Summary: What is the real purpose and meaning behind the Church and behind being left in this world once Jesus Christ has become our Savior and our Lord?
A Bible-Driven Church
It is not at all uncommon to hear someone say that they love the church they found because the people there are so nice and because the pastor is so easy to understand.
What we do not hear people saying much is that they love their church because the people there demonstrate true Christ-likeness in their behavior and in their treatment of others and that the pastor teaches the Word of God in such a way that they hear from God and their love for Jesus Christ grows steadily.
A friend of mine attends a church in a nearby town that falls into the first category. Now, this man has a deep and abiding love for Christ, for His Word, and he has purposed in his heart to live his life devoted to being obedient to his Savior. He is a man who is quite familiar with the Word of God and has been exposed to a variety of different types and styles of Christian churches and ministries.
This gentleman continues at the church he currently attends, even though – by his own admission – he cannot really remember what God had to say to him through the message given that very day. The message was moving, it really made him think, it touched his emotions and made him feel something, but his heart was not penetrated by the Word of God. How is this possible?
The atmosphere is highly conducive in many ways to supporting the current notion that marketing to the felt needs of the individual is the best way to get people into the church and to get them to hear about Jesus. The lighting is professional, the sound system crisp and flawless, and the music is skillful and moving. The messages are accentuated by a computer program that enhances key points with stupendous visuals, and the most modern translation of the key verse or verses is put up on the screens so that no one will have to fumble around trying to look it up in a Bible for themselves. Not to mention, this way they won’t be distracted from the presentation by reading the verses surrounding the selected text. In fact, everyone is welcome to hold the cappuccino or their espresso drink in their hand instead of their Bible, and they will even have your drink of choice delivered to your seat should you get your order in too close to the beginning of the service to miss getting a good seat should you have to wait for order to prepared.
What in the world has happened?
The pastor himself concedes that his focus and that of his entire ministry staff is to evangelize. Even more than that, their desire is to reach the young people who have been so neglected by the Church in many, many ways. Consequently, their families are being reached, also. Most everyone agrees that this is “awesome”, and that God is honoring their efforts.
Partly true, I am sure. Yet, the pastor also concedes that there is an overall lack of opportunity for development and discipleship of the many dozens of people who have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior while attending services there.
Please do not misunderstand. This pastor is a man with a very deep love for Jesus Christ, a profound love for people, and a seemingly bottomless reservoir of passion for seeing the lost get saved.
The disconnect with that and many other fellowships, I believe, is between the initial acceptance of the gift of salvation and Paul’s admonition to “continue to work out your own salvation.” Jesus commanded us to “make disciples” in our going, not to simply convert people to our way of thinking or believing.
Salvation is the beginning of our walk with God, not the end. Paul asserts in Philippians 1:6, “For I am convinced that He who began a good work in you…” This is the same Paul who commends us to follow His model when he says, “One thing I do, forgetting what is behind, I press on toward the goal…”
The goal is to remain faithful, to grown in knowledge of and obedience to the will of God, to allow God to recreate in us the character of His Son, and for us to invest our lives in the lives of others to help them to do the same. Hence the life that makes real the command of the Lord Jesus Christ to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”
Frequently I hear people bemoan the fact that there are too many Christians, too many churches, too many pastors who do not try to stay “up-to-date" and relevant. At the current rate of decline of the straightforward exegetical teaching of God’s Word in our churches today, this complaint will cease to be valid within a decade.