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Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Church

What do you think the primary role of the church is? I'm not talking about the Church (big-C), but the local church that has four walls (at least) and weekly meetings. I think I'm pretty clear with what big C-Church is about, but lately I've become less and less clear of what role the local church is supposed to play in the Kingdom.




Drew White said...

Before responding to such a loaded question, what were you previous beliefs about the local church?

What has caused you to have "less and less" of an idea about the purpose of the local church?

Paul said...


I grew up believing that you went to Church because the Bible said "don't forsake the gathering together". I then figured out that there had to be more than just a "Bible says-so" response (you know, why does the Bible say so?). It was never preached or taught directly but I began to think that the Church is where people go to get saved.

I think that is what most people think about the church, that's why so many pastors say, "bring your friends to church... the message is just for them." Well, why not have messages that equip the current Christians to minister at work, home, etc?

There has to be some type of a balance, I know, but the more I think about it the more I think I won't ever 'have it figured out'. Hope that explains a bit more of where I'm coming from.

Drew said...

"Desperate people do desperate things" and this is evidenced by the leaders of the early 20th century style of churches. Many of these leaders are nearing retirement age, and for them, and this is speculation, they are consumed with worry about their livelihood and dare not change at this point in the journey.

Many emerging leaders are the ones who have the thriving churches where all members of the body are being equipped and often there is a jealousy on the part of the "antiquated",for lack of better terms, church because for some, it is a competition.

If you look at the older ministers who have the thriving mega-churches, they are constantly looking for better ways to reach the lost but also to epuip those who have been found. I think the Bible clearly outlines what the church is supposed to do, but our culture, education, technological attitudes, and personal agendas, play a major role in the outcome of the "four-walled" church.

What is your opinion of elitism in the church and how do we overcome such systemic woes?

Drew said...

There seems to be a great divide between the 21st century and 20th century church styles. Due to the constant struggle of some churches to "maintain" their congregations, some tend to lash out at the modern churches who are "stealing" the flock. Some are caught in the past and are doing what they did 30 or more years ago.

Paul said...

I think elitism in the church has been problematic for thousands of years (that was Jesus' critique of the pharisees), and can only be overcome by people being genuinely concerned with walking closer to Christ. It is only as we strive to be in a deeper relationship with Christ that we are able catch ourselves pushing others away and only concentrating on those that 'deserve' our attention.

I've got mixed feelings about the mega-church. It's great to grow a church to be several thousand strong, I mean what are you supposed to say to people, "Uh, we've got a bunch of people here already, so why don't you go somewhere else." But at so many mega-churches (like Tommy Barnett's in Phoenix) people never get really involved in the church. It's like a big revolving door. I think that's problematic. Another thing about many of these churches is that they are usually 'big-event' driven: special speakers, guest athletes or movie stars, huge dramas, etc. It's always about the next big event and never about building solid relationships among the people already there.

I know that Tommy Barnett has an immense passion for lost people, but I think that he and others in the same camp as him are going about it the wrong way. We don't see in the NT anything about people coming to a church to get saved. What we see is the people of God gathering together and supporting one another. The 'ministry' went on in the marketplace on a daily basis. When someone got saved, that's when they started coming to church.

I think I know where I stand on the purpose of the church, but it's very different from what many others believe and that's what causes me to take caution about that belief (which results in this post!).

Drew said...

Very well put. Like many large organizations, there are always glitches (some intentional and some purposeful). Not that I have any major studies in biblical history but 2000 years it seems believers were more caught up in following the law and today we tend to get caught up in competing with secularism (whether it be tv,radio, or any other outside force).

What is your take on leisure dress in church (i.e. jeans, shorts and sandals)? Also, have you heard some suggest that SAGU is losing its spiritual emphasis and replacing it with an emphasis on money and growth?

Paul said...

I think you've hit it on the head when you refer to some churches competing with secularism. Many churches have become 'customer-service' oriented instead of 'Christ-oriented'. They worry so much about making the customers happy that they forget about what's really important.

About the casual dress... I don't have a big problem with it, but personally I still feel wierd wearing shorts to service. I think if people took seriously what they're at church to do (worship the maker of the universe) they'd be more apt to dress nicer. The downside of people getting all dressed up is that some that can't afford nice clothes may feel out of place. I guess I'd put it this way, I think we should bring our best. If my best is a nice shirt and slacks, then that's what I should bring. if it's ragged out jean shorts, then that's what I should bring. I think there is a lot of room in the middle on this one.

About SAGU, I haven't heard people say that, but it doesn't surprise me. If SAGU is ever going to be taken seriously though, they need some money. I think many of the people that might make those statements you referred to would've been just as happy 6 years ago when the place was a dump. That's fine for them, but the reality is that if SAGU is nicer, more students are going to come. If more students come, there's a bigger impact SAGU can make. It's just important that the administrators don't lose sight of the overall purpose.

What are your thoughts? Not being in Waxahachie I'm not really in touch with what's going on down there.

Drew said...


To answer your response about SAGU, let me use a little of what you already know.

Every super power in the history of the world has experienced great wealth and power but only to be destroyed by the same token. A prime example would be Athens in the 5th century when the Athenian arrogance blinded their rationale.

Unlike Plato and Xenophon, I will not be a mouthpiece for SAGU, but I have heard that they focus more on raising money and sports than the "foundation" on which the school has been built. Is it possible for a "man-controlled" entity to continuously prosper or are they all, like history reveals, desitined for failure?

How about those MAVS?

Paul said...

I think your question answers itself. A man-controlled entity won't ever succeed in the end, but a Christ-controlled entity will. I know that sounds like a lot of Christianese, but I think if SAGU continues to keep its perspective on what is really important, the other stuff will come along. Tithing is similar, I think. If you tithe to get money, you're missing the point. God may still bless you financially, but that's not the point. If you tithe becasue of your dedication to Christ, then you get the non-financial blessings and financial blessings. If SAGU seeks what's is important first, then the rest will take care of itself.

The Mavs almost gave me a heart attack last night. Geesh. I wish that they played the Spurs in the Western conference finals so we don't have to go through one more series. Oh well... Go MAVS!

Youth Extreme said...

What is the primary role of the chruch? Great question...For me it is Math. 22:37-39

37Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'[b] 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'

We meet as a body to give our best to the Lord...I don't believe this means material things, nice cloths, shoes, shiny bible...I truly believe it means our best effort at worship, praise, prayer and living a life pleasing to him...The only people concerned about nice cloths are we the people..God I truly believe cares less. He wants our best in focusing on him and praising him...

He wants us to love him with all our heart soul and mind first…Then we are to love others the same way…That is were the church comes in. Hurting people, needy people come through the church doors looking for help…We as a body need to reach out, lift up, encourage and support those in need just as Jesus did to the blind, sick and dead…Some where the church has lost that focus..We see the mega church’s where hurting people can come, hear about others, leave and feel good they have done their duty by attending church, no growth or depth to their walk, they continue to hurt and eventually stop attending and start looking else where for something to fill the ache within.

That is why I see the churches moving to New Testament style ministry, in homes, small groups, etc…This allows for relationships to be built, trust to be earned and the healing process to begin. The church has become to inward focused, what programs can we develop, what can we do to make the body happy…But now we are seeing the shift to an outward focus, how can I reach my neighbor? How can I show Gods love to those I come in contact with daily? I truly believe that in order for the 4 walled church to be effective it needs to be turned inside out and those who are comfortable sitting in the pew need to get out walk the street and share their faith….That is what it means to bring your best to church each week for God. Bring your best effort of “Go into all the world and preach the good news.”

We meet as a body to give our best to the Lord...I don't believe this means material things, nice cloths, shoes, shiny bible...I truly believe it means our best effort at worship, praise, prayer and living a life pleasing to him...The only people concerned about nice cloths are we the people..God I truly believe cares less. He wants our best in focusing on him and praising him...

Paul said...

youth extreme,

I'm not really sure that Matthew 22: 37-39 should be understood as a directive to the local church. It seems that Jesus is addressing the individual life of the believer, which obviously makes up the church, but I'm wanting to know the role of the local church as an institution. I agree that we meet to give our best to the Lord and that it doesn't mean just our best material things, though I think it can include that (doesn't have to include it, but can include it). For me, when I want to get a lot of work done at home, I wake up, take a shower, and get dressed as if I'm going out. Putting on clothes as if I was going to work at a white-collar job helps me stay focused mentally on the fact that I am doing real work at home. In the same way, getting dressed up to go to church can (but doesn't have to) help me stay focused on the fact that I am purposefully taking time out of my week to join in worship with fellow believers.

I'm still not clear on what you think the purpose of the local church is. It seems that you want to say it's to meet the needs of hurting people, but I'm not sure why that has to happen at a local church and not just when we're all working at our jobs, pumping gas, or getting groceries. Should the local church be accepting to hurting people? Yes, of course. But is that the purpose of the church? I'm not so sure. Jesus didn't say, "Hey come to the synagogue this week and we'll take care of your needs" and neither did the apostles. They said, "Hey you're hurting? Okay, here's what I can do right now to help." It's that type of focus I think the local church should be preaching regularly, but then those that don't know Christ in attendance may feel left out. For me, that's not a problem. If they don't want to feel left out, the invitation to life in Christ is wide open. For others, that's a huge problem. They feel the local church should focus regularly on the unbeliever, but to me that always seems to be at the expense of the committed Christian trying to grow and learn in their walk with the Lord.

I think the small group movement is a good thing, but like almost everything else, can become the newest fad that gets blown out of its proper context. If all we have is small group ministries, the potential for heretical teaching is enormous. We need to have trained pastors that know how to interpret the Bible and all of its genres that helps to stem the tide of false teachings. I'm for small groups, but not at the expensive of broader training from a pastoral level.

You said, "those who are comfortable sitting in the pew need to get out walk the street and share their faith", and I agree. The problem is that if the local church is only focused on helping the hurting, then those sitting in the pew week in and week out aren't able to be trained in how to do what you say they should do. This is exactly what brings me to ask what the purpose of the local church is; is it to focus on the unbelievers that might be in attendance or on training the believers that are in attendance?

Thanks for the post and I look forward to future dialogue with you.

Youth Extreme said...

The local church..To me defined in its purest form would be the individual. Are we not the church? Is not my body the temple of God? Am I not directed to be careful of what I put in this body so that what comes out will be pleasing to God? So for the question of what is the purpose of the local church I would still respond it is to love people. Both the believer and unbeliever. All of us struggle with temptation, all of us struggle with sin, all of us stumble and all of us fall. When this happens whether it is a believer or unbeliever, I as the church should be there to assist God in lifting that person up, helping them to regain footing by praying, providing for and meeting the needs that are present. The building, that is the 4 walls that most refgered to as the "church" is just a central gathering point were we come to celebrate God. We worship, we learn, we encourage one another as believers and unbelievers. It is a time of renewing and strengthening so that we, as the "church" can go out again into the world to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Each day each moment I have a choice, I can respond like the priest and levite or the good Samaritan in the parable. So what is the purpose of the local church? I think it is many things to many people depending on the gifts they have and the decisions they make daily. I do believe that the local church is just that, local to the individual...Oh there is so much more but I have run out of time...THe dialog is good and I wish you Gods blessing on completing school and the journey of life here on the earth...