We are going to explore what the Bible says about the church. What is the church? What does God expect from the people who make up the church? How do we treat one another? What is the goal of the church? What should our focus be? Why do so many people have bad experiences with a church?
There are many questions about the church that we should be answering from the Scriptures. I could go a lot of ways with different topics, but I will start with one that is on my heart right now.
First of all, we have to keep in mind that not all places called 'church' are actual churches with people who love God and have put their trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior. Many 'churches' are run like a social club. Many of the pastors of these churches have pressure to make their churches grow, so they have to accommodate all kinds of people. They can't say anything offensive or troubling to the people in their congregations, because they will likely lose them. Therefore, they cannot preach what the Bible says about sin, and its effects on society, as well as on the individual person.
There are some 'churches' that are totally unfamiliar with the Gospel though. What they have is a religious organization which meets at specific times. These 'churches' don't understand that people are born in sin, and live in a fallen world, and are under the wrath of God awaiting judgment. They also don't know about what God has done to solve this problem.
But there are genuine churches made up of people who do know the Lord. All church members who are true believers in the Lord need discipleship. Some churches offer this, while others don't seem to be aware of this need. I want to focus on churches that are genuine in this blog, and evaluate ways we can minister effectively to one another, and carry out the directives in the Bible concerning real church life.
To start with, I want to bring up the subject of loving one another. The Bible talks about Christians loving one another. 1 Corinthians 13 gives us the true understanding of what love is. We in America today have different meanings for words than what was originally intended. For example, when we use the word love, we usually mean something we enjoy, or something that makes us happy, as something we love. But the Bible has a different meaning for the word 'love'. When we love, we seek the best for the person who is the object of our love, even if it means losing something important to us. The Bible explains that there is no greater love than when a person lays down his life for another. Wow, what a different picture of the word 'love' than what our modern day meaning gives us.
Jesus told us that we are to love one another. Also, people will know that we are His disciples if we love one another. A true church should be made up of people who love one another. Unfortunately, today we see churches with people who are stabbing each other in the back! Not a picture of the love God says we are to have for one another.
But what can be done to remedy this problem? I think a big part of it is due to ignorance. We are not being taught how to relate to one another in the body of Christ. The Bible tells us that if we backbite each other, be careful or we will be consumed by each other. The Bible also says that we can know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers (and sisters) in Christ. If we hate our brother or sister in Christ, then we are a murderer, and no murderer has eternal life in him (or her).
We can patch this all up and try to work up a love for others. We can pretend that we love other people, but God knows our hearts. If we are truly believers in the Lord, we have a new heart. We can only love out of this new heart. The problem comes when we haven't died to our selfishness. Paul talks about taking off and putting on. We need to take off the selfishness in our hearts and put on the love of God, in Christ. We need to acknowledge our wrong doings and not pretend that they are not there. We need to ask God to help us to love others and stop our selfishness (of course, this won't work if its not in your heart to be changed). God gives us the power to change, and He helps us see our sin, failures, and weaknesses, not so we can feel degraded, but in order to change us.
So why are so many churches (even good ones) struggling with loving one another? A big reason is, undealt with pride. We have to see pride as our enemy. Pride keeps us in deception about our sin, and God will resist us when we operate in pride. Everyone of us has pride, and we need to ask the Lord to show us where our pride is. We also need to cultivate humility. This is so essential to the Christian faith, but I think this is where we miss it, so often.
I'll have more to write on this later. This is enough food for us to chew on for the moment.