“I believe that one reason why the church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world is because the world has so much influence over the church…Put your finger on any prosperous age in the Church’s history and you will find a little marginal note that says: ‘In this age people could readily see where the Church began and where the world ended’.” – Charles Spurgeon
Ponder that quote a moment. When I heard this quote recently in a sermon my critical, judgmental (unloving) heart immediately thought of ways churches have changed in the past 25 years.
Have we blurred the line between the church and the world by trying to be more seeker-friendly and attractive to (fill in the blank), from music style, to church name changes, from sanctuaries to community meeting rooms, from abstinence to drinking, to church décor?
Now to be fair, I’m not saying these changes are necessarily bad, some have been good (again, in MY opinion. I am hard-pressed to see the wide-spread acceptance of social drinking, even at church events and gatherings, as movement in the right direction; “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 1 Corinthians 10:23-24). But, it begs the question: How can the Church be in the world but not of the world?
Looking to Church history, how do we, as the Body of Christ, posture ourselves, individually and corporately as the Church, to be a catalyst for another “prosperous age” of revival? How do we live lives that are distinctly Christian in a world, nation, job, and community that is distinctly NOT Christian?
How do we discern between change and compromise? How do we, individually and as a Body, minimize the influence OF the world to maximize the Church’s influence IN the world?
Lots of questions I don’t have answers for. But this I do know…
JESUS BUILDS HIS CHURCH
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And 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 16:15-18
THE CHURCH IS THE BODY OF CHRIST COMPRISED OF INDIVIDUALS SAVED BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 1 Corinthians 12:27
WE ALL HAVE A MINISTRY, A GOD-GIVEN MISSION – TO MAKE HIM KNOWN THROUGH THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST
“…Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20
IT’S ALL ABOUT HIM
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:5-6
THE TWO GREAT COMMANDMENTS ARE TO LOVE GOD AND LOVE OUR NEIGHBOR
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39
Now why is that important?
The way I see it, whether the church is now barely decorated by “old church” standards or the band with drums has replaced organs and choirs, or whether we sit in chairs instead of pews and the pastor wears jeans and flip flops instead of a robe or suit — God’s greatest command is LOVE.
How do we discern compromise from God-directed change? I think the question is a heart question. Are we motivated by love for God, love for the brethren (young and old), and love for the lost?
Oh, and one more thing: THE GOSPEL IS POWERFUL TO SAVE FOR EVERY GENERATION. NOTHING WILL THWART GOD’S PLAN OR PURPOSE.
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it…” Isaiah 55:10-11
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16
I hope you haven’t skimmed or skipped the Scriptures because it is in God’s Word that we find the answers to our questions. My words are as dust, His Words are everlasting, powerful and mighty to save.
Diane Hunt serves part-time on the staff of America’s Keswick providing ministry support from her home in North Carolina. She is also a biblical counselor and women’s event speaker. For more information about having Diane speak at your next event please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.