025.2 Purpose and Function, pt 4

We will continue our discussion of function and purpose by looking at some analogies of the Church and Christ that we find in Scripture. These pictures display the relationship between Christ and the Church.

  • Colossians 1:18 – Christ is the head, the church is the body
  • Ephesians 2:20-21 – Christ is the cornerstone and the church is the temple
  • 2 Corinthians 11:2 – Christ is the beloved and the church is the virgin
  • 1 Peter 5 – Jesus is the shepherd, the church is the flock
  • Ephesians 2 – Christ is the firstborn, the Church is the household
  • Revelation 19 – Christ is the bridegroom, the Church is the Bride
  • Ephesians 2 – Christ is the creator, and the Church is one new man built from two, and built for peace
  • Matthew 16:18 – Christ is the builder and the Church is His church

The Church is obviously central to God’s heart, to His creation of the universe. And yet he communicates about it more frequently in pictures than in blatant instruction for procedure and positions. As the church, we should take this to heart. We should not neglect the things that are clearly instructed, nor should be divide over the things that are not clearly defined in Scripture. If God wanted the “pastor” to be the focal point of church function, He probably should have mentioned it more than once, and should have given some explanation. We see way more discussion of the “apostle” in scripture, and yet few people could point to one today. Same goes for prophets.

Every local church will be a unique expression of the Lord Jesus Christ in their community. This doesn’t mean “anything goes,” but it does mean that we should focus on our Lord and allow freedom in how He leads.

So let’s re-examine our churches in the light of God’s clear priorities, and His pictures that speak of relationship more than defined systems. If the Church is made up of those who have been born of the Spirit of God and been baptized into the one body of Christ by the one Spirit, then the question is, does that describe your church? Or is your church more accurately described by its meetings, events, buildings, as a group of people (believers and unbelievers) present in the same room at the same time? There is only one church, and only God can add people to it.

So then, what about membership?

Today, we have varying church membership requirements. Some “churches” have no memebership recognition, some require that members be baptized in that church building in a certain manner, some require letters from past churches, some require tithing, some people have to sign covenants, some require classes. Where do all these varying requirements come from? The Bible? Or have we invented them along the way?

The most significant sign of of “membership” in scripture is having received the Holy Spirit. So then, can you receive the Holy Spirit and NOT be a member of God’s church?

Membership in the church, which was entrance into the community of the Church, was based on the presence of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life. There is no other church membership requirement listed. The church is a community of Spirit-transformed people. There are many people in Scripture who are not baptized, or have no baptism recorded. Baptism isn’t a requirement, but a response. It is displayed as a response to the reception of the Gospel in Scripture. It should be a shared, celebratory event, not a legalistic requirement.

The danger here is not necessarily in what you do or don’t do. It is how you view what you do, and how you view membership. Do your laws apply to Jesus, to Scripture, to the heart of God displayed in the works of the Spirit we see in Acts and elsewhere? Or can we agree on God and the things He makes clear, and give freedom and grace to those who vary on things God never bothered to nail down?

Why do theology and ecclesiology matter? Because they affect our definitions, our language, our thinking, and our expectations. The Church we find in Scripture is communicated by God most often by relational pictures, and exressed as a people transformed by the Spirit, living life together in a fallen world, to steward the mysteries of God and care for the entire creation. Do our physical tools help us be the church, or do they consume our time and treasures on an unbiblical organization? How can we discern this? Discover what the Church is supposed to do to see of the tools fit the job. Let’s see if our tasks, function, and purpose all line up.

The Church is primarily spiritual and eternal. Physical tools are not eternal. We must indentify the world so that we can be separate from it but minister to it, without falling prey to its ways. We can’t have a vague, amorphous definition, because we can abuse that as liberty to do anything. If there is confusion here, it can lead people into fruitless endeavors. With the prevelance of event-based ministry and friendship evangelism, it is easy to assume that your current passions are always a valid pathway for ministry. The problem is that this is self-focused. God’s works for you might have nothing to do with your present passions and interests. Or your present passions and interests could be informed by sinful desires and false ideas. It is better to lay down your will at the foot of Jesus and ask Him to transform your mind. To identify the enemy and get to know the heart and ways of your Master. When we commit corporately to indentify the ways of the world and separate ouselves from them, to serve God by serving others, then we establish a filter to view our ministry efforts. We have commited to sacrifice, consecration, seeking the will of God.

For those seeking revival, take note. We will never find revival if we participate in low-cost ways of ministry. The power in the early church was that the commitment cost your life. It required a severe reprioritization. It required commitment and sacrifice. It desired a thirst for God’s truth and love that pushed past our flesh and the world’s demands. When we commit as a church to the sacrificial way of Christ, then we will deter people set on fulfilling their own desires. God’s will and character will be declared in the presence of costly love, instead of in the presence of an event-filled organization that requires little sacrifice.

Have you added faith to your life? Or have you “lost your life” in order to receive the hope of Jesus?

The Gospel is an exchange of life – your life for Jesus’ life. You’ve been bought with a price. You cannot add Jesus to your life. You cannot hold on to something else. Jesus is not here to take care of your problems so you can pursue what you want. Jesus wants you to pursue Him with all of your mind, soul, and strength.

So how can the church get fixed? This is a trick question. The assumption is that there is a broken thing that needs fixed. In fact, there is a false thing that needs abandoned. If it were a matter of “fixing”, here is what that to-do list would look like

  • leave its denomination
  • dissolve its corporation
  • remove all unbiblical staff positions, programs, and events
  • stop its open sunday services

For many churches, these very things define its nature. So in effect, it would have to cease to exist. We must come outside the camp to minister how Jesus did (Hebrews 13).

“Here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.” This picture is carried in Galatians 4 (two covenants/two women/two mountains/two cities). One is about doing and one is about being. We whould be a place where the Holy Spirit dwells. The New Jerusalem comes down out of Heaven.

When we go to the Bible to find the description of how to structure the church, we do not find what you would expect. There is not a lack of information, but a lack of information concerning a system. Most of the information describes a group of people sharing life. The instruction is about empowerment, sharing, loving, sacrificing, fellowship, teaching.

In this tension of being and doing, we must make sure our doing is birthed from our being. Do not simply switch your activities and assume that it is better. You are still focusing on your activity. Do not become pridful in your actions, regardless of how righteous they may be. Rest in being the church, and do what flows out of that. The Holy Spirit should be our central motivator. He can motivate some to do something, and not others. Or He may motivate all to do something, but participate in their unique way.

So what then do we do? We must remove the leaven of the pharisees. First, know your gospel! What did Jesus preach? What do you preach? Are you preaching the Good News of the Kingdom, as Jesus did? Jesus’ Gospel focused on death to self. It was not centered around sin, but on denying your self. Repentance is vital, and sin should not be taken lightly. But repentance is the start, not the center. His Gospel leads us to be separate from the world. It is central to the church; there is no church outside the Gospel. The Gospel of the Kingdom involves obedience to God’s commands. It requires sacrifice and suffering on behalf of those who hate you. The church is formed from Jesus’ Gospel. If we structure a church around our design, it distorts the gospel, and removes our source of power.

Do not miss the Gospel of Jesus by accepting and preaching a gospel of man. You will miss out on the fulness of Christ. Read 2 Corinthians 11 and beware.

Songs
Jars of Clay – They will know we are Christians by our Love http://www.jarsofclay.com/

Liz Vice – Entrance http://www.lizvice.com/

This episode originally broadcast live on September 18, 2015 on KXEN 1010AM in St. Louis, MO

For more info:
www.sunministries.org
www.sunministries.blogspot.com

Theme music: “The Resistance” by Josh Garrels (www.joshgarrels.com) licensed by Marmoset Music (www.marmosetmusic.com)

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025.1 Purpose and Function, pt 3

We will continue discovering the purpose and function of the Church by looking at God’s images and patterns found in Scripture.

To recap, the modern American church is at its fastest rate of decline, and largely measures its success in physical terms (buildings, budgets, and butts). However, God’s church is spiritual and eternal, universal and local.

Critically examine your faith and church experience. Are the things you agree to in scripture evident in your life? Are you experiencing your theology, or are you disconnected from it?

Jesus Christ is building His church and it is not the result of human effort
1. the only true foundation of the Church is the revelation of Jesus Christ as the Son of God.
2. All revelation is a work of the Spirit of God and not of man (1 
Corinthians 2)
3. The Church of Jesus Christ is not the work of man but of God, therefore, the nature of the church should reflect this truth

We must check our goals and motivations. If the plan is to “plant a church”, what does that mean? Does it mean assembling a team, finding a building, etc? Or do you desire to be obedient to the Holy Spirit, preach the Gospel, and make disciples? The hard work required to “build the church” is of a spiritual nature, so it requires spiritual eyes and ears. It is costly work that requires love and sacrifice, and it is harder and more fruitful than crafting an event where you can invite people, believers and unbelievers alike, in the hopes they will like you. These physical approaches bypass the reality that there is a real spiritual war going on, that people are enslaved by satan in strongholds.

“Friendship evangelism” and related methods have all come into existance after the events and penning of Scripture. So we often find ourselves trying to implant that concept back into Scripture. When we assume our modern ways are good, best, or not modern at all, then we miss out on what we actually find in Scripture. We miss the disconnect between the ways of Jesus and the ways of modern man. We know three things for sure about what Jesus did:

  1. He did all things out of love (1 Corinthians 16:14; 1 John 4:16)
  2. He did what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19)
  3. He was obedient even unto death (Philippians 2:8)

Knowing these three things about Jesus’ actions should contextualize all He did. When He defended the woman caught in adultery and when He called people white-washed tombs, it was out of love, obedient, and reflected what the Father was doing. We should approach our own actions the same way. We should not find a methodology and try to fit Jesus into it.

What is the mystery of the Church? The mystery has to be revealed.  Colossians 1:24-29 states that the mystery is Christ in you, the hope of Glory. Paul calls the Church “the fellowship of the mystery.” The church is not a building or organization, but people with Christ in them.

When Israel discovered they had “polluted the assembly” by marrying foreign wives, they mourned, they gathered, they took it seriously and made a plan, and they repented. What is your response to signs of polluting the assembly?

If you want to see your church the way God sees it, you have to first see His Church and the way He sees it. You must understand the real thing to recognize something that is off course. Let’s look at some of God’s patterns

  1. Creation and Marriage of Adam and Eve – This denotes intimate fellowship. When we fill our assemblies with people who are opposed to God (prideful, unbelievers, etc), it destroys the intimate fellowship. The directive given to Adam and Eve was to be fruitful, multiply, subdue, rule. When we focus on church structure, it keeps us inwardly focused, instead of outwardly focused to rule creation
  2. Tabernacle of Moses – This denotes God’s work in the sacrifice of Christ. When we are focused on self-preservation, then we are not a sacrificial presence on the earth.
  3. Tabernacle of David – This denotes that God’s grace is extended to everyone. This picture of grace is distorted into inviting believers and unbelievers into the worship gathering, and not extending grace to people outside the church building. This sometimes turns into misguided and self-centered political activism, looking for that route to be the solution to our problems
  4. Ezekiel’s Temple – This speaks of a spiritual priesthood. Two priesthoods are mentioned. Who are you ministering to?

We an also look at the New Testament pictures of the Church. These display the spiritual and organic nature of the Church; not referring to buildings, structures, events, programming, etc.

  1. Body of Christ
  2. Temple of God
  3. Spiritual House
  4. Mt. Zion
  5. General assembly
  6. Church of the Firstborn
  7. Bride of Christ
  8. Holy City
  9. New Jerusalem

Let’s examine the spiritual context of the Church.

  1. The Universal Church, displayed in pictures of the Kingdom found in 1 Chronicles 12, the Kingdom.  This is also the Historical Church, found in Hebrews 11, which dislpays the foundation that has been laid. Also, Scripture declares the church throughout the world, which is birthed from the Greate Commission taking the Gospel to all the earth.
  2. The Kingdom of God is seen in God’s purpose from Genesis 1:26-28.  We see it in the reproducing of seed in Genesis 12; the accomplishing of His pleasure in Genesis 24; and the seed being scattered and reproduced in Genesis 48.
  3. The Great Commission focuses on disciples and reaching the Nations with the Gospel

God’s redemptive purpose – The church coming against the enemy to set captives free. We have to get back to opposing satan and his strongholds on a spiritual level in our community on a regular basis instead of through politics or on social media.

Songs:
Great Forest – Step into my Arms https://noisetrade.com/greatforest
The Foresters – This is the Kingdom https://noisetrade.com/theforesters

This episode originally broadcast live on September 18, 2015 on KXEN 1010AM in St. Louis, MO

For more info:

www.sunministries.org

www.sunministries.blogspot.com

Theme music: “The Resistance” by Josh Garrels (www.joshgarrels.com) licensed by Marmoset Music (www.marmosetmusic.com)

024.2 Purpose and Function, pt 2

Matthew 16:15-18 Who do you say that I am?

The church is not built by human effort. God builds His church, and He does it His way. He uses pictures to reveal the church to men. These pictures reveal something about God – this shows that He is our God and we are His people; that His church declares His glory. “You are the Christ” – this declaration is where the church is built. Doing things, being places, attending meetings, having habits do not add you to the church.

When God interacts with people, the interactions often involve the Land: Garden, Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Amos. The pattern is God heals the people, and THEN He heals the land. A healed people are designed to steward a healed land. This is purpose. With wounded people in the presence of a wounded land, we are trying to fabricate stewardship. The PEOPLE are bigger than the individual. The LAND is bigger than the people. Church life is not any kind of meeting, no matter how elaborate or simple. But ecclesia is a life lived in a land with others and God.

Current church structure is focused on the Sunday morning meeting. All the energy is ramped up for the Big Show. But most people are not satisfied with that, so we add sunday school, specified small groups, events, ministries, etc. We organize things to focus on the meeting at a set time, inside a set building, and then bemoan the fact that people are not out in the community, so we try to manufacture programs to get them “outside the walls.” We craft a system that focuses on a once-a-week meeting, and when that proves lacking, we try to add events and concerns to people’s already full lives. This is not what they signed on for. This was not the original deal. The Good News of the Kingdom is a transformational reality for your whole life. It is by its nature self-sacrificial and all-encompassing. We should be encouraging a community of people who are sharing life together, working and ministering together, who then gather to celebrate this life, praise our God, testify to His deeds, share our joys and concerns.

We should not use physical things to birth spiritual things, but use them as a tool, and use them properly, and use them alongside spiritual weapons. The church, God’s people, should have compassion, as Jesus did.

Jesus is building His church also on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, and not simply the biblical ones, but those living today. The Bible is immensely important, but we cannot simply stare at it, study it, and miss the bigness of God, the vastness of the Kingdom, the immensity of our call. If we merely disect the word, we will be like those of whom Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me.” We should be motivated and moved by the Bible to LIVE, and to walk with the Holy Spirit in the world.

Do you hate the church? Do we hate the church? What is the church? God’s church is the collection of saved sinners living life in a fallen world, with the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. The religious systems of man are not the church, but merely a counterfeit. That doesn’t mean spirit-filled believers can’t be involved with them, or lead them, or that the traditional church system can’t do good things in the world. But they are two different things.

The foundation of the church is the revelation of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. This is in 1 Corinthians 3:11 – for no man can lay a foundation, other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. The only way a person can be added to the church is through the Holy Spirit revealing them the truth of who Jesus Christ is. This is the only way to get fruit that lasts.

What is the most effective way to communicate the Gospel? Is it to gather people for an activity? Is it by making them your friend? Is it a game night, movie night, car show, hunting trip, bike ride, concert, bounce house? Or is it by obeying Christ? To prove that we believe who He says He is, that we have been pierced by His grace, that we live in a Kingdom that forgives sin and gives you what you could never earn by your performance? Is it to love because we first were loved? Why should anyone be motivated to come to Jesus if your thoughts, words, and actions communicate that you never did? This is not a matter of being perfect or the most righteous; it’s a matter of changing what you treasure and acting like Christ is your King. If you don’t live what you preach, you negate what you preach.

What do you preach? What is the loudest part of your gospel? Is it your political beliefs? Is it your work ethic? Is it your purity codes? Is it your religious festivals? Is it your concerts? Or is it your love borne out of the immensity of grace? What is it we’re supposed to be proclaiming? The mystery of the Church – Christ in us. The church is the fellowship of the mystery. God in man. The Kingdom in our midst.

The transformation the Holy Spirit brings is not a cessation of sin. It is a total heart transplant. It is forsaking the world. It is humility. It is serving others. It is submitting to God. It is laying down our rights, dreams, defenses, and taking up our cross. It is following the Master. To become Christ-like, you must lay down your life for people who hate you.

The Gospel changes how we interact with people. It changes how we view the world. It changes where our hope is placed. It should change your interactions with the rest of creation.

Let’s Recap

  1. The decline of the church – its health as an institution and its status in our culture
  2. The way we see our church – using physical tools to try to get spiritual results
  3. Trying to get purpose out of function instead of allowing purpose to define function
  4. The Church is primarily spiritual in nature
  5. Physical things should only be midwives; tools to loosen satan’s grip. Not using things of the world to attract people to the Gospel.
  6. What you draw them with is what you draw them to.

Do you see your church the way Jesus sees your church? How does Jesus see your church? Jesus’ church has a design defined by Him. Here are some of His patterns from scripture:

  1. Creation and marriage of Adam and Eve – God’s purpose came before people’s function; intimate fellowship; grace-covered state; stewarding over creation in obedience to God; this brings glory to God.
  2. Tabernacle of Moses – demonstrates God’s work in the sacrifice of Christ. The tabernacle was symbolic of God’s presence with the people, and of the impending appearance and sacrifice of Christ. The church today should also be representing God’s presence and the sacrificial nature of Christ.
  3. The Tabernacle of David – God’s grace manifested in salvation to the Gentiles
  4. Temple of Solomon – God’s glory revealed through His presence amongst His people
  5. Temple of Ezekiel – pattern of priesthood in service and ministry.

We must examine our purpose and our function, and discern which is leading. If we adopt an incorrect purpose, it will lead us to bad functioning. If we try to create purpose by functioning, we are performing a transaction. We don’t do nice things for our spouses so that they will love us. We love them, and so do nice things for them. When we have a false purpose, or attract with functioning, and let our tasks and activities lead, we will attract people to those things. They will never find real purpose. They will not find intimate fellowship found in unity in the Spirit.

Songs:
David Crowder Band – A Beautiful Collision
Audio Adrenaline – Jesus Movement

This episode originally broadcast live on September 11, 2015 on KXEN 1010AM in St. Louis, MO

For more info:
www.sunministries.org
www.sunministries.blogspot.com

Theme music: “The Resistance” by Josh Garrels (www.joshgarrels.com) licensed by Marmoset Music (www.marmosetmusic.com)

024.1 Purpose and Function, pt 1

There are numerous statistics that express a decline in the state of the church in America. This includes things like attendance, doctrinal literacy, giving, etc. A Barna report says the number of “post-Christian” individuals has increased to 44% (as of 2015; most current/relevant article can be found here: https://www.barna.com/research/post-christian-cities-america-2017/). Why is this important?

It depends on your context. If you are worried about the survival of an institution, then these statistics should be alarming. If you are concerned with the Gospel setting captives free to make disciples and follow the Holy Spirit, these statistics take on a more nuanced nature.

One of the sources of this “decline” is the confusion of purpose and function.

What is purpose? It is your vision. It is your reason for existing. It is your motivation. What is function? It is what you do. It is what your purpose drives you to do. It will guide your tasks and how you perform them.

If we get purpose and function backwards, then we are never going to achieve what God has designed us to do. Many churches function in a way to sustain themselves – their salaries, mortgages, programs, etc. Many people function in survival mode. And you don’t have to go to the inner cities to find people living this way. Functioning by self-preservation does not lead to the healthiest decisions. When we function out of survival mode, we won’t live by God’s design – we are merely trying to stay alive. Our options appear to be (and often are) limited. This is the stronghold of poverty – having limited options because of a concern with resources and survival. Your power to choose has been enslaved to your wants and needs.

We should discover our God-given purpose and allow it to define our function.

You and your church
When you communicate about your church, what do you mention first? Attendance, programs, preaching, music, serving opportunities? What Gospel do you preach? Does it matter how you preach the Gospel? Must you obey the Gospel you preach? Are you adding to or removing from the Gospel and leading people into bondage or hypocrisy?

The church is becoming obsolete in the culture. We have neglected the fulness of the Gospel and the desolation in our midst, so that our doctrine becomes separate from our works, and our works appear small and our doctrine becomes meaningless. The church, historically, was a massive force to bring value to human life. It shaped culture because people lived differently. Because they were obedient to God. Now there is a glut of answers and solutions to all of life’s ills. There are groups, politicians, and celebrities “doing something” about issues, and the church looks irrelevant in comparison, even though we all know that “Jesus is the answer.” If that is true, then He has to truly be the answer, and we have to be willing to be His body, His hands and feet, to answer the call. Jesus did not look at us in our need and say, “You don’t deserve it! I’m going to keep what’s mine.” He responded with grace.

The church has been taken captive by the natural realm. The primary nature of the Church should be spiritual. The very souls of the poor, foreign, undesirable, are invisible, eternal, spiritual things. This makes them vitally important in the Kingdom. The natural things associated with the church (buildings, programs, money, etc) are all temporary and are burned up in the end.

Fruit comes from the Spirit! It is not created by physical things.

Friendship evangelism is a bait-and-switch. It has so infiltrated many modern views of ministry and evangelism. This blurs our vision as we face a dark world in need of a Savior and His devoted followers. It taints our definition of the Gospel. It defined our churches in every way from architecture to graphic design to service schedules. It causes us to judge others for how they minister. It paralyzes people when facing their lost friends, family, and neighbors.

Who builds the Church? Christ builds His body, His spiritual temple. We get to partner merely as servants of the Holy Spirit. However, the church tries to build itself using physical tools and ways. Only the interaction with the Gospel and the Holy Spirit can add people to the spiritual Body of Christ. Our tools, no matter how impressive they are, are completely useless if they don’t accomplish what we need, if they are functioning separate from the Holy Spirit. Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.

What is the Church supposed to be? Let’s look at the “real deal”.

  1. It is universal – everyone added to the Book of Life. Only Jesus can open that book.
  2. The Local Church – the only division the Bible recognizes for the church is regional. And they were still interconnected. Denominations are wrong. They are borne out of divisions caused by the works of man.
  3. The Body of Christ – a supernature being filled with the Holy Spirit
  4. The Bride of Christ – Pure and devoted to their Lord

This is the podcast episode Jason referenced

http://www.welivehere.show/posts/2015/8/23/what-it-means-to-be-multi-racial

and this is the paper that they referenced

https://gcaatoday.com/775/opinions-2/blackish-not-black-not-white-but-somewhere-in-between/

Songs:
Kutless – “All Who are Thirsty” http://www.kutless.com/
Nickel Creek – When in Rome https://youtu.be/ylslcF-fUeE

This episode originally broadcast live on September 11, 2015 on KXEN 1010AM in St. Louis, MO

For more info:
www.sunministries.org
www.sunministries.blogspot.com

Theme music: “The Resistance” by Josh Garrels (www.joshgarrels.com) licensed by Marmoset Music (www.marmosetmusic.com)