Summary: With so many scandals inside the Church and attacks from outside the Church, we can sometimes wonder if the Church will survive. Jesus promises that His Church will prevail! And as it prevails, we prevail, too.
Opening Remarks and Introduction
In the past few years, Christian churches have been rocked by problems both inside and outside the church.
In 2017, we saw a shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, and recently a mega-church in town hit the news recently with one youth worker and some of the church youth. Some terrible things have happened inside the church.
Outside the church, culture has changed and church is no longer the center of society.
Christianity isn’t as widely accepted as it used to be. Is the church still relevant? Will it prevail against these problems? Tonight’s message is going look at exactly that by looking at:
- The Church that God Created
- The Challenges to The Church
- Our Role in the Church
1. The Church God Created
Before we dive into how well the church is doing, lets start by looking at the Church God created. It might help to start with a definition. What is the church? Is it the building we’re in? Perhaps it’s the campus? What about our Lutheran Church Missouri Synod? It’s all of that, and a bit more.
There are several ways that we can look at The Church. But for tonight, I’d like to define it this way as “the assembly of believers with Jesus Christ as the head.” Not just a building, but the people itself. All of us gathered here, we are the church. But, where did the church come from?
In our lesson tonight we heard a story about Jesus giving the task of building the church to his disciple Peter. Jesus said, “on this rock I will build my church.” But what is the church that the disciple was tasked to create. Look at how Paul described the church in his letter to the Ephesians. He wrote:
18 For through (Jesus) we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. (Ephesians 2:19-20, CSB)
Paul’s words show us that it wasn’t a building that was created. Instead, is was the creation of a family. People who didn’t know each other are no longer strangers, but related to each other by Christ’s blood. The church is a group of people in a relationship with each other and with God, built on the perfect teachings of Jesus as the cornerstone, and the support of the Apostles.
We join this family through the sacrament of baptism when we’re washed clean of our sins, and joined to the family of God. With the water and the Word, we become part of the congregation, and become adopted sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. Adoption in the court-of-law places a child into a permanent family with a new mom, dad, and perhaps sisters and brothers. Baptism does the same with us joined to God in a permanent and lasting relationship. Listen to these words from Romans:
“For all those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Instead, you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!” 16 The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, 17 and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ” (Romans 8:14-17a, CSB)
In baptism, God adopts us into His family to share in the rewards of heaven as one Christian family. God didn’t create the family to fall apart. He created it to join Him one day in the heavenly realm.
Together, all of us are fellow members of God’s household. We are His sons and daughters. God did not create the church to fail. He build The Church to survive. He build it on the strongest thing He could. His own teaching, His own will, and His own Son. The church stands on this foundation.
2. Challenges to the Church
But even with a strong foundation, it seems like the church is facing a lot of challenges.
Across the nation, some churches are shrinking. For some, attendance is going down, and with a shrinking congregation, budgets get strained too. For many areas across the country, the church is not as solid as it used to be.
One of the challenges that the church faces is society and culture itself. Values have changed. If you look back just a few years, you see a very different world.
There was a time when it was almost expected that everyone would go to church on Sunday. In fact, those that didn’t might be considered outcasts.
Years ago, the Ten Commandments were considered solid statements of how to behave. Culture and society have changed. And with those changes, the attitudes of the people have changed too.