Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Functional Church

The functional church

Reading: Acts 2

In our increasingly secular society, the Church seems to be losing much of its dynamism and influence. To some people today, the Church is just a word and to some, it is like any other business enterprise. But that is not what God intended the Church to be – the Church should be a dynamic force, a part of the living body of Christ making a difference in our world. Why is the Church not doing this?

What is the Church?

When we speak of the Church we are speaking of a two-fold phenomenon. There is the Church visible and the Church invisible. Fundamentally, the Church is a living organism entered into by a spiritual birth. This is the Church invisible or the Church universal. Fundamentally, the Church is also a local organisation entered into by a spiritual baptism. This is the visible Church or the Church local.

The Church is the Body of Christ alive today. For thirty-three years, the world looked upon Christ’s physical body. Today the Church, made alive through Jesus Christ presents to the world a picture of Him. We enter into Christ’s body by Spiritual birth.

In the New Testament, the word which we translate into our word, Church is the word Ekklesia – It is a compound word coming from the words Kaleo – to call and ek – out of. Thus the Church is composed of “the called out ones”. God is calling out of the world His own Church, His own body, to show the world a picture of Himself. The Church is composed of all those in this age of grace who have been born of the Spirit and thus placed into the body of Christ. This body of called-out men and women should therefore walk a new walk and show the world that it is different. But how is the Church to organize in order to function properly as Christ’s body on earth?

Building a Functional Church

Perhaps the greatest need in the Church today is for those who are a part of the living organism to come to a fresh and new commitment to the local organization. This is where we functionally live out our faith in God’s plan. We are to gather together in order to scatter together beyond the four walls of the church building, to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. When we gather, we do so for exhortation, edification, education, and exaltation. Once we have been together in corporate worship, we then scatter in ministry and missions. This is how we are to function as a Church. Four things should characterize the walk of the Church.

Participation (Acts 2:1-13) 

The church finds its strength in the participation of believers with each other “they were all together in one accord” (verse 1). This was unity. They found their strength not only with each other but with God – for the Bible further records “They were filled with the Holy Spirit” (verse 4) Churches that God is using today are made up of members who are “all together and all filled.”

Read More: The Spirit's Unity in the Church

Proclamation (Acts 2:14-40) 

The second thing we notice is that “Peter stood up before the people, opened his mouth and spoke.” He thus established what the Church should do to the people – proclaim. What did Peter proclaim – a balanced Gospel message! Let us turn to Second Timothy 3:16 for what the Bible gives as an example of a balanced Gospel message: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” A good balanced Gospel message should contain all four parts. Peter’s message on the day of Pentecost did. He preached doctrine (23-24); he reproved sin (23); he corrected false paths (38); he instructed in righteousness (38b). A similar examination of Paul’s message at Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13) reveals the same balanced message.

Because the Church has departed from these, it has lost its dynamism. Some think doctrine is archaic and divisive, so we should throw it overboard. That is why today, we have many Christians who do not know what they believe and why they believe. Some today try to rationalize sin - some even ask; “Is there really anything we can call sin?” So how can the Church reprove sin? What of where the Church leaders and their followers are living in sin? Can they reprove sin? When you do not know the way, how can you correct anyone who is going off track? Except we rediscover where we have derailed and return, the Church will no longer make any impact on the dying world. It would die with it. “Let me die with the Philistines” was Samson’s last word, let that not be the last word of the Church.

Preservation (Acts 2: 41-46) 

The members of the Church did not enter in the front door and leave through the back door. They preserved their new converts. “They continued steadfastly” (Acts 2: 42). How did they preserve their new converts?

I. They baptized them immediately (Acts 2:41)

II. They taught them the Word of God (Acts 2:42)

III. They shared together in fellowship, prayer and breaking of bread (Acts 2:42)

Churches that are being used of God today have strong and effective discipleship ministries.

The Church is not merely to GO, the Church is also to GROW. (Tweet This!) 

There is a responsibility for a Church to help those who are won to the Lord Jesus to grow and mature in the Christian life. The Church is not merely to "go", the church is also to "grow". If any Church goes to one extreme of emphasizing only evangelism, to the exclusion of Christian growth, then it produces a generation of Spiritual pygmies.

Read More: Going out to Evangelize? Wait a Moment!

The other extreme is to go overboard with discipleship. The emphasis is on feeding the sheep. Let us know this about sheep. They have the tendency from time to time, to stray or to go off into somebody else pasture. Some sheep die. If you are not reaching more sheep, you are going to find that you are feeding fewer and fewer sheep.

But how can we do this when the majority of the congregation will not attend programmes? They will not present themselves for instruction; rather they are busy chasing what will not last. Remember, God’s desire for you is that you be edified and that you multiply. The local Church is the only place this can happen but you must “continue steadfastly”

Propagation (Acts 2:47) 

They went everywhere sharing the Good News of Salvation by grace through faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ, “and the Lord added to the Church daily those who were being saved.”

The Church will grow and more added to it if it is founded on the strong foundation – which is Jesus Christ Himself and His revelation. Some Churches today are trying to build sky-scrappers on a wooden foundation of self, of "miracles", of falsified doctrines, and misquoted and misapplied words. You cannot build a Church on the personality of the pastor, on gimmicks and programmes. It will surely fall like the house founded on sand.

Rather, the Church should be founded on “Let all things be done for edification” (First Corinthians 14:26) and the tool is found in Jude 20; “building yourselves up on your most holy faith”. Build the Church by teaching the congregation to have faith in a great God.

You build the Church on love (First Corinthians 8:1). Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. The Church should be a model for the world of how they love themselves. You build the Church by exercising your Spiritual gifts in love and in building one another. 

Read More: How to Have a More Loving Church, and Why It’s So Vital

Some Churches emphasize one or two of these four elements while neglecting the others. An effective Church is one which has a balanced ministry, lives together in love and unity, continues to be filled with the Holy Spirit, makes much of the Word of God, prays together, and shares together, and has a lost world constantly in mind.

Where have we failed as a local Church – a part of the Church universal? Where have we failed as individual members of the Body of Christ? Please share your thoughts

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