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CHURCH

Introduction
I recently stumbled upon a magazine article, which led me to another article, then a
blog, and somehow I ended up with a series of posts tagged with church. I found
myself diving deeper into analytical thought of what the church is really supposed to be,
and perhaps what it has become. the church has become. (You can visit that blog here.)
For a year or so now I have been wrestling with the idea of church. Questions like What
role does it really have in my life as a believer? If God is If Jesus is supposed to be the
focus, why are there so many discrepancies and denominations? Why does the Bible
imply one global church community while the world has tens of thousands of
denominations churches? began coming to mind, and currently I find myself wondering
if maybe, just maybe, some churches around the world have lost sight of biblical
Christian community. Sure these churches might promote small group discipleship,
extravagant childrens ministries, lavish and comfortable buildings, but when their
members hearts are exposed, are they blindly deceived as the scribes and Pharisees
were in Matthew 23, possessing good intentions but devastatingly missing the mark?

Perhaps you attend a church like the one I just described and are debating whether or
not you should continue reading this article for fear that it might be hypercritical. Maybe
you wonder if I am trying to remove your speck while ignoring my plank. Let me say
this: I believe there exists a dialogue between so-called Christians that needs to begin.
We need to start talking about what church should really look like and how church fits
into Gods plan for humanity. Without discussion, I fear that we will continue skewing the
view our unchurched friends perceive even further. As pastor Bill Hybles once said:

The hope of the world is not government, academia, business, but the church
because it is to the church that God has entrusted the message of salvation,
which truly changes peoples lives and hearts.

And I realized this meant we need to enable everyone in the church to make the
maximum contribution they can, and we need to get leaders to lead, and we
need to teach everyone to serve and to give generously, and invite young people
to be a part of things as soon as they can. And then it occurred to me that we
need to see every church reach its full redemptive potential. And Im really eager
to see that day.

As I was doing some research this past week on the topic, I took a typical break and did
what most do with their free time: I visited Facebook. It was there that I read a post from
Ann Voskamp, a very wise woman known for her book One Thousand Gifts. She had
inquired of her followers one thing that they wish would change about the church, and
the comments were quite the wake-up call. Hundreds upon hundreds of people
responded, some devastated and broken from the church they experienced, while
others are fed up with the entertainment culture the American church has built, still
others are longing for the family the church had once been. The desire for revival in the
Western church is here, America, but why do we seem to be sitting still?

[I want to insert this disclaimer: There are many churches that I have seen fulfilling
Gods call for the Body of Christ. They are risking their lives and reputations to carry out
the message of the gospel. These churches will be featured in the next post in this
series, followed by those in the developing world.]

The aforementioned blog is Mentannas musings from a french fried texan and I really
like what she has to say in terms of this dialogue about the current state of the church.
In a post entitled is this really all there is? she discusses how while completing a
project for grad school, she interacted with some of trench workers in her community.
She saw how a faith-based organization is giving so much, yet receiving so little. That
they are being the hands and feet, more often than not struggling for resources, yet the
large church down the road is pouring its resources into its members and building better
social schedules and facilities.

My friends, there seems to be a great discrepancy in the true mission of the church and
where we stand today. It appears as if we have fallen to accept church as a comfortable
luxury, catering to me and my needs, yet sometimes ignoring our hurting brothers and
sisters both inside and outside of the church building.

What if we began the change in the global church perception by taking the time to
examine ourselves and align our concepts of church community with the Bible? What if
there was more to church than walking in and walking out? What if we could grasp a
clearer picture of God through living out Biblical relationships with one another, and
thus, forming the Church? What if we first learned our role in the local church instead of
what we can take from it? And then, how that role in the local church fits into the bigger
picture?
Part 2
We left off in Part 1 with many open-ended questions about change. But lets take a step
back and examine our role as a Christ follower and Church member. One of the most
prevalent explanations of our role in the New Testament is our responsibility as
ambassadors of Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 (NLT) says this:

Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to


persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too. Are
we commending ourselves to you again? No, we are giving you a reason to be
proud of us, so you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular
ministry rather than having a sincere heart. If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring
glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. Either way,
Christs love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe
that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who
receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for
Christ, who died and was raised for them.

So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time
we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know
him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new
person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ.
And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in
Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting peoples sins against
them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are
Christs ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ
when we plead, Come back to God! For God made Christ, who never sinned, to
be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through
Christ.

Before we dive into scripture, I want to be sure we agree on some definitions,


particularly those of ambassador and reconciliation. In Billy Grahams 2011 sermon
entitled Sowing Seeds of the Gospel: Are You an Ambassador for Christ? he proposes
the following definition: An ambassador is a person, a friend of authority. Ambassadors
are servants of their government in a foreign land. They are not free to set their own
policies or develop their own message. He continues to say, In the same way, we are
called to live under the authority of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Scriptures. We
are servants. We must live under the authority of the Word of God. We are called not to
do our will, but Christ's." Graham also suggest that ambassadors hold dignity and
importance, despite what the worlds perception might be.
Similarly, John MacArthur agrees with Graham and goes to say that ambassadors no
longer represent anything personal, but all of the sovereign. He states:

It is not our own dignity that lends weight to our ambassadorship, it is the
dignity of the one we represent. So we are ambassadors of Christ. We are God's
ambassadors, it says God is entreating through us. We don't have our own
message, we don't have our own words. We don't make our own promises. We
don't exact our own demands. We speak only that which our sovereign has told
us to speak."

As ambassadors of Christ we are noble representatives of all that Christ stands for. We
have decided to leave our personal desires and fully commit to a life of service in
Christs name.

[As for reconciliation, it can be defined as such:]

[Expand on 2 Corinthians]

MacArthur also says what I think is one of the most concise, yet profound definitions of
our holistic calling: We have been given ambassadorship not to fix the culture but to
proclaim the message of reconciliation, changed people, changed by the gospel will
change the society. This is our ministry. This is your ministry, not just mine. Its yours.

Shane Claiborne in his book The Irresistible Revolution writes of his interactions in the
church when he first became a Christian. He writes:

But then you start to think there must be more to Christianity, more than just
laying your life and sins at the foot of the cross. I came to realize that preachers
were telling me to lay my life at the foot of the cross and weren't giving me
anything to pick up. A lot of us were hearing 'don't smoke, don't drink, don't
sleep around" and naturally started asking, 'Okay, well, that was pretty much my
life, so what do I do now?' Where were the do's? And nobody seemed to have
much to offer us. Handing out tracts at the mall just didn't seem like the fullness
of Christian discipleship, not to mention it just wasn't as fun as making out at the
movies. I was just another believer. I believed all the right stuffthat Jesus is
the Son of God, died and rose again. I had become a 'believer,' but I had no idea
what it means to be a follower. People had taught me what Christians believe,
but no one had told me how Christians live.

but no one had told me how Christians live. As members of the church who claim to
believe x, y, and z, we should be the most evident in our examples of our beliefs. Yet,
sadly, we tend to hide. We hide behind the insecurity of living a radically different life.
We hide behind the faade that everything is put together in our lives. As David Platt
wrote in his book Radical,

Anyone wanting to proclaim the glory of Christ to the ends of the earth must
consider not only how to declare the gospel verbally but also how to demonstrate
the gospel visibly in a world where so many are urgently hungry. If I am going to
address urgent spiritual need by sharing the gospel of Christ or building up the
body of Christ around the world, then I cannot overlook dire physical need in the
process.

In The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience, Ron Sider claims: "Many contemporary
Christians act as if it is possible to divide Jesus up, accepting him as Savior and
neglecting him as Lord. But Jesus Christ is one person. He cannot be torn apart in that
way. Either we accept the whole person, Lord and Savior, or we do not accept him at
all." It is like in Revelation 3 when God says that he will spit all those who are lukewarm
out of his mouth. We must be hot or cold. We either believe in Jesus or we do not, there
is no middle ground.