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
"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
"'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
"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!