Contend Earnestly: The Church Sucks: The Response (Part 2)

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Church Sucks: The Response (Part 2)

In the first post, I showed the clear understanding of our condition as the church, namely, that we suck. The idea of this was to be clear and show that we shouldn't be too surprised at this understanding. Most people within the church, have had odd experiences where arguments seemed petty, the vision of the church wasn't focused on Jesus, but self, or have just been treated very harshly within the church. Now, when we get into this response, I am not trying to say that you should just deal with these issues and stay within a certain local church (I will write a post on when someone should leave a church), but what I am saying is that we shouldn't abandon the church gathered altogether.

The rave today is that since the organized church has taken advantage of people, seem to lose focus, has hurt me, has abused it's power, etc. etc. etc. then we should just abandon the church gathered and find Jesus, either on our own, or in small groups within our homes. (I am not arguing against house churches if they still look like the New Testament church discussed throughout Acts and the epistles of Paul). This response is wrong. We don't just leave something because we don't believe it is working. We must look back to the one who is all knowing and all powerful and focus on His work and not our own eyes. We must be as Paul tells the Corinthians:

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
1 Corinthians 15:58

I am not saying that Paul was trying to tell the church in Corinth to "keep meeting together as an organized church", but what Paul IS saying is that although our toils seem to be in vain we must continue to press forward in the will of God knowing that it isn't in vain. George Barna thinks he is starting a "Revolution" by leaving the local church, but what is actually doing is leaving the mission of God that God has within the local church.

But, why do I think this? Why do I think that although we are jacked, that we still need to continually pursue the church gathered? The reason is because I think God actually knows the future and is in control over it. God isn't surprised that our churches are a joke at times, abusive in other times and downright idiotic at times. So much so, that even before Paul takes aim at the local church in Corinth, notice he doesn't tell them to find themselves outside of the church but actually encourages them:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Corinthians 1:3-9

So, why is it obvious that God desires us to stay in the church, instead of leaving it and doing it on our own?

1. God Knows the Hearts of Man

God knows exactly who we are. We love to wander from authority and wander from the truth. This is what we always do and, although this is mostly spoken of in the form of us wandering from God, it can be seen that this is our make up and what we desire to do in general.

We see this in the Prodigal Son story, which tells of the boy leaving the truth, love and security of his father. We see this in Isaiah 53 that tells us that we are all like sheep who go astray. We love to out on our own and leave the authority established over us. This is why Paul has to tell us to be in subjection to the governing authorities (Romans 13:1), because we naturally don't want to be. We desire to be our own god, making our own decisions. We love to continually commit the first sin in the garden by usurping authority, to become our own. Whether we like it or not, we are all Adam's desiring to become our own God. This is our heart. God knows it.

2. God Establishes Our Leadership

Because of the first, that we are wanderers and love to be our own authority, God has always established leaders and authorities for us. Think about it. He established judges, he established kings, he established priests and he established prophets. Whether it was political or spiritual, God has always established authorities above us to rule us. There is no difference for the church. God establishes pastors, overseers, bishops, elders, deacons and teachers all to give us godly leadership examples. They are there for our good and to lead us. They are there to admonish us, to teach us the precepts of God, to guard us against heresy, to defend the truth and to lead us. (1 Tim 3; Acts 11:30,14:23; Titus 1:5-9; Acts 20:28; Phil 1:1; Eph 4:11-13;Acts 13:1; 2 Timothy 4) So much so, that God tells us to:

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith...Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.
Hebrews 13:7,17

I know we don't like authoritarian people who rule over us. But, maybe that's the point? Maybe the point is that we were not made to be lone rangers, on our own, doing as we wish. Maybe we were made to be ruled over, to guard us, to protect us and to take care of us.

3. Why?

Think of this. Why would God do this on earth? Why would he give us people to rule over us, lead us, watch over us and care for our souls? The biggest reason "why?" is because these leaders are a picture of our God in heaven. Paul puts this plainly, when he states:

Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1

Paul, being an apostle and a leader to the Corinthian people tells them to imitate him. This is very closely related to Hebrews 13:7 (from the same root word in the Greek) where it tells us to imitate the faith of those who lead us. The reason is because our leaders are to be showing us Jesus. Spiritually, we have always desired to go our own way, we desire to exchange the truth for a lie (Romans 1:25) and to leave the safety of our God. So, what God has done is given us imperfect saviours and leaders on this earth (i.e. elders/pastors) to show us and have us yearn for our perfect Saviour and Leader in heaven.

God does this in other areas as well, not only in church leadership, but also in marriage. We are told to submit to each other, to know our roles in marriage, but why? Because marriage is a shadow of the perfection of our Christ and his perfect leadership for the church of God (Ephesians 5:22-33). Honestly, because of the rejection of the roles in marriage, it is no surprise that church roles and leadership is now being rejected.

4. Admonishment

So, what have people been doing because leadership has been done imperfectly within the church? They have left it. This is wrong. Hebrews speaks to this when the writer tells us:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
Hebrews 10:23-25

The church is the physical manifestation of what is our spiritual hope and promises. Yes, they are messed up, sinners, taking advantage of people and sometimes ruining lives. But, nonetheless, it is how God has guided his people to function. Even with all this, there is still much to praise the church for. It is not all bad, there is much good. We cannot allow some bad apples ruin the whole harvest. This is what I believe happened in marriage. Because some husbands have sucked in leading for the cause of Christ, the roles in marriage have been questioned and thrown out. But, just because it seems as though something isn't working, or we have been burned by it, we can't throw it out if it's been ordained by God.

Where does it stop? The next step from leaving the church gathered, is leaving the people of God altogether. Check out this verse and see how this plays out and the harsh words from John:

If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.
1 John 4:20-21

I believe if one says that they hate the church gathered, that they are very close in saying that they hate God. That is a bold statement, but God has given us physical leaders and authority to show us the hope and perfection in God, our perfect Authority. He established this, knowing that this gathered church would screw up a lot, and screw up often, yet he still established it.

We are all sinners. Only when you believe your sin isn't that bad will you decide to leave the church altogether. You have put your hope in people instead of God. You have put people on the throne, instead of God. And, because people have become your god and they have disappointed you, you have left what God ordained.

But, if God is your only hope, your only God, your only Saviour, you will trust in what HE has established, and what he has given us and not in the actions of man.

Don't leave the church gathered, but love it regardless of it's faults. Sounds a lot like what Jesus did for you, or have you forgot?

as it is written,
"There is none righteous, not even one;
There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one."
"Their throat is an open grave,
With their tongues they keep deceiving,"
"The poison of asps is under their lips";
"Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness";
"Their feet are swift to shed blood,
Destruction and misery are in their paths,
And the path of peace they have not known."
"There is no fear of God before their eyes."
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Romans 3:10-18, 1 Peter 3:18, 2 Corinthians 5:21

In the last post, I am going to give some thoughts on when and why one should leave one church for another.


Arthur Sido said...

Interesting points but just because some people are gathered and call it church doesn't mean it is a faithful reflection of the form and purpose of the New Testament church. We need to be very careful of creating a dichotomy between "church as it is" and "no gathered church at all". Some forms of gathering simply are more representative of what we see in Scripture and as someone who considers Acts to be both descriptive and prescriptive, I think the organized church as we traditionally understand it has strayed pretty far afield and in many (most?) cases resembles a 16th century Roman Catholic church more than the 1st century church in Rome.

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