By Michael E. Dixon
Marriage and other things have been undergoing societal redefining for several years. Does the church need redefining? Obviously many think so.
There have been many articles, sermons and blogs regarding how the church should be in attitude, love and acceptance of homosexuality and same gender unions. The President of the United States and others claiming to be Christians are supportive of redefining marriage to accommodate homosexuality. Not the least and certainly not the last has been the stirring and blurring by Andy Stanley’s sermon earlier this year.
Keep in mind anything can be debated. Anything. That doesn’t mean there are two or three valid sides to every argument, it just means anyone can debate anything regardless how clear and substantial the evidence. Preposterous? Doesn’t matter! No matter how ridiculous a proposition it is almost sure to attract adherents, especially if presented by "sincere" and passionate pleas.
Words mean things. Church has a meaning. The church is the ‘called-out ones.’ The church is called out of worldliness, remaining in but not of the world. Called out of unbelief, out of death in trespasses and sin and out of worshipping the created instead of the Creator. The church is called out of spiritual Egypt and Babylon. The church is, by definition, the Bride and body of Christ Jesus made up of all believers of all colors, all ethnicities of all times in all places. Biblically it is also a local congregation of believers. Both facets are made up of repentant, born again believers who have trusted in the Lord Jesus’ shed blood, His death, burial and resurrection.
The church does not need to be redefined it just needs to be refined. It needs to return to its original New Testament roots and calling. All of the questions concerning what the church should be affirming or not affirming, accepting or not accepting, allowing or not allowing, promoting or not promoting can be easily and clearly answered if we will get back to Scripture and what God called the church to be when gathered and its’ mission when scattered. That would certainly be defining.
The New Testament church gathered for the purposes of corporately worshipping God through the Lord Jesus Christ, singing praises unto Him, praying, teaching God’s word and gathering around the Lord’s table (communion). The church would bring tithes and offerings to be distributed where there was need locally and beyond, to the poor and needy of the church and those outside of the church.
It may be shocking to many but the church was never meant to be for everybody! Paul wrote that all things in the church service should “be done decently and in order” (1Co 14:40), otherwise an unbeliever could enter the assembly and if they did, they might think the whole congregation was crazy! (1Co 14:23) The very wording of the Apostle indicates that it was not normal for non-Christian “visitors” to come to the church meeting. If church services were according to the biblical pattern we could expect the unbelieving and ungifted to “fall on [their] face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.” (1Co 14:25) When is the last time you saw that happen? When unrepentant sinners did come, it was fine, but it was not the norm. From the very beginning it was the saved and baptized that assembled and "the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved." (Act 2:41-47) Today the church is adding to its own numbers whether people are saved or not.
There are times when even a church member should be excommunicated unless or until they repent. Paul, by the Spirit of God, chastised the church at Corinth for allowing known, unrepentant sin to continue in the congregation. The Apostle wrote to the church saying “You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.” Paul followed up by asking them “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?” (1Co 5:1-6)
Jesus was clear on how to deal with sin in the camp of the saints which could end up, righteously so, with the unrepentant believer being excluded from the church. That clarity and the steps to be taken are taught by the Head of the church in Matthew 18:12-17. The biblical mandate is to not even have a meal or associate with the so-called Christian who does not repent as Paul taught in 1Co 5:11-13. How different the church today!
If the church gathered was being and doing what it should instead of trying to accommodate the lost and unbelieving, most of them wouldn’t want to attend anyway. It would not be because Christians wouldn’t be kind and loving but because of the worship and prayer and ministering.
If the church scattered was doing what it’s supposed to do, that is, being light in darkness and proclaiming the good news of the Lord Jesus everywhere they went, there would be more saved people to attend church services.
The heart of the church should be crying out - how can we approve of fornicators, homosexuals, adulterers, alcoholics, child molesters or any unrepentant person to think it is all right with our God and Savior for them to be involved in the work and ministry of the church? First of all, the Holy Spirit directed that even serving food to the widows was a task for disciples “of good reputation, full of the Spirit and wisdom.” (Act 6:1-3) For those not saved, God says though they have called Him Lord, claim to have preached in His name and did other good works that they will still not enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Mat 7:21-27) The word of God clearly says that the "works" of the unrepentant are "dead." (Heb 6:1)
We are not to be judging people but loving them. The Father has committed the judging to His Son (Joh 5:22), but that’s not why He walked the earth 2,000 years ago. Jesus did not come to judge but to save the world. (Joh 3:18) Yet, at the very beginning of His public, salvation mission, Jesus preached "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Mat 4:17) So did John the Baptist. ( Mat 3:1). It is not judgmental to preach what we have been commanded to – it’s salvation.
Too much of the church, in departing from the Scriptural pattern, has morphed into something palatable for the unconverted and lost. The feeling is we must entertain people and create an atmosphere in which they are comfortable to show them love and prove we’re accepting. Most churches are even set up like a theater. At worst the church has become an entertainment venue and at best a revival center made up of man’s choicest plans. Not all, of course, but way too many. The music gets changed, the length of the service is shortened, weekly communion is done away with, the sermons become more psychological and man centered rather than Christ centered. Prayer is reduced to someone "leading in prayer" for a few moments at a couple of strategic spots in the service but virtually everything biblical is modified or done away with . . . except the offering, of course. Of course.
Most pastors, I believe, agree homosexuality should not be singled out as the sin of all sins. In too many places, though, the church is bending over backwards, to the point of breaking it’s spiritual back in attempting to accept and integrate anyone and everyone into its fellowship. It’s not new but has become critical. The resounding cry is growth. "We’ve got to grow. Tolerate what we must, let’s get them in no matter what." The leaven is leavening the whole lump and we wonder where that first century power has gone? The "invitation" is first to Christ, not church.
As Christians making up the church of the Lord Jesus Christ we are to demonstrably love people without respect of persons. We are to love the church, the lost, our enemies even those who would despitefully use us. That is the second great command. The great and foremost command is to love God “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Mat 22:37-40) We can love God and love people at the same time but if demonstrating our love for people costs demonstrating our love for God, then loving people has cost too much. True, obedient love for God will result in loving people the right way.
The church is the pillar and foundation of truth. (1Ti 3:15) If we truly love people we will tell them the truth about their condition and standing before God. Then we will give them the good news. Continuing in sin is not all right with God; it cost Him too much at Calvary for it to be okay.
If this sounds foreign or harsh to you, I have a couple questions: Who gives us the right to redefine and remake the church? And, why not demonstrate your love for homosexuals and those involved in heterosexual sin et. al. (a) by living a surrendered, holy, consistent life before the Lord (b) by inviting the lost over to your house or out for coffee (instead of church) and truly befriend them? (c) by telling them the truth about their lost condition – lovingly, gently and sincerely (d) by obeying our Lord’s great commission to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Mat 28:19-20) Jesus said we are to "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." (Mar 16:15)
We have neighbors, family, friends at work, acquaintances at school and elsewhere to express our love for by befriending them and giving them the saving gospel. When they have, in repentance, trusted in our Savior and His shed blood – show them their need to be baptized and then invite them to church, better yet, pick them up and take them with you.