If you were to ask people this question, “What is a church, and how is it suppose to function?” what do you suppose the answers would be? No doubt you would receive many answers, but I believe the main purpose of the church, as instructed by Jesus, is to make disciples and to be witnesses in your community, surrounding areas, and the world. It is an understatement to say the church is criticized today and rejected by many for its imperfect people, but the only perfect person within the church is the Holy Spirit. When salvation by Jesus is experienced by a person, the process of change caused by the indwelling Holy Spirit should be evident in that person’s life. Church is not church because of who we are, it is church because of who the Holy Spirit is in those who make up the church. If the Holy Spirit is not evident within those who gather and call themselves a church, it will look and function like just another organization. However, when the church operates by the leading of the Holy Spirit, it will prosper, not by worldly standards, but by God’s standard. The factor that should draw people to a church should not be the programs, but the evidence of Jesus, and the person of the Holy Spirit being undeniable in that church. Let me share three things that are factors that I believe make up a church.
And when they had PRAYED, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God in boldness. Acts 4:31 ESV
After they prayed, the Holy Spirit indwellled them and empowered them to boldly speak God’s word. They did not speak it arrogantly, or use it to beat people up, but boldly proclaimed Christ. What was this word that was spoken?…. That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that He came to redeem people from their sins. This word which they were speaking boldly of had become flesh (John 1:14) and dwelt with them, and they experienced Him by the Holy Spirit. Prayer should never be an after thought but the first action in our relationship with God and in building the church as instructed by Jesus himself.
BUILD ON THE ROCK:
I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18 ESV
What rock was Jesus referring to when He said upon THIS ROCK I will build my church? When in a conversation with his disciples, Jesus asked the question, “Who do you say that I am?” Matthew 16:15 ESV Peter answered, “You are the Christ the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:16 ESV Upon this confession Jesus said, “On this rock I will build my church” Matthew 16:18 ESV If we focus upon anything in the church more than this, we are building on sand. The church is always to build and focus upon Jesus the Son of the living God. Being religious and being Christian are two very different things. When Paul was addressing the people of Athens in Acts chapter 17, He said to them, “I perceive that in every way you are very religious.” (vs 22 ESV) for they worshipped many different gods. But he described God to those who did not know Him and made this point that as Christians, “In him we live and move and have our being” (vs 28a ESV) This should be the truth we practice in every New Testament church.
LIVE IN THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8 ESV
The true church knows there is power in the working of the Holy Spirit to save people from sin. True salvation in a person’s life means true change. Manipulation never saved anyone, but the working of the Holy Spirit in the lives of true believers will point people to Jesus. We should pray and speak boldly the teaching of Jesus knowing it is the Spirit of God that changes a person once they believe and receive. The witness we should be giving is the evidence that the Holy Spirit is living in us. This is not just moral living, although that is important, but the reality of something greater. It is the love we have for the Lord and the desire to please him and bring him much glory. The church is all about Jesus and the proclamation of the the gospel according to his teachings. This will never be done in truth unless it is done in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The church as we see it will never be perfect, for it is filled with imperfect people. However, those who are imperfect in the church, who are true believers, are filled with the Holy Spirit of the One who is perfect. Many reject the church because of the imperfection of people, but they are missing the perfection of God that is working in the lives of those who serve. I always remind people that church was God’s idea, and to say, “I don’t need to go to church to be a Christian,” is dangerously close to saying what Adam and Eve said in the garden… “I have a better idea than God.” May we never forget where that got us and what it cost God…. his only Son. God’s response to our sin was to die for us. May our recourse to Him be to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Let us do this as a church, and God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, will do what only He can do…. redeem people to Himself and grow His church.
Because of His Grace ~ Pastor David