What the Church is Not

The fog was dangerously thick this morning, as I drove our daughter to work in the dark before sunrise. High beams made matters worse, so I turned them off and hunched over the steering wheel, driving ten miles per hour under the speed limit, while allowing myself to be guided by the bright double yellow lines in the center of the road and the white singular line at the right edge.

Driving within these parameters clearly kept me from careening into a ditch.

***

These are dark days.

Thankfully, there are double yellow lines within the church, made and intended to guide the body of Christ: God and his Word. The white outer line? That is your pastor, a man chosen by God, an overseer tasked with the mission of shepherding your soul through prayer and teaching. He answers directly to God, and will give an account.

Hebrews 13:17 reads:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Pastor Dane Ortlund recently said:

A tidal wave of pastor resignations is coming in 2022. But that wave can be greatly lessened by the most powerful gift a congregation can give: the ministry of encouragement.

Amen.

Church is a living organism, made up of flesh and blood and the mystery of souls, destined for eternity. It is a house of prayer and preaching, proclaiming the Word of God, which is living and active (Hebrews 4:12).

Church is not to be centered upon statistics and numerical growth, but upon what God holds dear: repentance of sins, biblical obedience, and spiritual depth. It is a hospital for the sick, the downtrodden, the struggling. It is a house for the believers to be strengthened, to delight in God and his Word; a place of spiritual feasting and nourishment.

Church is a place where we must digest hard words of truth that deeply offend our flesh, and that is a good thing, as we joyfully submit to the straight edge of Scripture. We cannot subsist upon pablum, but require meat, in order to grow deep into the things of God.

Church is where we must tend to one another in brotherly love: encouraging, edifying, building up the body of Christ, while sharing our God-given gifts and abilities to further the kingdom of God.

Church is the body of believers, for whom Jesus Christ died to ransom. It is where the fruit of the spirit within each believer should shine on hearty platters: a gifting, an offering to serve the entire fellowship in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.

A critical spirit is not one of these fruits, nor is it ever a gift. It quenches the work of the Holy Spirit. Criticism tears down, destroys, and is a fast-spreading cancer that breeds contempt. A critical spirit always fractures.

Church is not our playground. We do not own our church, staking our claim, as a playground bully does.

Church is not our wishing well. Let us refrain from tossing our shiny pennies into the shallows, insisting that our leaders accommodate our wishes and preferences.

Church is not a Fortune 500 Company, to be run like a crisp board meeting.

Church is not a buffet, a restaurant where we pick and choose our favorite junk foods, opting to skip the nutrients that our bodies require to function well.

There is a better way. A way that builds up, edifies, and breeds unity under the banner of Christ: submission to the Word through obedience and prayer, followed by words of kindness and encouragement for your pastor and fellow church members.

Encouragement is contagious: it twinkles and sparkles and draws people together in brotherly love. It shows a generosity of spirit which in turn strengthens the tired and discouraged ones.

Encourage your pastor this very day, as he is laboring around the clock in prayer and preparation to feed souls. It is weighty and holy and joyous and exhausting.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

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