Have you ever considered the purpose of church?
I’ve been thinking about this subject, because we have a model. Our model is the first century church, which witnessed the biggest explosion not just in numbers of believers, but in power.
One thing we learn from that experience is that the church grows in numbers and effectiveness – not to mention to the glory of God – in times of persecution. Like these.
But let’s start at the beginning. What did Jesus teach His church to do?
I think it’s worth noting that His first instruction to His disciples, who numbered no more than a few hundred or thousand, was not to do anything except keep it together, be a comfort to each other and teach others.
They were ready to go restore the Kingdom to Israel. In Acts 1, He told them to forget that for a while. That would have to wait for Him to come back.
What was the first instruction from Jesus?
He commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father in the form of the Holy Spirit.
It wouldn’t take long. Jesus evidently knew that – because once the power fell upon them, this was their next and only assignment: “And ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
They would have to figure the rest out for themselves, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and all Jesus taught them.
It wasn’t the only time Jesus had given them this instruction. He also did so in Matthew 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”
It would seem to me we already learned two important lessons about the role of the church:
- Make sure you are working under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
- Then, as Frank Sinatra would say, start spreading the news – the Good News, that is.
There are all kinds of debates going on in the American church today about “church planting,” “church growth strategies” and “how we must seek a new approach today with Christianity in decline.”
But I wonder if we’re going about this in an entirely wrong way.
For starters, if the goal is to reach the uttermost parts of the earth – not to mention our own neighborhoods – are we really waiting on the Holy Spirit? And are we really focused on evangelism?
I’ve heard that American-style “evangelism” largely consists of attracting people away from other churches. Here the American church is like one big revolving door. Some churches grow, others do not. Some wither away, others grow stronger and bigger. Yet neither of those ends has much bearing on what Jesus commanded us to do.
So, what did the first century church do?
Exactly what Jesus said to do.
They waited, got empowered and they turned the world upside down. Was that just for then?
I wonder. What I do know is that their church didn’t look like ours.
They met together. They prayed together. They ate together. They worshiped together. They comforted each other. They discipled. They edified. They fellowshipped. They glorified God. And they recited or read the Scriptures.
In the American church, we’re watching the clock. People can’t wait to get out of there.
I recently read that one large mega-church built a multi-lane overpass to ensure that they could get everyone out of the 35,000-attendee parking lot within 30 minutes of the close of service.
In how many churches have you experienced evangelism training or expeditions?
Isn’t that the urgent mission of the church? Why don’t we do it? Do you know I was 21 years old before anyone ever evangelized me – in America? Am I that unusual? What are we waiting for? Who are we going to recruit to do it, if not us?
That’s why the light is going out in America – because the Christian culture, which was healthy and vibrant in America when it was founded, has been ceded over to the world.
Meanwhile, what about elsewhere? Where is the church exploding? Where it is persecuted. You know that. That’s where the Holy Spirit is. That’s where miracles are taking place today – in China, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America.
There have been some notable revivals in the U.S. over the years – but not one for some time.
Another thing we learn from the first century church is that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17).
Does that still work?
I know it does for me. That doesn’t mean it works for everyone. Unless you believe everyone is going to be saved, nothing is going to work for everyone.
But I find it deeply disturbing that some pastors believe we should stop emphasizing the Word. Some say we should drop the Old Testament pretty much altogether. They say we should tell stories and attribute them to people rather than the Word of God.
Do we no longer believe in the Word of God? Are we ashamed of it? Are we ashamed of doing exactly what Jesus told us to do?
I don’t have all the answers, but I do have one.
Do you think there is a more important book than the Bible anywhere on earth?
Do you think getting people to crack it open would generally bring them closer to the Lord – maybe even get them saved?
Do you think God has changed His mind about the way He spoke the world into existence and revealed His plan to His children?
Is there really anything new under the sun?
Or, is it time for the church to start following instructions? Has the salt lost its savor? Or are we ready to be the salt and the light in the world again?
By the way, that’s one of the things the church is supposed to be.
Matthew 5:13-16: “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
That’s right. The church is supposed to glorify our Father in heaven.
We’re supposed to be Jesus’ heavenly bride. We’re His children if we are doing His will – yes, even in this age of grace. We all fall short of the mark, but the mark goes beyond salvation, does it not? Does He not take pleasure in us when we are obedient to His call, holy and surrender all to Him?
I don’t consider myself an expert on the church. But I do know how I came to know and love Jesus – and love Him more every day.
I would like everyone to understand that – not wishing that anyone would perish.
And that’s why I took several years to research and write “The Gospel in Every Book of the Old Testament.” I wanted people to see what I see when I look at the Bible – the most miraculous book in the whole world, one that has stayed the test of time, one that is fully integrated, singular in purpose, abounding in wisdom, cohesive and without contradictions, one supernatural message of repentance, revival, redemption and restoration from Genesis to Revelation.
It’s all about the Word. It will always be about the Word – whether its written on our hearts, etched in our minds or seared in our souls.
Jesus told us all to be evangelists. And that’s what I am doing right now.
I want to share “The Gospel in Every Book of the Old Testament” with you because I think it might open up the Scriptures to you, with the anointing of the Holy Spirit, bringing you not only the keys of everlasting life, but a place of honor in His Kingdom.
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