Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Sheep need Shepherds

Have you ever received a gift that you were not real excited about?  I grew up in a family of very practical gift givers.  Probably next to my dogs my horse Poco was my favorite pet, but when my seventh birthday rolled around, right after we got Poco, apparently my parents told everyone to give me gifts that would be stuff that we could use for the horse.  As a seven year old I did not see the silver lining in unwrapping presents for a horse such as a mineral block.  (I mean seriously who gives a seven year old a mineral block for his birthday?)

While at the time I did not really appreciate the gifts that I was unwrapping, I now look back at all the fun that I had as a result of having those gifts.  I have many fond memories riding on Poco.  Had I not received those gifts, I would not have been able to enjoy Poco for her intended purposes such as horse back riding.

I find this to be a good analogy for the situation today with those who claim to be Christians who do not need the local church.  You see in Ephesians 4 Paul tells us about the gifts that Jesus Christ has given us in order to be able to grow into mature Christians.

"And he (Jesus) gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes." - Ephesians 4:11-14
You see our goal as Christians is to grow into maturity.  What does maturity look like?  Well it looks like Jesus.  He is our standard that we are striving to emulate with our lives.  Anyone who has been striving for this for very long, knows how hard this standard is to meet.  The great news is that Jesus didn't just leave us alone to try to figure it out, he gave us help.  He gave us the apostles and the prophets who we still have in the form of the Scriptures they produced, and he continues to raise up evangelists to lead us to him.  Once we know him as our Lord and Savior, he gives us shepherds and teachers to help us grow into maturity.  This is his gift to us.  The problem is many times when we first encounter this gift, it does not really seem like the gift that we wanted.  One of the jobs of the pastor/ teacher is to take us to the word of God and show us the ways that we are not yet mature in Christ.  And honestly, this is not fun.  It is not fun to have your lingering sin revealed to you, and so at times it is tempting to say, "Can I get a gift receipt for this gift and take it back?"

While at times the local church and its pastor seem the same as a mineral block does to a seven year old, we need to recognize in the end that pastors are a gift from Jesus to us.  Christ has given us shepherds over our souls, ultimately for our good.  Instead of complaining and being downcast about the gift we have been given, let's see it for its intended purposes and be grateful.  Just like all the horse supplies that I received, pastors are of no benefit to you unless you use them.  If you do not sit under their teaching, engage their counsel, follow their leadership, and participate in their churches, you will never experience the blessings of this gift.  I leave you with the thoughts of a pastor from years ago during the protestant reformation.

"By the ministers to whom he has committed this office, and given grace to discharge it, he dispenses and distributes his gifts to the church, and thus exhibits himself as in a manner actually present by exerting the energy of his Spirit in this his institution, so as to prevent it from being vain or fruitless.  In this way, the renewal of the saints is accomplished, and the body of Christ is edified; in this way we grow up in all things unto him who is the Head, and unite with one another in this way we are all brought into the unity of Christ..." -John Calvin

 Return to 11 Reasons Why Christians need the Local Church

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


"The New Testament, written in Greek, used the word ekklesia to describe 'C/church.' Ekklesia is a compound word consisting of ek, meaning 'out of,' and klesis, 'a calling.'  Used one hundred and fourteen times, ekklesia is sometimes translated as 'assembly' (three times), 'church' (seventy-four times), 'churches' (thirty-five times), and 'congregation' (two times.)  Therefore, whatever the C/church is, it consists of a group of people who have recieved a calling out of something for a particular purpose." - J. D. Payne, Missional House Churches, p. 21-22.
In answering the question as to why Christians need a local church, it is important to consider the original word that is translated as church.  As the early church was forming they needed a word to use to talk about this new thing, the church.  They landed on the word that was currently used for an assembly.  Whenever there was need for a meeting of the people in the town a herald would go out and summon people to come together in a certain place to meet and discuss the issue at hand.  The word ekklesia was used to refer to those people who had been called out.  

How does this word paint the picture for the church?  Let's consider what Jesus said in John 5:24-25:
"Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.  He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.  Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live."
 Let's put this together with what Paul explains to the christians in Ephesus about what happened when they were saved.
 "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ." Eph 2:4-5
So let me ask you, have you heard the voice of the Son of God?  Has he thus made you alive and called you out of your death and darkness?  The church is the gathering or assembly of those who have been called to follow Jesus.  From the origin of the church it's name symbolizes the fact that it is made up of a group who has been called out.  The Holy Spirit is the herald who calls us out of darkness into the light, and anyone who has been called out is expected to come together.  So, from the beginning of Christianity, the idea of a Christian who does not assemble with other Christians is a foreign concept.

I leave you with this instruction from the Apostle Paul to Titus:
"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.  Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority.  Let no one disregard you." Titus 2:11-15

Click Here for 11 Reasons why Christians need a local church. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

The global Church is represented locally by local churches.

It is interesting that the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John)  only have record of Jesus using the word "church" twice; both of which are found in Matthew.  So, since we don't have record of Jesus saying much about the church could we not assume that it is not that important?  All that matters is having a relationship with Jesus, right? 

Let's look at what Matthew records.  In Matthew 18 Jesus is speaking of the process of church discipline (this is another answer to be covered later as to why we need the local church.)  However, prior to that, in Matthew 16:18-19 Jesus lays out for Peter how he will be used in establishing the Church: 
"And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven..."
It is clear from what Jesus says here that there is a direct connection between his "Church" and the kingdom of heaven. (And by the way, we have record of Jesus saying a lot about his kingdom.)  The terminology "kingdom of heaven" appears 31 times in the book of Matthew.   At the beginning of his ministry he is warning people to repent because the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.  To be a follower of Christ means that you have an inheritance in his kingdom, and in turn you are a part of his global Church.  So we cannot dismiss the importance of the Church because we don't have record of Jesus saying the word a lot.

So what is the connection between the global Church and that group that meets in that building down the street from you?  We see the beginning of the global Church in the book of Acts.  In short: the Holy Spirit comes upon the Apostles, Peter preaches, people are saved, the Church is started.  Later in Acts 20:28 Paul is giving instructions to the elders of the church at Ephesus.
"Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood."
It is clear from this verse that the church is comprised of those whom Jesus bought with his blood, thus they have been redeemed.  So is Paul instructing the elders in Ephesus to pay careful attention to all believers everywhere?  No, they are to pay careful attention to the believers whom the Holy Spirit has made them overseers.  This is a subgroup of the whole group of global believers.  They are to care for the church of God at Ephesus.  This is very clear from the context of this passage.  This is just one example from scripture, but we can see throughout scripture that the local church in a specific location is to be seen as a part of the global Church representing the kingdom of God.  Anyone who has an inheritance in the kingdom of heaven should be associated with and a part of the church.  The local church is supposed to be representing the kingdom here and now, and those who are a part of the eternal kingdom are to be its representatives. 

I will close with an illustration.  Think of it this way, the local church is an embassy for the kingdom of heaven located on foreign soil.  This world is corrupt and fallen, but the church is a safe haven for those whose citizenship is ultimately in heaven. Its purpose is to do the work of the kingdom.  In the church the citizens come together and reflect on their true identity.  The local church is the venue for the praise of their king.  It is the place where the citizens can learn more about their heritage, their king, and their traditions.  The local church represents their Lord to the host nation by being a local embassy for the kingdom of heaven.  A Christian who does not participate with a local church is like an ambassador who does not use their embassy.

"Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.  We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." - 2 Cor 5:20

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Why do Christians need a local church?

I have read a lot on the internet lately about why Christians should or should not "go to church."  Some are claiming that they are closer to God because they do not go to church.  Others are saying that they have found what they need in the form of community outside of the church.  Many of these articles are very well written and lay out what appears to be a compelling argument which led me to consider the question at hand.

I think to fully understand why we need the church we also have to understand what the church is supposed to be, and how it is supposed to function.  If I were to put all of this information in one blog post, it would be way too long and you would get as lost reading it as I would writing it.  I have come up with eleven different answers to the question at hand.  I will be publishing these answers over the days ahead.  You can click on the titles below to see the answers that have already been published and subscribe if you want to be notified as the rest of the answers are published.

1.  The global Church is represented locally by local churches. 

2.  Ekklesia

3.  Sheep need Shepherds

4. The Salty Bride

5. Bread, Blood, and Water

6. The preaching of the word

7. Accountability and Discipline

8. History and Progress

9. The need for reformation

10. All the "one anothers"

11. Fellowship

What reasons can you think of for why Christians need a local church?  Why do you or do you not attend church?