic/missionary effort. The Great Commission says, Go and make disciples. It doesn’t say go and invite as many non-believers into your meeting so a professional pastor can tell them about Jesus for you. The “seeker friendly” church is a modern innovation devoid of biblical example, instruction, or support.

Here’s why that matters… When a crystal-clear mountain stream and a muddy stream run together, only a few yards downstream, dirty water is the result, every time. This example from nature is found on a spiritual level in the local Church. The Bible is clear on this topic relative to believers and the unsaved. 2 Corinthians 6:14 says, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?

The question, ‘If there is no communion (true fellowship) to be had between the saved and unsaved, why have myriad churches done their dead-level best to get as many unsaved people as possible into the building on Sunday morning?’

The answer is simple: They don’t understand what the meeting is for, according to the Word of God. This isn’t a matter of the value or merit of individuals. It’s a matter of God’s purpose in the meeting of His people.

The first insight into the purpose of the Church meeting encountered in the New Testament is seen in the record of what took place at the weekly gathering of Christians. In Acts 2:42, it states, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” There is no mention of evangelism in the meeting. Clearly, this was a gathering for believers, not for the unsaved.

The purpose of the Church meeting, according to the Bible (not according to our good evangelistic intentions) is to build up—to train and to edify—Christians to do the work of the ministry. Ephesians 4:11–13 outlines the ministries distributed throughout the Church and what those ministries are for. “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”

The Bible is the only source for instruction on how Churches are to be organized and operated. In the Bible, we find autonomous, self-governing local Churches. There are no structural or organization ties between local churches and no organization larger than local churches. There are churches which are led by a plurality of elders, appointed to the local church according to the parameters of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.

So that is church but what is the responsibility of the church member? You, as a Christian and ordinary member of a church, are responsible for protecting and preserving the gospel and the gospel’s ministry in your church.

Think about Paul’s “amazement” in Galatians 1: “I am amazed that you are so quickly . . . turning to a different gospel” (v. 6). He rebukes not the pastors, but the members, and tells them to reject even apostles or angels who teach a false gospel. If we could only learn that how much better of the universal church would be.

What this means, Christian, is that you are responsible to study the gospel and know it. It is the elders job to equip the people in it but it is ALL of our jobs to “contend for the faith that was once and for all been delivered to the saints” Jude 3. Once again, this is written to the church member not the church leaders. We need to be prepared to answer questions like: What is the relationship between works and faith? Why is it important to believe in the doctrine of the Trinity? How was Jesus fully God and man and why does that matter? Why is everything an unbeliever does sinful? Can a Christian live in unrepentant sin? What makes a person a Christian in the first place?

You, as a Christian and ordinary member of a church, are also responsible for protecting the gospel and the gospel’s ministry in your church by affirming and disaffirming church members.

In a matter of discipline Paul doesn’t address the Corinthian elders, but the Corinthian church itself (1 Cor. 5:1–13; 2 Cor. 2:6–8). Likewise, it is your responsibility, Christian, to receive and dismiss members. Jesus has given it to you. For you to neglect this work only cultivates complacency, nominalism, and eventually theological liberalism. The standards for receiving and removing people is taught throughout the Bible and God expects us all to know them and use them.

You, as a Christian and ordinary member of a church, are responsible for protecting the gospel and the gospel’s ministry in your church by discipling other church members.

Remember Ephesians 4:15–16. The church builds itself up in love as each part does its work. You have work to do to build up the church. And part of that includes the ministry of words. A few verses later, Paul says, “Speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another” (v. 25). Speak truth to them, and help them to grow. Our words should be “good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29). Also, make yourself available to be spoken to. Are you willing to listen?

Basic Christianity involves building up other believers. It is a part of fulfilling the Great Commission and of making disciples.

If through union with the second Adam God has reinstated you as a priest-king, your whole life should reflect the gospel in word and deed. You are an ambassador. Paul’s charge and example is worth repeating here:

He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:19b–20)

Every Christian has been reconciled, and thus every Christian has received this message of reconciliation. Therefore, we plead and we pray for sinners to be reconciled to God.

This, too, is a part of your job. The command to “Go and make disciples” belongs to you (Matt. 28:19).

The Bible gives final authority and therefore responsibility to the gathered congregation. With authority comes responsibility. By joining a church, you become responsible for what your church teaches and for every single member’s discipleship.

  • You are responsible to act if Pastor Ed begins to teach a false gospel.
  • You are responsible to help ensure Member Candidate Chris adequately understands the gospel.
  • You are responsible for Sister Sue’s discipleship to Christ, and that she’s being cared for and nurtured toward Christlikeness.
  • You are responsible to ensure Member Max is excluded from the fellowship of the church if his life and profession no longer agree.

Who trains you for all this work? Your elders. Add your responsibilities together with theirs and you have Jesus’s discipleship program and the foundation of a church.”

The last bit here are my thoughts. I am often asked if I think some churches are better than others. My answer is “Yes, because God does.” As seen above a church is not just some believers singing around a campfire. A church has been invested with the truth and we are to contend for it, teach it, live by it, love it and proclaim it. Do I think CBC is better than other churches that exist for that? Not at all! Do I think that a church is better than churches that don’t live for that? Absolutely!

We live in a day of ecumenicalism where so many desire that their church should blindly work with other churches. Well, should they? The answer there is “it depends”. It depends if what they are being asked to participate in is really gospel work with eternity in it. What I look for in any opportunity is “what is the goal of the event or project” and decide from there.

CBC is an alternative to what many consider a modern church. Some places have used gimmicks and unbiblical ideas to draw people and are only now learning that whatever you use to draw people you must continue to use in deeper ways to keep people. We don’t want any part of that. What we are interested in is the universal church of born again believers who want to walk in obedience to the ways of the Lord and show by life and word what the gospel is really about. I pray that resonates deeply with you my dear brothers and sisters. I know it does with the Lord!

I love the church because Jesus loves the church and gave His life for it. So, yes, we are having church this weekend. Come ready to serve and learn. Your brothers and sisters need you and you need them. We will be back in Romans doing “The true Jew of Romans 2”.   

Blessings,

Pastor Scott

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