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“What’s the Church For, Anyhow?”; October 16, 2009
Topic Started: Oct 19 2009, 09:26 PM (1,633 Views)
DeanZF
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“What’s the Church For, Anyhow?”
Dean Thomas – October 16, 2009

A woman at work asked me the question recently, one of those that deserved an answer. I asked for time to consider my response because I knew that she was one who had been bruised in previous church relationships. Then our church lay leaders were asked to fill out portions of a survey that came from a Baptist scenario. Being a liturgical congregation, many of the questions from the baptistic survey really did not fit our mindset or philosophy. It was as though Father was saying to me, “Well, what do you think the church is for, anyhow?”

One thing that most can agree on is that church should really have nothing to do with religion. Religion is what results from the expression of faith through our works. Church is more than that, and it should certainly include the battle against religiosity or a religious spirit.

Then there were conversations with a friend about what his congregation was up to, what their goals and aspirations were. That pushed me further into the thought process of trying to discern what His thoughts and aspirations were for this people, the church, the people that was no people and yet now is a people. The Hebrews have a great term for it—mishpochah or mishpacha, or “family”. From the folks that I know who have some Hebrew skills, this term can be used for a blood, nuclear family (dad, mom, kids), the extended family, or most often for the family of faith. We’d call that the church! Here we have blood relations without any DNA involved.

Family is certainly a major reason for the existence of the church. One translation answers the question about “pure and undefiled religion” being the care of widows and orphans (James 1:27). And Scripture also talks about setting the solitary in families (68:8 KJV or “God makes a home for the lonely” in NASB). Orphans and widows are solitary! Single moms and dads are solitary. Single unmarrieds are solitary. When we include them honestly and at the heart level, we are walking out God’s idea of “pure” religion. There are other inferences that religion is man-made or self-made (Colossians 2:23). To quote the late Steve Irwin, “Danger, danger, danger.” Expression of one’s faith, trying to follow God’s teachings on how He wants to see this done.

Every family is different, right? Yet in Christianity, we have the same DNA of Jesus running through our spiritual veins. We have one Father, one faith, yet many expressions. That’s diversity, and needed. We would be hard-pressed to call any of them wrong, lesser, better, or any other label. That expression of the Family of God is either part of the Family or not. Crazy Uncle Festus is off the wall, but still part of the family. Believers who are Baptists, Catholics, Charismatics, whatever, ALL are in the family who believe and confess with their mouths that Jesus is Lord to the glory of the Father. Do all of them walk out their faith the same way? Oh, heck no! But let’s look at the basics.

What kinds of things did Messiah tell the disciples/apostles to do? What kinds of things did the Holy Spirit prompt in Acts? All sorts of things, some long term, some short term, some immediate.

The “biggie” is, of course, the Great Commission. Matthew 21:18-20 (NKJV used here) is the most expansive definition and has some interesting points. Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” To which Matthew added his own thought, “Amen.”

First, Jesus established by what right He was giving this charge. Since all authority has been given to Him, therefore go. So we immediately have God’s stamp of approval on these points.

Look at the points:

Make disciples. This is an interesting command. King James says teach and then in the next verse also says teach, but the two words are very different. This one is probably better as “make disciples”, mathēteuō in the Greek. Making disciples is an interesting process. I don’t know the Greek word picture here, but the sense seems to be to mould to the precepts and concepts of another. One hears the teachings of Messiah, is pierced to the core with the incredible truth involved and wants to not only know more, but to study, absorb, and ultimately emulate those precepts, to become the embodiment of that truth. We cannot force people to accept Christ. The Crusades and the Inquisition should have taught us that. If people see the change wrought in us and ask us why and how, we can share about the How and the Why. They people who’ve seen the results of the power and are confronted with the power of the Truth, can make a choice. Once they choose to follow Christ, we have started them on the road of discipleship. The ultimate goal of discipleship is teleios, mature believers who can minister from what they themselves have received (a bit of a twist on 2 Corinthians 1, comforting instead of ministering). One rule in the Kingdom is that I cannot take you higher or deeper than I have been.

Baptizing them. This is what we consider to be a sacramental function. It walks hand in hand with the discipling function. It is more than mere emblem, we know that. The water dries, the clothes dry, and once the hair is dry, no one will know by appearance that the person has been baptized. It’s still a command. When one studies baptism, the impact of the word is marvelous. It’s a word used by wool dyers. White wool gets “baptized” into the permanent purple dye. It will never be the same. It is now purple to the core. Dip it again and again, and the wool will deepen with color. It’s still wool, but it will never be white again! When we are baptized in water, we are being baptized into Christ, that we can take on the likeness and precepts of the One Who saves. It really goes hand in hand with the discipling process as well. There is a verb tense in Greek that is an ongoing tense. It was used for the words of Jesus and the words of Paul. Jesus said, “Ask…, seek…, knock…” Translated, it means “ask and keep on asking…, seek and keep on seeking…, knock and keep on knocking”. A couple of Paul’s words that use this tense are “be filled and keep on being filled”, “pray and keep on praying”, “rejoice and keep on rejoicing”. You know the quotes, my guess. Paul also talked about needing to work out one’s salvation, or to walk out one’s salvation. The concept is to be saved and keep on being saved until ALL of your being is converted to Messiah’s way of thinking.

Teaching them. The word here is the one from which we get didactics, or the process of teaching teachers how to teach. This relates also to what are often called the “five-fold ministry gifts”. When we read Ephesians 4:11 the word teacher is also this same root word, and in verse 12, we find the reason for all of the five-fold gifts: for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry. They teach us to teach others, with the expectation that we will teach others. That’s part of God’s plan. It’s not enough to suck in knowledge and precept and concept and nifty acronyms and formulae. The plan is for us to become productive in the kingdom!

One of the things that we need to be taught and reminded of regularly is in the next line of the Great Commission: “I am with you always…” First, it’s present tense, not future. Second, have you ever noticed that, in English, we see YHWH invoked here? I AM with you always.

To sum this part up, get them equipped to live the Life and walk the Walk. Seal them sacramentally. Teach them how to teach others. Help them find the assurance that I AM is and will be with them always. “Church” or the assembled saints is for the express purpose of corporately walking out God’s plan, everything talked about here and more.

What does "walking it out" look like? :shrug:

That’s a separate post. :lecture:
Blessings!

Dean
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sonworshiper
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Morning Dean et al,

I don't have time at the moment to read your whole post, but glanced quickly. . .my question would be and I really wish I could be here to join the chat today, but I am unable to be. . .who exactly is church for? Is it an outreach to those not-yet-saved? Or a place where Christians / believers come to be built up and encouraged?

In Hebrews, the writer says: "do not forsake the assembling together of yourselves, as is the manner of some" (Hebrews 10:25). . . .which sounds vaguely like Christians, ie, "yourselves".

If y'all have a chance to discuss that today, let me know what you come up with!

Blessings!

Moe.
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DeanZF
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Who is the church FOR?

Easy question. The church is for believers in Messiah, period. That was the major issue that lots of folks had with the whole seeker thing. When church is turned into a multi-media event to lure in the unchurched, the point has been missed. Church is a time more than a place, and it's an appointed time when the flock gathers and is fed and prepared for another week "out there" in the world, where the church is NOT. The five fold ministry is for the equipping of the saints, period. It really is not designed to be an evangelistic meeting, IMO. If there is a recognition that there are unbelievers in the gathering, super-duper. If you're having a meeting that is aimed at and tooled for non-believers (pre-believers, under-believers, un-churched, etc.), an altar call is very appropriate.

If we spend time under the tutelage of the five-fold folks, we should find ourselves learning how to minister, to the flock in a pastoral sense, and to the world in a salvific sense. If we're only learning how to take care of believers, we're not balanced. If we are learning only how to confront unbelievers/non-believers, we're also not balanced. Both ministries are needed, and folks will fit generally under one or the other banner (believer & non-believer ministries), get equipped, and get to work building the kingdom. The kingdom is built by getting new believers equipped for maturity and bringing non-believers to the position of being able to make a good decision for Jesus. Those converts then move into the other line, right? Churches that aren't growing are dying! Attrition will kill any organization, as will stagnation.

If your calling is as an evangelist, should you actually be preaching to the believers and giving an altar call or should you be training believers on how to win souls? It's not a fine line. We've basically re-defined the "office" of evangelist. That section of Scripture is clear that the five-fold ministries are for the BELIEVERS, not the world, and for the equipping of the saints to the purpose of ministry.

Yes, encouragement and being built up (equipped), but primarily we are to come together to WORSHIP. We have (again, IMO) perverted or distorted the whole purpose of assembling. The main purpose is worship, ministry primarily to the Lord, to give, not to receive. This is a harsh and somewhat condemning word. I believe that if we could shorten the teaching times and lengthen the worship times, giving the folks the tools and instructions on how to participate and the NEED for them to participate. It's really about John Piper's comment again. Missions are not eternal, but worship is. What is the whole point of missions? To make worshipers!

Hope it helps.
Blessings!

Dean
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