The Face of the Church

faces

Every church has a face.

Mention First Baptist Church of Atlanta, GA, and immediately Dr. Charles Stanley comes to mind.  Reference Thomas Road Baptist Church of Lynchburg, VA, and you think of Dr. Jerry Falwell.  Of course, many other examples could be given.

Perhaps, if I could mention the churches you have attended in your past, what face would come to mind?  The face of a pastor, deacon, Sunday School teacher, worship leader, youth leader, etc.?  When you think of that face, it probably brings joy or sorrow, contentment or criticism, or a variety of other emotions.

Truth is, the face of every true, biblical church is Jesus Christ.  The church is the Body of Christ.  1 Corinthians 12:27 states, Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.

A church is to grow into Christ in such a way that it fulfills the provision and mandate of Ephesians 4:11-16, And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

I totally understand that when you look at a church you see people.  But in reality, you should see Christ . . .

  • Saving depraved, darkened, desperate, repentive sinners (Luke 13:5; 19:10; Romans 3:10-23; Colossians 1:12-14).
  • Transforming His children into Christlikeness as they look into the mirror of God’s Word (2 Corinthians 3:18) and humble themselves under mighty hand of God (1 Peter 5:6b-7).
  • Interceding for His children as they pour out their hearts to God in prayer (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1).
  • Carrying on His ministry through His servants (Acts 1:1-2 and following) albeit they are weak and needful of His daily, sufficient, sustaining grace (1 Corinthians 1:26-31; 3:5-9; 2 Corinthians 9:8).
  • Nourishing and cherishing His church as the body submits to the Chief Shepherd and to one another (Ephesians 5:23-30).
  • Gathering His people together for the purpose of fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), discipleship (Ephesians 4:11-16), and the numerous “one another’s” (Romans 12:9-16; 15:7, 14; Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 10:25; 1 Peter 4:9; to name a few).
  • Restoring broken homes and marriages (Romans 5:1-21; Ephesians 5:18-33).
  • Being the life of the church (Galatians 2:20; Philippians 3:14; Colossians 3:4).
  • Chastening, cleansing, and identifying those He loves (Hebrews 12:5-15).

There is so much more that could be said, so much more that Christ wants to do in His Church.  Even when we mess up, act like little immature children, make wrong choices, complain, criticize, get angry, etc., in the church, the sovereignty of God and the gospel can work through the sin and selfishness to accomplish His redemptive plan for His glory and our good.

The face of the church is Christ; the Christ who transforms, transcends, and triumphs over all sin and man (Romans 5:20; 2 Corinthians 2:14). Look for His face not man’s.

That Church . . .

church-front-300

  • Just doesn’t feel right; is not the right fit.
  • Hurt my family years ago, and I will never forgive them!
  • Is so unfriendly.
  • Is too big.
  • Is too small.
  • Doesn’t meet my (our) needs.
  • Is too contemporary.
  • Is too conservative.
  • Doesn’t have a kid’s ministry.
  • Is full of hypocrites.
  • Comes across as being full of perfect people.
  • Will judge what I wear.
  • Sings music that’s too loud and too worldly!
  • Sings only the old songs.
  • Just wants your money.

And I have just covered a few of the gazillion statements I have heard over the years in reference to church.

My dad pastored ten churches over the course of his fifty year ministry.  I personally trusted Christ as my Lord and Savior at the age of five in Marietta, Ohio.  Church has been my life for fifty-nine years.

Oh the stories I could tell about church, good and bad! Perhaps as I continue to write about this subject, I’ll share some of them.

Today, my heart is simply to say this, our perspective on church is totally skewed if we look at the church through the lens of finite, temporal man alone.  Furthermore, the only correct view for all of life, including the church, must come from absolute Truth, the Word of God.

Consider the following:

The Church is God’s idea, not man’s.

I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:14-15).

Jesus Christ is the “Master Builder” of His Church, not man.

Jesus said He would build His church and that no power of hell could destroy it.  Jesus Christ’s definitive statement recorded in Matthew 16:18 says, I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The Church belongs to Jesus Christ alone, not man.

I will build my church (Matthew 16:18).

Jesus Christ is the head of the Church, not man.

And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent (Colossians 1:18).

The Church is Christ’s body, not man’s.

And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (Ephesians 1:22-23).

The Church is to be built upon Christ, not man.

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together grows unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22).

Therefore, in EVERY discussion, attitude, action, response, and thought about church, you must begin with Christ, not man. To come to the right conclusion, you must end with Christ in mind, not man; His Word and not man’s perspective.

Tomorrow, I will continue these thoughts.  In the meantime, look back at the list statements mentioned at the beginning of this blog.  Where is the consideration, counsel, and wisdom of Christ seen in any of them?

Principle:  You cannot have a high view of Christ and a low view of His church at the same time.

Sing Congregation! Sing!!

In Christ Alone

There are many reasons to be excited about attending church on Sunday and one of those is participating in worship with a congregation that sings!

Music has always been a major part of my life.  My mother played the piano for nearly 75 years.  My dad loved to sing.  I cut my musical teeth on children’s records and long-play albums.  The sounds of Jack Holcomb, Helen Barth, Doug Oldam, 16 Singing Men, and many others filled our home every day.  We even had a membership with Word Record Company and received monthly sacred albums.

My mom would play the piano in church and Dad would lead the singing.  I vividly remember as a little boy that small congregation along the river in Dart, Ohio, singing their hearts out to such songs as “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder,” “Hear Ye the Master’s Call,” and many, many others.

Believe it or not, the first time I led singing in church was at the age of 12, and I led my first choir at the age of 14.

Some of my fondest memories of music are also connected with a packed out Lodge at The Wilds Camp and Conference Center as a teen singing those great camp songs!  Also, how blessed to have attended many, many Southern Gospel concerts with my father-in-law, my wife and our daughters who are musicians.

How absolutely grateful I am that God created music!!  Even more, how awesome it is to sing with other believers on Sunday who are gathered in the presence of God, our Heavenly Father, lifting their voices in praise and heartfelt melodies!!

This past Sunday, as I stood at the front row of the auditorium, I could hear the congregation singing behind me.  Having led singing for many years in our church, I could only imagine their countenances as they sang, “Amazing Grace, My Chains Are Gone,” “Come, Christians Join to Sing,” and a new song we are learning, “Jesus, the Son of God.”  Many, many times when our congregation sings, I think, “This has to be a foretaste of Heaven!!”

May I encourage you to serve the Lord, to worship the Lord, and minister to all those around you this Sunday by lifting your voice in praise!  Ask your worship leader ahead of time what songs will be sung so you can sing them with your family during the week before the Sunday worship gathering.  Use those songs in your personal daily meeting time with God in His Word and prayer.  Come prepared to Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name  (Psalm 30:4)

Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! (Psalm 47:6)

Sing out the honor of His name; Make His praise glorious. (Psalm 66:2)

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. (Psalm 95:1)

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (Colossians 3:16)

Sunday Worship in Mzuzu

Africa 9

One the blessings of our journey to Africa was the opportunity to keep up my journal entries. These writings are very dear to me.  They recount my walk with Christ, my relationship with Denise, the grace blessings of every life as well as many, many other things that my mind would not recall.

Here’s a partial entry from Sunday, July 9

Africa 8 Collage.jpg

What a glorious day!! Sunday worship at Charity Baptist Church was a huge blessing.

  • God gave grace to preach the first service.
  • The congregational singing was powerful; watching Daniel and Mark Anton lead the congregation is fun to watch; then other men get come up to lead a song which they call a special; the choir of young folk was awesome.
  • The offering is received by folks going forward and putting their offering in a basket while the congregation sings.
  • Matt preached a powerful sermon from Ruth 2 on the subject of grace.
  • The service ended in a very touching way. Pastor Daniel had the whole USA mission team line up across the front.  Then he said, “I want our church to come up and greet you and place a love gift in the basket.  It won’t buy the team a car but it will buy you a Coke.  When you all drink it, think of us and pray for us.”  Wow!  These poor folks gave out of their poverty.  As we sang, hugged and swayed, what a special time it was!!!
  • Another brother stood and shared what a blessing it was to have blacks and whites worshiping together in the unity of Christ.

Love Offering

Youth Choir

Africa 11

From a pastor’s heart,

dale

Let Them Come to Me

kids salvation

This week my wife has written some extremely insightful, practical and helpful posts about the issue of children coming to Christ for salvation at an early age.  These writings would be extremely helpful for parents and anyone who works in children’s ministries.

Having received Christ as my personal Lord and Savior at the age of five, this is a subject very dear to my heart.

As a pastor, I have had the joy of seeing many children born again over the years.  How precious is a tender heart coming to Christ in simple faith, taking God at His Word.

Here are the links:

How to Tell If a Child Is Ready to Be Saved

What’s Wrong with Waiting Until a Child Is Older to be Saved

What if Your Child Doubts Their Salvation

Preparing a Child’s Heart to Know Christ

Motion Songs, Scripture Memory & Joy-Filled Believers

kids_at_church

Last night in prayer meeting, we shared in a family-friendly service.  After singing a couple of gospel songs, one by request, we had the kids up front leading the singing of some good, old children’s songs, two of which had motions.  It was fun to look back at the adults who were doing the motions as well, especially on singing “Only a Boy Named David.”

After singing “Boys and Girls for Jesus” we took prayer requests for the unsaved.  How precious to hear these children and adults mention their loved ones, friends, and neighbors’ names.  We then broke up into small groups with adults and children praying out loud for the lost.  How sweet to hold a 4 year old boy in my lap as he prayed in his own precious way, and it was not a short prayer either.

When we gathered back together, we sang the old gospel song, “I Love to Tell the Story.”

I’ve challenged our congregation to memorize Ephesians 4:1-16 over the next two months.  Hence, we then worked on 4:1-3 as a family or in small groups.  The drill was to say 4:1-3 five times aloud in unison as a group.  Then, one person in each group would take the lead in saying the passage leaving out words for the rest of the group to fill in.  This was a blast!  The laughter and joy of memorizing Scripture was so cool!  Then some of folks stood and recited 4:1-3 which was followed by encouraging applause.

We then took Ephesians 4:1 and broke it down word-for-word learning the meaning and the application.  How cool to watch everyone search through Ephesians 1-3 to find what Paul meant when he said in 4:1 to walk worthy of the vocation to which you are called.  The kids did a great job with their answers straight from Scripture.

What a precious time we had as a church family in community last night.

The ice cream treat with my wife and the sunset afterwards was an added blessing, too!

From a pastor’s heart,

Dale

Let’s Carterize!

wp-1463974026394.jpg How would you respond if you heard this statement about your church  “I would never be accepted at __________Church because I could not break through the clique.” 

For years as a pastor, one thing I have pushed for so much is that our church be really friendly.  Without sounding arrogant or haughty, I believe we are an extremely friendly church. When you walk through the front door, you will be warmly greeted and then by many others.

So, why would such a statement be made?

I’ll answer it this way:  We must do a better job of “Carterizing” others!

Rod and Hope Carter have been married for 70 years and charter members of BCBC for 60 years.  Their health has failed them greatly, so they are not able to do as they once did.

For years, I have watched Rod “campout” in the church foyer just looking for visitors, especially young singles and/or young couples as well as others.  As soon as they entered the building, he was getting acquainted with them.  His greeting was only the beginning of what I am calling here, “Carterizing.”  He would invite them to his house for dinner or out to a restaurant after the morning service and would do the same in the evening.  He made sure some other BCBC folks were invited to join the group.  He wanted folks to go to the next level of relationship and communication.  He wanted those guests to know he cared; that they needed to become a part of the BCBC family of believers.  The bottom line is, he went beyond just a greeting. He was willing to get involved in their lives.  I can call the roll of those who would testify right here!

How do you Carterize?

  1. You come to church expecting to meet visitors, sit with them during the service, and have your meal planned and prepared so you can invite them to your home. If it is not a visitor, it is someone who has been attending for a period of time, yet you haven’t gotten to know them.
  2. When you plan your weekly calendar, you build in an evening to have guests in your home or meet them out for a meal or ice cream or time at the park.
  3. When you get together, you ask questions, you listen, and you share time in the Word and prayer.
  4. Be listening with all your heart as you look for ways to minister and really care.
  5. Invite visitors or repeat guests to your men or ladies’ ministries, small group Adult Bible Fellowship, camp retreats, etc. You have to be intentional.
  6. When at church, do not gravitate to the folks who make you comfortable. You reserve your personal conversations for a later time.  You are there to minister to others like Jesus did.
  7. Make your guests believe they are the most important people on the planet.

You see, getting involved in people’s lives takes planning, preparation, prayer and perspiration.  Instead of coming to church and just being friendly, you must “Carterize!”

Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.  (Acts 2:41-47)

Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Peter 4:9)

Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. (Romans 12:13)

Men, Your Sons Are Watching You

father son church service

Men, may I ask you some questions?  These are not accusatory questions.  They are truly questions from my heart after 35 years as a senior pastor.

  1. What are your sons learning from you about a vibrant, personal, daily, dependent walk with Christ? (Job 23:12; 1 Corinthians 10:31; 11:1)
  2. Have you taught your sons to pray? (Matthew 6:6-8; Luke 18:1)
  3. Do your sons know how to study and apply the Word of God to their daily life? (Philippians 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:15)
  4. Are you memorizing Scripture with them? (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 119:11)
  5. Do your sons bring their Bibles to church, use their Bibles during the message, and take notes from the message because you do? Do you discuss the sermon with them afterwards? (Ephesians 6:4; Psalms 19:7-14; 119:97)
  6. Do you and your sons sing with all your heart in church? Are you engaged mentally, physically and emotionally in the presence of God?  (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16)
  7. What have your sons learned from you about serving in the local church? (Colossians 3:23-24; 1 Peter 4:10-11)
  8. Are your sons solid in their personal salvation testimony? Are they able to give a Bible reason for the assurance of their salvation? (1 Peter 3:15)
  9. Have you taught them how to share the Gospel with the unsaved? (Matthew 28:18-20)
  10. Do your sons have a critical spirit toward Christ, His Church, and other believers or are they deeply in love with Christ, His Church and other believers because of you? (Ephesians 4)
  11. Are you sons learning that you love Christ with all your heart, that you are seeking Him first, and that in all things He is the preeminent One? (Matthew 22:37-40; 6:33; Colossians 1:15-18)

Men, your sons are watching you, imitating you, and learning from you . . . and you don’t have to say a thing.  The old saying goes, “what you do in moderation, your children will take to excess.”

Men, it is important that our sons learn how to work, drive a car, be a gentleman, and make a living, but it most important they learn about the One Who is Life and how to really live by divine viewpoint.  When they stand before the Lord at the Bema, they will be so glad that Dad walked the talk and taught them eternal values.

My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,
So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding;
Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,
If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will understand the fear of the Lord,
And find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;
He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk uprightly;
He guards the paths of justice,
And preserves the way of His saints.
Then you will understand righteousness and justice,
Equity and every good path.
  (Proverbs 2:1-9)

I Left the Theatre

movie-theater-revival-setup

You attend to the theatre to view the latest, greatest, “gotta-see-it” film.  You’ve bought your ticket, a big tub of popcorn and a 32 oz. Coke, and have settled into your seat.  Are you comfortable now?

15-20 minutes after the show begins, you abruptly stand up, leave your popcorn and Coke, and head for the exit!  In the not-too-distance future, your spouse comes out to check on you. She approaches you with her inquisitive face and asks, “Why did you leave?”

“Well, my brain can only retain 10-20% of what I hear, so I figured, why stick around?”

Have you ever done that?  When’s the last time you left a football game, a concert, and/or a play because your mind would only retain a small percentage of what you heard or saw?  Truth is, 9.5 times out of 10, you arrive early and stay late for an event.

You know why?  Because you love it!

Let me tell you, tailgating, whooping it up and hollering at your favorite football game is just over-the-top fun!!

Hard to beat a good concert, too!  And I want the best seats, up close! I want to be where the action is! Love it!

Now, you want to know when I’ve heard the 10-20% brain capacity excuse?  It is always in reference to the length of a Sunday service, and especially the sermon.

So what’s the deal?  I’ll just put it bluntly . . . you get your “worship on” more with what entertains you than Who loves you and gave His life for you.  And that entertainment might even be a Christian concert. . . and the music is loud, too.

The Church is Christ, and Christ is the Church (1 Corinthians 12:27). If you are a true, born again believer, then you are a part of the body of Christ, the Church.  Everything about Church should excite you and call you be enthralled with its Head (Ephesians 5:18-32; Colossians 1:18).

Sadly, too many believers view the church they attend by seeing people’s faces instead seeing the face of Christ.  Hence, because the people who attend your church are imperfect sinners who disappoint, discourage, criticize, and fail, the church does not live up to your liking.

How about going to church this Sunday to enjoy Christ alone?  When the song service and/or sermon goes too long, beyond your 10-20% mental capacity, just let your heart take over (Matthew 22:37) and enjoy being in the presence of God, His Son, and the work of God that you cannot see through all the facets of a Sunday service! You will be surprised at what you remembered because your worship was in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

By the way, how about coming back in for the rest of the film?

My Church?

bcbc

While visiting family in Kentucky last week, I passed a storefront church with a catchy name . . . My Church.  Of course, my warped sense of humor made me think, “What a cool play on words for church outreach?”  And then, I heard the following conversation in my head:

Church Member: “How about visiting My Church this Sunday?”

Neighbor:  “What’s the name of your church?”

Church Member:  “My Church.”

Neighbor: “Yes, your church.  What’s it name?”

Church Member:  ‘My Church.”

And this could go on and on like an old Abbott & Costello routine entitled Who’s On First?

Seriously, the name caused me to do some thinking about church.  Jesus said, “Upon this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).  What’s the difference between Jesus’ “My Church “and . . . my church.

Jesus’ My Church

  1. Christ is the issue, the motive, the celebrity, the subject, the preeminent One, and the name that matters (Colossians 1:15-19; 1 Corinthians 1:29-31).
  2. Christ is the architect, the builder, the model, and the planner (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 4:11-16).
  3. Christ builds His Church with broken, sinful lives (Acts 16:12-34) who are eternally changed for God’s glory (2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10).
  4. Christ offers forgiveness (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14), reconciliation (Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18), redemption (1 Corinthians 1:29-31; Ephesians 1:3, 7), adoption (Romans 8:15, 23), righteousness (Romans 3:21-26), and acceptance to all sinners on His merit alone (Ephesians 1:6).
  5. Christ fits every one into His body (1 Corinthians 12:18; Ephesians 2:21; 4:16).
  6. Christ is Who and What unifies His Church (1 Corinthians 3:11; 12:12-18; Ephesians 1:3-14).
  7. Christ’s Word is the Operations Manual for the Church (Acts 2:42; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 4:2).
  8. Christ’s church answers and handles all personal matters by obedience to the Word (Matthew 18:15-20).
  9. Christ is the “face” of His Church (Ephesians 5:22-27).

 

My church

  1. My church promotes man, his struggles, his failures, his sins, his illnesses, and his pride.
  2. My church is built around what I believe the church should be and look like.
  3. My church says, “Come as you are,” but let’s you stay as you are.
  4. My church offers a temporal fix, a warm, fuzzy small group, and/or man-centered solutions.
  5. My church fits me and what I like; what makes me feel good.
  6. My church is unified around my music style, my dress code, my service times, my schedule, my selfish theology, my textual choice, and my perspective/assumptions.
  7. My church is entertainment driven, perhaps constitution over the Bible motivated, board-run, and man-feared.
  8. My church reacts to personal matters by anger, bitterness, gossip, and church-hopping.
  9. My church’s “face” is the pastor, deacons, the person (pastor, deacon, church member) who hurt me or disappointed me, and the denomination.

So, now I must look at the church I serve and ask, “Is this Christ’s church or my church?”  Look at the church you attend.  Is it really Christ’s church or your church?

Let me add, I know very little about My Church in Kentucky, and this article is not about them. It could be if any of these nine things fits them, but I am not out to target them. I will say this, on their website I read these words, “Make My Church your church.”  I think I understand their motive, but only you can make My Church into my church (your church).  Only Christ can make His Church, His Church.  I’ll choose the latter. . . and by His grace, make that the goal.