When I write that I love the church I'm referring to the eBride of Christ...the universal church.
What feelings or thoughts come to mind when you think about the church?
Thinking about your church, what are some of the events, positive and negative, in your churches history?
What comes to mind when you think about your church? Pride? Excitement? Anxiety? The building and property? Potential?
To fully understand the church, we must first define the church. Take a moment and write out a basic definition of the church.
How do you lose a whole Island? This is what Sugata Hazra, director of the Jadavpur University Shcool of Oceanic Studies in India, wanted to know when an island 1.3 miles long and 1 mile wide slipped beneath the surface of the Indian Ocean. New Moore Island was first discovered when a cyclone stormed its way through the Bay of Bengal in the 1970's. New Moore began to shrink dramatically in the 1990's. Twenty-seven square miles of land of land were lost and slowly the island disappeared. Dr. Hazra and his team were able to document and determine the cause...erosion--that sneaky reality of life that silently, subtly, and slowly eats away at islands, lives, institutions and even churches. The slow, silent, and subtle effects of erosion are not only a concern to us physically, they are an even greater concern spiritually. F.B. Meyer, British pastor of yesteryear, put it this way: "No man suddenly becomes base." Spiritual erosion occurs, instead, "by degrees..by slow destruction."
What do you think are some of the causes of erosion in the life of an individual and a church?
Biblical examples of spiritual erosion abound. Read 1 Samuel 16.1. Take a moment and briefly explain what has led God to say this to Samuel. Can you think of nay other biblical examples of spiritual erosion? Have you ever observed this erosion in the lives of Christians that you know or have known?
Everyone experiences erosion at some point in life. Briefly, describe a time when spiritual erosion caused damage in your life/ What did you learn from that experience?
Take some time and think about your church. What areas have eroded over time, or what areas do you sense are eroding now?
Do you believe that the church is losing her relevance in our culture today? Why did you answer the way that you did? What examples can you give that show that the church is losing relevancy?
Dr. David Platt (President, International Mission Board) has said, "Most church attenders will either have a high view or low view of the church."
What do you think he means by a "high view" or a "low view" of the church?
Which view do you hold for your church?
Several years ago Platt wrote that there are some characteristics/traits of an individual that cheapen/lessens an individual's view of the church.
In our independence, we ignore the church. As Christians, we are self-reliant, self-sufficient people. We can do...even Christianity..on our own. Is the local church really that beg a deal? Isn't the church just a formality, and unnecessary at that? In our pragmatism, we pollute the church. Pragmatism is a fixation on what works, and if something works, then it must be right. This is so dangerous because we do this with really good motives. In the church, we want to reach as many people as possible and draw as many crowds, as many people, as possible in, but in the process, we begin to appeal to the world or begin to become like the world that works, that draws the crowd in, but now, we're drawing them into a church that we've polluted from the start. We think we're doing God a favor. In our missions, we minimize the church. The church has often times, even recently, become so engrossed and so busy doing so many different things that disciple-making and missions just kind of gets left out of the church. So, what happens is you have all kinds of para-church organizations that have as their focus disciple making and going to the nations. You hear it more from these outside organizations than the church. These organizations end up doing it apart from the church or around the church. We value our preferences over God's priorities,...there's over 500 million people in the world right now who are on the verge of starvation. They lack food, water, basic medical care. Children dying from diseases like diarrhea. Those who live will suffer from brain damage and early protein deficiency. Others will be forced...sold into forced labor. One hundred fifty million of them are orphans. Yet, the way we do church, we find ourselves saying, "Well, yeah, but we need a nicer parking lot, don't we?" While thousands of women and girls are being sold into sex slavery the church is arguing over what type of songs will be used in our worship services. While we understand that those who are lost will face the judgment from God and eternal separation from the Father we debate the length of the Sunday service. While the church and its members lament the decline in the maturity of Christians we are reluctant to sacrifice any more time and resources to ensure our own growth. We practically define the church according to our personal comforts.We'll say a church is good if it makes me feel good. It's common in our day. We know the marketplace. People just shop and hop from church to church to church to church. "What's going to work for me? When I drive on campus, I want a nice parking spot, and I want to walk in the door. I want a latte in my hand. I want to drop my kids off at a state-of-the-art program. I want to go listen to an entertaining service that leaves me feeling good and gets me out on a timely fashion, so that I can beat others to lunch.
Do you agree with Dr. Platt's assessment of today's Church?
Do you see your church demonstration or exhibiting any of the characteristics found above? If you do, which ones? What can you do to eliminate any of these characteristics?
Jesus asked His disciples a question that would change their lives forever. He also made a promise that would alter the course of human history.
Read Matthew 16:13-18
A wonderful promise is found in Matthew 16:18. Jesus says, "I will build my church." Five simple words filled with great potential and promise. What observations or implications can you draw from each part of Christ's declaration?
John MacArthur writes about the life of a church: "The first generation of people fight to discover and establish the truth. The second generation fights to maintain the truth and proclaim it. But the third generation couldn't care less about all of that."
Do you think that this is generally true in most churches?
What generation is your church in right now?
Why do you believe that the third generation "couldn't care less"?
Do you believe that this applies, at least in some part, to your church? Let's get to specifics...does this apply to you?
If you want to see examples of churches that have lost their way we need go no further than the book of Revelation. As you read about each church write down the issue(s) in the church and what Jesus said would fix it.
|The Church in Ephesus (Rev. 2.1-7)|
|The Church in Smyrna (Rev. 2.8-11)|
|The Church in Pergamum (Rev 2.12-17)|
|The Church in Thyatira (Rev 2.18-28)|
|The Church in Sardis (Rev 3.1-6)|
|The Church in Philadelphia (Rev 3.7-13)|
|The Church in Laodicea (Rev. 3.14-22)|
As we read through the New Testament we see some marks or characteristics of an obedient follower of Christ and a godly church. The first would be: A High View of God.
Read Deuteronomy 6.3-9. What was God's command to the Israelites in these verses? How can we apply them today?
Read Acts 2.14-36. What are some examples in Peter's sermon that show us that he (as one of the first leaders of the church) held a high view of God? Read Stephen's sermon in Acts 7. Do you see his high view of God in these passages? Where?
The second characteristic is the Absolute Authority of Scripture. We discussed this in the last study so we won't go through this again.
The third characteristic is: Sound Doctrine.
How would you define doctrine?
Why is sound doctrine so important to the church?
Read 1 Timothy 1.3-7. What is the result of false or the teaching of the wrong doctrine?
Read 1 Timothy 4.6-10. What are the results of sound doctrine?
Read 1 Timothy 4.16. What does the verse tell us to do with our lives and our teaching? What will be the benefit?
The fourth characteristic is: Personal Holiness. We are all victimized by an absolutely unholy society. I cringe when I think of the philosophical and immoral filth that our society creates. Peoples' minds are corrupted and drawn away from God as a result of that. That filth is like drippings of a broken sewer. In fact, the sewer isn't just broken; it's completely shattered and letting loose a flood. We have so draw lines when it comes to personal holiness and be careful what we expose ourselves and our children to.
Read 2 Corinthians 7.1. What does this verse command us to do? Is there any "impurity" or "filthiness" in your life that needs to be cleansed?
The fifth characteristic is: Spiritual Authority. We will discuss this specific characteristics in a future study so we will not spend time doing so now...other than to say that our leaders must me godly men and women.
Let's sum up what we've looked at so far. If the church is going to be the body of Christ, it has to have the right framework. It has to have a view of God. The pursuit of a church should be to know God. In seeking to know God, the authority of the Scripture must be recognized, for it is through the Bible that we can know God. A church should have a high view of Scripture, and a commitment to the teaching of sound doctrine. The people of a church should also seek personal holiness and submit their souls to the care of those the Lord has placed over them as spiritual authorities.
Does your church display these five characteristics of a strong/health Church? Are we lacking, deficient, or negligent in any of these characteristics and if we are which one(s)?
How about you, do you display the five characteristics of a strong/healthy Christian/Church Member?
(Question from Pastor Ricky LeMons - Trinity Baptist Church)