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Sunday, April 25, 2010

What Is the Church?

The definition of church has gotten fuzzy in the past fifty to sixty years. There are so many parachurch organizations which call on people to give, serve and worship that people have gotten these organizations mixed up with the church. Many of these organizations are worthwhile endeavors. They accomplish a distinct calling of God which accomplishes His will but they are not the Church.

The New Testament had no difficulty in determining what a church was. It is a body of baptized believers who corporately and regularly meet together to worship, grow together in the likeness of Jesus and share the gospel message to the world. It is clear that the New Testament was written for the sake of the church. It calls the local churches by name and establishes them as a group which will comprise the bride of Christ.

Even the early Church had those who separated themselves to share the gospel. Paul, Silas, Barnabus and Mark were examples of what may have been called the early "parachurch" movement. They were commissioned by the Church to spread the gospel. They had the Church's blessing and were obviously supported by the Church. Paul's letter to the Philippians records his appreciation for their support. However, Paul never called the Paul and Silas Evangelistic Association a church. He never called for the churches he contacted to consider what he was doing as such. That may not be as true of all parachurch organizations today.

The Church cares for the whole individual. It is the Church which will be there when counseling is needed. It is the Church that will be called upon for a wedding or a funeral. It is the Church that will help in times of stress. Try calling on that radio station you have been giving to when you need someone to visit you in the hospital or perform a funeral. It will call upon its listeners to pray. It will also probably tell you that you should call your church.

This certainly doesn't mean you should fail giving to that radio station or that evangelistic association or that ministry that reaches certain groups that the Church hasn't reached. Many of these organizations are God-called ministries which accomplish His will. However, they are not the Church.

There will be many people who will sit at home Sunday mornings listening to radio stations which give the gospel. Some will carry worship services from churches. These people could have been in a church worship service but chose to sit at home and listen. They have missed one of the vital elements of the Church. The Church was and is a hands-on experience. You have to show up. That's not true of a lot of parachurch organizations. Giving is the criteria for becoming a part of most of these organizations. Some will call on you to serve but the lion's share of those who participate will do so by financial giving. That is why they have share-a-thons and other fund raising events so frequently.

I urge everyone to be a part of a local church. Remember, Christ will come back for His bride, the Church.

Revelation 19:7-8 (NIV)
7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)

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