If you’ve been around the TRC long at all, you will know who Bob Roberts Jr. is, and you will know about Northwood Church. Bob has been my spiritual father, and as pastor/founder of Northwood Church, we have been planted in Rome from Northwood and share some common spiritual DNA.
Bob asks this question, and you know we ask it as it forms the foundation of our tactics: What if the church was the missionary?
This question wrecked my tactical implementation of Jesus vision of making disciples of his from all nations. If Jesus is building his church, and we who have faith in Jesus are his church, then the Great Commission is not for special agencies or special operator Christians. The vision of Jesus is for every single follower of Jesus covenanted to the local church. We must all make sense of the Great Commission! The church is a gloriously special body.
We love the church. I love the church. The local church is a deep rooted value in me, and frankly, should be for every Christian. Jesus cares for his bride, and he died to save her and he will defend her.
The bible gives us instruction on how this fellowship of Jesus’ followers is to live together. Since the churches vital and special, the bible is not silent.
If we ignore the bible then we will not know how to treat the church. That’s not good. Since we often don’t read our bibles we have a tendency to create rules of “Christian” fellowship that suit us rather than molding ourselves to God’s standard of Christian fellowship which is written in the Manual (the bible).
According the John Owen’s little exposition of the bible’s content on this issue, he gives us rule #3 for Christians fellowship:
“Believers must strive and fight with determination, in every legitimate way, by their actions and sufferings, for he purity of the ordinances, for the honor, liberty and privileges of the congregation, and in order to help others in the face of all opponents and adversaries.”
Rule # 2 had to do with our dealing with God in prayer on behalf of his church. Rule # 3 involves us dealing with each other inside and inquirers on the outside that they may come in.
Jude 1:3 (ESV) Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
Hebrews 12:3-4 (ESV) Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
1 John 3:16 (ESV) By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
Galatians 5:1 (ESV) For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:13 (ESV) For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
1 Peter 3:15 (ESV) but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,
What can we do with this rule and these passages?
- Study the Scriptures with passion and prayer in order to shape your thinking and your knowledge so that you can explain why we do what we do and enjoy what we enjoy. Increased knowing of and reasoning of will lead to our joyfully contending for what we love in gentleness to those who need to be saved.
- Show some passion and fight and suffering for the church. We are the Church. It’s one way the bible allows us to be a little “self-centered”. By loving the church and fighting for her honor and health, we are doing ourselves a favor! I think you get my point. It’s for our own good that we fight to do church fellowship right.
- We contend for each other. False accusations against and physical assault of the church move Christ himself to action (see Acts 9) and we should seek the good of the church. Pastor Brunson currently and falsely imprisoned in Turkey is an example of how we can pray and act to secure his freedom from those who are seeking to do the church and Jesus’ mission harm. We can lovingly seek his release and the good of his captors for their own salvation…”with gentleness and respect.”
- We actively identify false teachings and practices that hinder the advancement of the church, as the community of the kingdom of God, in the world and hinder our growth up into Christ. False teachings are sometimes hard to spot. There are the biggies like a denial of the deity of Jesus or a denial of the Trinitarian nature of God. But there are often more subtle false teachings that harm the cause of Christ and enslave the Christian. Food laws. Parenting laws. Clothing laws. Holiness laws. All for the sake of “godliness”.
Pauls will tell the Colossians about some subtle false teachings that could imprison them:
Colossians 2:20-23 (ESV) If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
Look out for each other.
Look out for each other by making sure you all are in a small group that is unique to your church membership so you can know people you are on mission with intimately. Then you can recognize when we may need a little reminder about what is true and what is not. It’s hard to “correct” someone you don’t worship with, do small group with and live life together with.
Get on your bible reading plan and stick to it. Don’t fret over what you don’t know. Keep at it. Keep reading. By God’s grace through the ministry of the Spirit, he’ll put things together as you read and study and you’ll be well equipped to know right from wrong.
Be at church. We will never grow like we need to when we hit about 2 Sundays a month. We not only teach you the bible, but we model how to study the bible. You get content and instruction on how to get your own content. By being present for worship, you get to serve others and meet with God and with each other in the corporate gathering. Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV) And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
TRC and all you other great folks who read these meager posts, may you love each other well!