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F a i t h   M a t t e r s  with Dr. Ken Lovelace


What Is the Church as Defined in Scripture vs. What Has the Church Become Today?



About a year ago, God led me to resign my pastorate. The church I was serving for four years as the church planter was ready for someone different. By necessity, a church planter leads the church differently than he does when he is called by an existing church as pastor. God's call to resign and to wait on Him for His next assignment for me was strong and clear.


Still, I spent two Saturdays a week apart on my face before the Lord to be sure I was hearing Him correctly. He assured me that I was. Over and over, the Lord has confirmed I am doing what He asked me to do…waiting on the Lord. Though the waiting isn't always easy, it has given me ample time to reflect on important issues.


One issue on my heart this entire year has, naturally, been the church. As I have visited in and preached in many different churches with many different styles, I've contemplated more than a dozen questions like:

      1. What is the church as defined in Scripture vs. what has the church become today?

      2. Is it effective?

      3. What Is Its Focus? Does it have one?

      4. Who is it reaching?

      5. Does the church today look like the church God wanted to see in the 21st century?

      6. Is the church fully cooperating with the Spirit in what God is leading it to do?

      7. Why do church-goers act so bored?

      8. Are the messages really relevant?

      9. Why do some churches target an age group that isn't coming and neglect the one that is?

      10. Since there are so many churches singing one style of music while refusing to sing another style of music
            that actually scratches people where they itch, then where is Luke 9:23 in that church?

      11. Is the pastor leading like a servant-leader? Is he leading like he's trying to grow an outpost of heaven or is
            he leading like an executive who is trying to grow an extension of himself?

      12. When a non-believer enters the facility, what is his or her first impression? Is the place warm and
            inviting or cold and sterile?

      13. Is the church's influence on the world greater than the world's influence on the church?

I won't pretend I have all the answers because I don't. I'm sure I'll be struggling with some of these questions until Jesus returns, but here are a few of my thoughts on the first question; I'll have to answer one or two per week.


Question one: What is the church as defined in Scripture vs. what has the church become today?


The New Testament analogy of the church being the Body of Christ is ingenious. Not only was it designed to embody every believer and organize itself according to each believer's specific function (spiritual gifts), but it was also designed to be something spiritual and physical that could reach out and touch the world spiritually and physically. That's what it began being in the New Testament; but has it strayed from that today?


Some of what I've seen this year in churches is wonderful, genuine, heart-felt, authentic ministry. But, in all fairness, some isn't; and it has been the "isn't" that has created such unrest in my spirit.


The Biblical admonition to be in the world but not of it seems to have eluded many churches. So many are little more than social clubs, geared to emulate the world, not engage it. If those who attend a particular local church are indistinguishable from those who spend their nights clubbing, then there's a spiritual disconnect there.


One church in our area had on its website the staff's favorite songs and movies. The staff members listed secular music and inappropriate movies. I was appalled. Another larger church I attended with my family for awhile had a very serious crisis of integrity among its staff. Am I passing judgment on these and other churches by noting these discrepancies? I don't feel that I am. My intent is to hold up that church in one hand and the Word of God in the other and see if they match. They did not. And if the staff isn't exemplifying holiness, integrity, and godliness, how can they expect the membership to do so?


Jim Cymbala, pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle, struggled with this very issue. He wrote: "It was Easter Sunday and I was so tired at the end of the day that I just went to the edge of the platform, pulled down my tie and sat down and draped my feet over the edge. It was a wonderful service with many people coming forward. The counselors were talking with these people. As I was sitting there I looked up the middle aisle, and there in about the third row was a man who looked about fifty, disheveled, filthy. He looked up at me rather sheepishly, as if saying, 'Could I talk to you?'


"We have homeless people coming in all the time, asking for money or whatever. So as I sat there, I said to myself, though I am ashamed of it, 'What a way to end a Sunday. I've had such a good time, preaching and ministering, and here's a fellow probably wanting some money for more wine.'


"He walked up. When he got within about five feet of me, I smelled a horrible smell like I'd never smelled in my life. It was so awful that when he got close, I would inhale by looking away, and then I'd talk to him, and then look away to inhale, because I couldn't inhale facing him.


"I asked him, 'What's your name?' 'David.' 'How long have you been on the street?' 'Six years.' 'How old are you?' 'Thirty-two.' He looked fifty -- hair matted; front teeth missing; wino; eyes slightly glazed.


"'Where did you sleep last night, David?' 'Abandoned truck.' I keep in my back pocket a money clip that also holds some credit cards. I fumbled to pick one out thinking, I'll give him some money. I won't even get a volunteer. They are all busy talking with others. Usually we don't give money to people. We take them to get something to eat. I took the money out. David pushed his finger in front of me. He said, 'I don't want your money. I want this Jesus, the One you were talking about, because I'm not going to make it. I'm going to die on the street.'


"I completely forgot about David, and I started to weep for myself. I was going to give a couple of dollars to someone God had sent to me. See how easy it is? I could make the excuse I was tired. There is no excuse. I was not seeing him the way God sees him. I was not feeling what God feels. But oh, did that change!


"David just stood there. He didn't know what was happening. I pleaded with God, 'God, forgive me! Forgive me! Please forgive me. I am so sorry to represent You this way. I'm so sorry. Here I am with my message and my points, and You send somebody and I am not ready for it. Oh, God!'


"Something came over me. Suddenly I started to weep deeper, and David began to weep. He fell against my chest as I was sitting there. He fell against my white shirt and tie, and I put my arms around him, and there we wept on each other. The smell of His person became a beautiful aroma. Here is what I thought the Lord made real to me: If you don't love this smell, I can't use you, because this is why I called you where you are. This is what you are about. You are about this smell.


"Christ changed David's life. He started memorizing portions of Scripture that were incredible. We got him a place to live. We hired him in the church to do maintenance, and we got his teeth fixed. He was a handsome man when he came out of the hospital. They detoxed him in 6 days. He spent that Thanksgiving at my house. He also spent Christmas at my house. When we were exchanging presents, he pulled out a little thing and he said, 'This is for you.' It was a little white hanky. It was the only thing he could afford.


"A year later David got up and talked about his conversion to Christ. The minute he took the mic and began to speak, I said, 'The man is a preacher.' This past Easter we ordained David. He is an associate minister of a church over in New Jersey. And I was so close to saying, 'Here, take this; I'm a busy preacher.' We can get so full of ourselves."1


That's what the church today so desperately needs, that's what I need, that's what church staffs everywhere need - brokenness! We don't need our cute little playlists filled with the titles of secular artists that pull us farther away from the Father; we don't need our DVD racks lined with R-rated movies to satisfy our fleshly desires after we've fulfilled our spiritual obligations of preparation for teaching, preaching, or worship. We need Jesus! We need holiness! We need integrity and strength to fight and the courage to take a stand for what's right and the grit to be in the world…but not of it!


I'm not seeing that in the church today. What has the church become today? For the most part - unrecognizable. We've got to stop going along to get along and start loving the lost into the Kingdom. God's word for me today, and I hope also for you, is straight from the Sermon on the Mount: "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you" (Mt. 6:33 - NASB).


Consider some of my general observations:


      The Church God wants is a praying church; the church I see is a mumbling church.


      The Church God wants is a witnessing church; the church I see is a silent church.


      The Church God wants is a pleasing church; the church I see is an appeasing church.


      The Church God wants is a worshipping church; the church I see is an entertaining church.


      The Church God wants is a truth-proclaiming church; the church I see is an ear-tickling church.


      The Church God wants is made up of contributors; the church I see is made up of consumers.


      The Church God wants has cheerful givers; the church I see has fearful livers.


      The Church God wants is set apart; the church I see is set aside.


      The Church God wants stands up for Jesus; the church I see has sat down for itself.


Am I just being a critical pastor? No. I'm not serving in that capacity at the moment, so what I see I'm able to see as an objective observer. My spirit is greatly grieved and my heart is under conviction about the part I play in the wayward church.


Won't you join me in recommitting my heart to the Lordship of Jesus Christ so that I may do more to help the church I attend to walk the straight and narrow and to hold up as the Standard the Word of God as the guiding light for a church in crisis?


I surrender all!



1 The Church, SermonCentral.com




Copyright © 2010. Faith Matters by Dr. Ken Lovelace. All rights reserved.

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