What is Church?
I have been struggling with this issue for several months now. Our congregation is currently without a Pastor (or Preaching elder) and one candidate we interviewed asked us, “Why do you exist, or why should the doors remain open at your building and not merge with another Bible-believing church?” That really started me to thinking and the only answer I could come up with, is, “If all we are, and are going to be, is another Independent Baptist Church in a sea already polluted with Independent Baptist Churches then we have no purpose and I cannot find justification for our continued existence.” I have wrestled with that question long and hard which naturally led me to the other question you have to ask, “What then IS Church?”
I know more about what it is ‘not’ right now, than what it is. It is not the bunker where “Christians” gather in order to “be ye separate” nor is it a place where we invite ‘sinners’ in so that that they might get under the “sound of the gospel” preached by the “man of God.”
First: The assembly of the saints of God is for their edification, exhortation, and a time to be built up in the faith through the word, fellowship and most of all worship of the one who is worthy, our Lord God Jesus Christ and God the Father thru whom, in whom and by whom all things exist. (a bit preachy but true). The Assembly is not to be made into the primary source of evangelism that it has become in so many American “Churches”.
Second: The “sound of the gospel” is such a cop-out. That is the mantra of lazy so-called Christians who have thrown off their primary roll as priests and ambassadors. Each and every one of us who name the name of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour are called to be witnesses and be ready to give to anyone who asks us, reason for the hope that is within us. To drag a lost person to “Church” so that they get under the “sound of the gospel” is nothing less than Roman Catholicism re-dressed in some other denominational camouflage. Every believer should be able to tell anyone who asks what we believe, why we believe it and tell what Jesus Christ had done for us. (Nowhere in scripture does it say we have to be “deal closers” as if we are part of some divine marketing campaign.)
Third: there is the whole “man of God” issue. Last time I checked everyone who is Born again is a Child of God and that makes us, men and women of God. The very idea of Clergy and Laity came out of Ignatius, Irenaeus, Cyprian, and Augustinian teachings that created the whole “Christian” class/ caste system.
I recently read, Jim Petersen’s “Church Without Walls.” there is much I learned in this book about what Church ought to be. There is so much more that I will have to read, research and pray about but I know for myself I have already jettisoned the normal version of the American church, along with most of the pop-dispensationalism that comes with it. I have come to the conclusion that the pre-mil/pre-trib rapture theory is deadly to the health of a church, because it soon settles for becoming a bunker where everyone is content to merely “occupy” until Jesus comes. And then every disaster and calamity that makes the news is heralded as “you know we are living in the end days” and “it can’t be long now…” and many churches climb in the bunker and close the hatch… then the world around us no longer sees a people of God who have good news… but members of an increasingly irrelevant sub-culture.
The answer is out there… so on I go…