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The Way Things Were meant To Be
By Steve Highlander
2000 Steve Highlander & Crossroads Ministries All rights reserved.
Permission granted to download and distribute this article free of charge for personal use, provided contents
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As we look around Christendom today, we see
an overabundance of churches and a shortage of practical Christianity. Could it
be that we have become so focused on Ďgoing to churchí that we have
failed to ĎBEí the Church?
I am not advocating doing away with going to
Church, nor am I saying that church attendance isnít important or necessary to
strong Christian lives. I am saying that Ďgoing to churchí isnít the
totality of what God had in mind when Jesus died on the cross.
"And let us consider one another
to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of
ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so
much the more, as ye see the day approaching."
The point of this study is not "to
go or not to go;" It is, "what we are to do when we get there
and what we are to be when we are not there."
As Christianity becomes less and less
practical its power to impact lives decreases. It isnít the doctrine ascribed
to, but the life lived that testify to the power of the risen Lord.
When Christians become more focused on the
structure of the service than on people, we have left the domain of the Spirit
and have entered the arena of religion.
Does your Christian life seem to revolve
around "going to church?" Is church the only place you practice
worship, prayer and bible study? Is "Christian fellowship" synonymous
with "fellowship dinners,í or do you get together with Christians for
fellowship outside the four walls of your church building? If the church in
America was suddenly outlawed and you couldnít "go to church," would
it disrupt your whole idea of Christianity?
For all those Christians who sometimes find
themselves wondering if there is more to the Christian life than just
"going to church," I offer the following thoughts, and with them an
encouragement to stop just "going to church" and start "being
A personís definition or view of
"Church" is going to impact the way they relate to "The
Church." Is church someplace you go? Is it an organization you belong to?
Or is the Church something you are. The Greek word for "Church" is Ekklesia,
which means "called out."
The reference is to the people, and to the
purpose for which they have been called out. In the truest since of the word, we
cannot "go" to church, because we are the Church. The Church can
assemble together, hence the reference in Hebrews 13 concerning not forsaking
the assembling of ourselves together. The church is not a building, organization
or denomination, it is made up of every person who has made Jesus Christ their
savior, by faith in Him.
As a member of the church, or "called
out ones," you have been called out of something, but also called into
Out of Death Into Life.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you,
He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting
life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto
life." John 5:24
The Church is made up of people who have
been given new spiritual life by Christ. The Bible speaks of being "dead
in sin" and the book of the Revelation tells about the "second
death" or spiritual death.
When a person is born again through faith in
Christ he/she receives spiritual life and becomes a member of the church which
is the body of Christ. The Church then is characterized by an inherent life. The
life imparted by God has both quantity and quality.
Concerning quantity it is "Eternal
life." "...the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ
our Lord." Romans 6:23b.
Concerning quality, it changes and impacts
us in a positive way. Jesus said, " . . . I am come that they might
have life, and that they might have it more abundantly . . . " John
10:10. The gospel message not only declares our sins forgiven (providing for
eternal life), but also informs us that the power of sin over our lives has been
broken that we might live to walk in newness of life. "Therefore if
any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold,
all things are become new." II Cor. 5:17
The first characteristic of the church is
new life. As members of the church we should be focused on experiencing it and
sharing it with others. The church has been called from death into life.
Out of Darkness into light.
"But ye [are] a chosen
generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye
should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into
his marvelous light." I
The second thing that you have been called
out of is darkness. Therefore the second characteristic of the Church (the
people of God) is spiritual light, or understanding. Before a person can
understand God to any degree, they have to have spiritual insight given to them
by the Holy Spirit. Many people try to read the Bible, but testify that they
just donít understand it or get anything from it. The problem is trying to
read a spiritual book without spiritual insight that can only come from the Holy
Spirit. However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has
heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love
him"Ėbut God has revealed it to us by his Spirit." I Cor.
The Bible declares that darkness is the
domain of Satan. Jesus told Paul that he was sending him to the Gentiles, "to
open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of
Satan unto God . . . " Paul said, "The god of this age
has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the
gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." II Cor.
4:4. Wherever you find spiritual darkness, you find the power and work of Satan.
Jesus was sent by God to deliver people from that realm and power.
The ability to begin to understand God and
see things with spiritual eyes has been given to every member of the church of
Jesus Christ. However, many people who have been taught to "go to
church" have never been taught that as a part of the real church they have
these privileges. As Christians begin to "be" the church, they will
find their ability to understand the Bible and other spiritual things increasing
Paul prayed this powerful prayer for the
Church at Ephesus 1:17-18:
"That the God of our Lord Jesus
Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and
revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being
enlightened . . ."
How our lives and churches would be changed
if every Christian prayed and believed this prayer.
From the Kingdom
Satan to The Kingdom of God
"Giving thanks unto the Father,
which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in
light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated
[us] into the kingdom of his dear Son . . . "
Yet another characteristic of the true
church is the power to overcome Satan. As we learn to "be" the church,
we discover the power and authority that Jesus has delegated to the church to
fight spiritual battles.
"Finally, my brethren, be strong
in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that
ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not
against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the
rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high
places." Ephesians 6:10-12
The Bible declares that a person is blinded
and under the power and dominion of Satan until he/she is saved by God through
faith in Jesus Christ. After salvation Satan still harasses Christians. Although
legally Satanís power and authority over a believer in Jesus Christ have been
broken, we generally experience the reality of that freedom over a period of
time, rather than all at once. That means that throughout the Christianís life
he/she will need to deal with spiritual battles, both in their personal lives
and in those around them that need spiritual help.
The Church has been delivered from the power
of Satan and now abides in the Kingdom of God. Basically there has been a change
of authority. Satan no longer has right nor power to control a Christian. A
Christian can have the confidence that spiritual battles, whether in their own
lives or those around them, can be won.
People can "go to church" without
ever experiencing the liberating power of God. However, as we strive to "be
the Church," it will become natural to fight spiritual battles and win.
If we have been called out of Satanís
power, we have also been called into Godís kingdom. Being the Church means
that we now operate with a different set of principles and values. A kingdom
infers a King and a domain. A government if you will. A government has laws and
principles, a structure of government and an economy. All these apply to the
Kingdom of God.
In the world system the rights of
citizenship come with birth. So as with the Kingdom of God Ė we are born into
it. Being the Church means that we increasingly see and understand this kingdom
and that we are striving to operate within its scope of purpose and authority.
Privilege and responsibility go hand in hand. Citizenship in the kingdom is not
optionalĖneither is the responsibility to be an active citizen. When we stop
"going to church" and start "being the church," we will
discover the power contained in both privilege and responsibility.
out of the World into The Body of Christ
"Then they that gladly received
his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three
thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and
fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers."
We have been called out of the world and
into fellowship with other believers. The Bible tells us that we are in the
world but not of the world. In other words, some fundamental things must change
about the way we think and act. The worldís philosophy, which is dominated by
the sinful nature and darkened thinking, just doesnít jibe with Godís
kingdom. The "world" according to the Bible has a tremendous amount of
influence on a person. When a person becomes a Christian he/she must leave the
things of the world behind and adopt a new system of influence.
"Love not the world, neither the
things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father
is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust
of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of
God abideth for ever." I
"Let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts . . . For my thoughts are not your
thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are
higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts
than your thoughts." Isaiah
A person can go to church and discover that
the church does things the same way that the world does. "Being" the
church requires that we develop new ways of thinking and doing. The disciples
often got into a discussion about who would be the greatest in the kingdom of
God. Jesus told them that His kingdom didnít operate the same way the world
did. If you wanted to be great in His kingdom, you would need to become a
Yet in the church we find the same structure
of government as in the world and the same ambition to "climb the
ladder" of success or recognition. To be effective in the kingdom of God we
must learn to leave the ways of the world to the world and do things Godís
There is another thing about being called
out of the world into the Body of Christ. That is the fact that we are
called into the Body of Christ. God didnít save you to leave you
I have often heard people say, "I
donít have to go to church to be a Christian." While this a true
statement, I question its validity. You can be a Christian without "going
to church." However, the majority of the New Testament is devoted to how we
should operate as a church. Remember what Hebrews 13:25 said, "Not
forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but
exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day
There is no justification for not
"going to church." The problem is twofold.
Some people who say they donít have to go
to church to be a Christian simply arenít Christian. There is something about
becoming a true Christian that calls you into fellowship with other Christians.
The passage in Acts 2 tells us that those who received the word "continued
steadfastly" in some things, one of them being fellowship.
The second problem is that people have been
to church and see little spiritual value in it. Unfortunately, regarding many
churches I would have to agree. They have been in churches that had little
spiritual reality. Not knowing the difference, they assume that
"Church" is just like that. Herein is the difference between
"going to church" and "being the Church."
"Being the Church" means that we
have developed an attitude of forsaking the way of world while embracing the
fellowship of the saints at the same time. It was never Godís intention for
someone to "get saved" and just exist alone. He has called us into
relationship with the Church which is His body (Col. 1:24).
Out of Disobedience Into Obedience
"What then? shall we sin, because
we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom
ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey;
whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be
thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart
that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye
became the servants of righteousness."
Weíve been called from disobedience (sin)
Obedience to God, His word and the leading
of the Holy Spirit are not an option in the Kingdom of God. It is a part of the
genuine package. Consider this statement about Abraham, the father of faith.
" By faith Abraham, when he was
called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed;
and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land
of promise . . ." Hebrews
Notice how faith and obedience work hand in
hand. Obedience is the fruit of faith. In fact, it is hard to have one without
the other. Real faith will result in obedience, because you will act on what you
genuinely believe. And obedience without faith causes burnout. After a while you
will stop doing something if you really donít believe in it.
"And being made perfect, he
became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him . . .
" Heb. 5:9
"Elect according to the
foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto
obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and
peace, be multiplied ." I
"If ye love me, keep my
These and other verses make it obvious that
"being the Church" means obeying the head of the Church, who is Jesus
Christ. You can go to Church and never obey God. Individuals and congregations
must make a decision to obey God, first in the fundamental things of the Bible,
then in the leading of the Holy Spirit.
I had a conversation with some lady years
ago who went to a particular denominational church. The subject was baptism, and
while we agreed on several points, her church was practicing an unscriptural
application of it. I started to say, "But the Bible says . . . " and
she cut me off with, "I donít care what the Bible says, thatís how we
do it in our church."
Here is a person that will not grow very
much. The church has some problems too, if their tradition is unscriptural and
they are unwilling to change. Jesus told the Jews that they had made the Word of
God of none effect by their traditions (Mark 7:13).
The Word of God is powerful and to believe
it and obey it releases that power into our lives and our churches. The opposite
is true also.
This is extremely important in the issues of
church government and leadership. Many churches today operate with an
unscriptural form of church leadership and expect God to bless something He has
not set in order.
God didnít tell us to start churches and
figure out how to keep everyone happy. He laid out a pattern for New Testament
Church life and expects the Church to follow it.
God can and will bless our error for a time,
but as we grow, we have a responsibility to adjust our ways as we grow in wisdom
It is very hard to call Jesus
"Lord" and tell Him "no" at the same time. Obedience is a
part of the gospel message and indicates the condition of the heart of an
individual or a congregation. Weíve been called from self-will unto obedience.
The very world translated "Church"
carries with it the idea that we are called out of something and into something.
There are spiritual changes made. One cannot be truly saved without these
fundamental changes taking place in their lives because they are the essence of
the gospel and the kingdom of God. However, each area of change must also be
accompanied by an ever- increasing desire and understanding if we are to walk in
Having understood that the Church is not
"where we go," but "who we are," letís go on to look at
some other areas of "being the Church."
Church: The Body of Christ
"For as we have many members in
one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one
body in Christ, and every one members one of another."
"For as the body is one, and hath
many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so
also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we
be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink
into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many . . . . (27) Now ye
are the body of Christ, and members in particular."
I Cor. 12:12-14 & 27
" But speaking the truth in love,
may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, [even] Christ: From whom
the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint
supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part,
maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love."
"For the husband is the head of
the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the
body." Ephesians 5:23
Paul declared THE Church to be THE
BODY OF CHRIST. This typology makes for wonderful teaching and preaching and
a multitude of illustrations can be wrought from it. There is a danger here
however. This is not just a literary device used by Paul to convey a thought. It
is a spiritual reality.
Paul did not declare the Church to be
Ďlikeí the Body of Christ. He declared it to be the Body of Christ.
While the Church must have some
organization, it is not, never has been and never will be an
The Church--The Body of Christ--has an
organic unity, both with Christ as the head and with every member of the Body.
Dynamics of The Body of Christ
read 1 Cor. 12.
In 1 Cor. 12 Paul explains the function and
relationship of the physical body in the context of spiritual gifts. He shows
how that each part of the body has a special part to play, and a special place
in the body in order that the whole body function properly and to full
One can "go to church" and never
experience the fullness of the Body of Christ. But to "be" the Church
means that we understand the dynamics of life in the Body of Christ and that we
find our place and fulfill it.
There are two dynamics that we must
understand and yield to if we are going to fulfill our place in the Body of
Christ. The first is RELATIONSHIP and the second is FUNCTION.
Is Central to The Church
Christianity is about the only religion that
places such a high degree of importance on relationship. Most other religions
can be practiced with or without others being involved. Not so in the Body of
Christ. By itís very nature we are called to operate and cooperate together
with God and with each other.
There are, of course, two aspects to the
The first aspect is that I must be properly
related to Christ as the head or I have no spiritual partnership in the Body of
Christ. In a parable about the vine and the branches in John 15, Jesus said that
unless we "abide in the vine" we can do nothing of ourselves.
There can be NO spiritual fruit born
in our lives unless we get properly connected to Jesus and stay properly
connected to Jesus.
The second aspect is that I must be properly
related to the Body of Christ, finding and fulfilling my place within the
context of the Church. I must say without an apology that it is impossible to be
properly related to Christ without also being properly related to the Church,
which is His Body. Consider this verse in I John.
"If a man say, I love God, and
hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he
hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have
we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also. Whosoever believeth
that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that
begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the
children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments."
I John 4:20-5:2
to The Head?
Let me paint two word pictures to illustrate
Picture a head with some toes where the ear
should be, and a leg dangling from the chin. You observe a hand coming out the
top back of the head and see one eye gracing the right cheek. Fingers grow from
the nose and internal organs hang here and there.
We laugh at the absurdity of this or recoil
in horror at the ugliness, yet this is exactly how we act concerning
relationships in the Body of Christ. While we give mental assent to the way
things should be, we really donít see it in practice that much.
Now picture this: A hand unattached to the
body. It is a hand, but to what purpose? It draws no strength or life from the
body, nor is it of any use to the body. Too many Christians approach
Christianity this way.
While we must have a personal relationship
to Christ we must also be properly connected to His body to function as we
Too many Christians today have a "Lone
Ranger" mentality. That is, they donít want to be connected or committed
to anyone or anything.
Ministries go about with no accountability
or input, receiving no correction or instruction.
Church members hop from church to church,
avoiding relationships, commitment and accountability. It is, however, the bonds
of love and commitment that hold a church together and cause it to function as
the Body of Christ in the fullness of the Spirit.
We must understand and yield to both of
these aspects of relationship within the Church, first in vital relationship
with Christ, then in functional relationship with the rest of His Body.
Relationships Make Strong Churches.
In I Cor. 12 and Ephesians 4 we find Paul
dealing with the practical issues of relationship and function. Look at
"But speaking the truth in love,
may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom
the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint
supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part,
maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love."
Paul says that as we speak the truth in love
we will "grow up in all things." We will grow upward toward the
fullness of Christ and we will grow together in spiritual unity.
Paul wanted the Church to have ever
deepening relationships. In these verses he tells us that the "body
is fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth."
A joint is not a bone, but rather a point
where two or more bones come together. It is in essence a relationship--a
functional relationship at that. So letís replace "joint" with
"relationship" in this verse.
"From whom the whole body fitly
joined together and compacted by that which every [RELATIONSHIP] supplieth,
according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase
of the body unto the edifying of itself in love."
Have you ever had a sprained ankle or a
dislocated shoulder? The pain is terrible and the body doesnít function as it
should. The arm doesnít have the ability to access the strength of the muscle
that is present. The man who could lift 50 pounds with one arm canít lift 5
pounds with a dislocated shoulder. Did he lose his strength? Technically no. The
muscle is as strong as ever, but the improper relationship in the joint makes it
impossible to access the strength available to it. So it is with the Body of
When relationships are "sprained"
or members become "dislocated," the whole body suffers from the lack
of strength. The power and presence of the Spirit may still be there, but the
Church is unable to access it do to improper relationships.
This is what Paul means when he speaks of "That
which every joint (relationship) supplies."
I have been in churches where this problem
was evident. The Spirit of God attended the services and the presence of God was
evident, but there was very little power. These same churches had some serious
"That their hearts might be
comforted, being knit together in love . . . " Col.
God doesnít want a loose-knit group of
people. He desires that we be closely knit together, caring for one another and
operating in the same mind and Spirit.
Letís put this in a modern illustration.
Consider the difference between a shirt that has an iron-on transfer and one
that has the same design embroidered on it. The iron-on transfer is connected,
but not really woven to the fabric. As a result it can peel and flake after some
rough use. The embroidery is interwoven with the fabric, becoming part of it. It
is more difficult to separate. The iron-on transfer takes a matter of seconds,
while the embroidery might take some time.
Relating this to church relationships we can
see why there are so many "flaky" Christians hopping from church to
church. God desires that we get interwoven with the people around us, forming
strong relationships that will weather the storms of life and the attacks of the
Only as this happens will the Church began
to experience the reality of the fullness of the Body of Christ spoken of in
"Till we all come in the unity of
the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the
measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ . . . "
God loves variety. Just look at the world
around us. There are hundreds of varieties of plants. Consider the animal
kingdom. Even within the species there are various breeds. And within the breeds
there are various colors and markings. The world is filled with people who have
all kinds of ethnic features.
How mundane life would be without the
wonderful variety God, in His creative power, gave us.
How unfortunate it is then, when it comes to
the Church we want everyone to be the same.
We have our pet styles of preaching or
teaching and tend to only listen to those ministers who "preach with
fire," or "teach line upon line."
We want Christians to look alike and act
alike. And usually the standard of appropriate conduct is the big "I."
Since most of us would hesitate to vocalize
it, I will say it for us all. We want people to be like ourselves for the most
part. How boring!
Paul dealt with this tendency in I Cor. 12.
He first discusses the various gifts of the Spirit, pointing out several
1. In verses 4-6 he declares that there are
not only different gifts, but different ways in which a person might operate in
those gifts. Still, in all this diversity, the unity of God remains. Notice Paul
brings each aspect of God into play here, "he same Spirit . . . the same
Lord . . . The same God."
The simple fact is that God may give 10
people the same gift and cause it to operate differently in all 10 people.
When we reject the gifts of the Spirit in a
person because, "they donít do it like I do," or "thatís not
how I was taught it should be," we shut off an avenue for God to minister
to us. And we are not the only ones that lose out. When we squelch the gift in
someone or even fail to encourage it, the person God wants to use is hindered.
As a final result, the Body of Christ, as a whole, is robbed of a gift given to
it by the Spirit.
2. Paul makes a second point. God gives
different gifts to different people. Notice I Cor. 12:7 & 11:
"But the manifestation of the
Spirit is given to every man to profit withal."
(verse 7) "But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit,
dividing to every man severally as he will." Verse 11
We must realize that God wants to use EVERY
person in some way. That means God wants to use me and God wants to use YOU.
No exceptions. It is Godís desire to use every person in the Body of Christ.
The Bible tells us here that God HAS given gifts to EVERY man.
The issue isnít HAS God given you a gift(s),
but rather, are you allowing God to develop and use the gift(s) He has already
Here is where relationship and function are
inseparable. I must recognize and develop my giftings for the good of the Body
of Christ. Likewise I must encourage, respect and receive the giftings that God
has placed in others who I am in relationship with.
Another point in these verses concerns the
giving of gifts. They are given "as He wills." God, by
the Holy Spirit, imparts gifts to His people at His discretion, not ours. This
causes a couple of common problems that we must grow past.
I may see a particular gift in someone and
desire that gift for myself. It may or may not happen at my will. To function
properly in the Body you must find, accept and develop the gifts God has given
you, instead of sitting back waiting for the one you might desire.
The other problem is God may give you a gift
or ministry that you donít particularly want. Sometimes we must "step up
to the plate" and accept Godís will, finding joy and satisfaction in
doing Godís will.
You can "go to church" and never
give what you have or receive what you need. But "being the Church"
opens up a whole new realm of giving and receiving as the Body of Christ learns
to minister to itself, by the Holy Spirit in love.
Feet, Eyes, Ears and Noses
In verses 15-21 of I Corinthians 12, Paul
deals with two aspects of relationship and function. These are the two common
attitude problems that the Church must overcome in its goal to realize the
reality of Ephesians 4:13. "Till we all come in the unity of the
faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the
measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."
The first attitude that must be overcome is
summarized like this: Because I am not like someone else, I am not an important
part of the Body of Christ. The second is summarized this way: Because someone
else isnít like me they cannot be an important part of the Body of Christ.
Obviously, both of these attitudes are wrong
and hurtful to all involved. The first belongs to a person with a poor self
esteem. The second to a person with, shall we say, a "healthy ego."
The underlying concept is unity in the
midst of diversity. I donít have to be like someone else to be an
integral part of the Church. Likewise I cannot insist that everyone else be just
like me before I accept them and their giftings.
To be complete the Body of Christ needs the
totality of the various gifts, functions and ministries Christ has given her.
Romans chapter 12 lists a variety of motivational gifts. I Corinthians 12 lists
nine gifts of the Spirit. And Ephesians chapter 4 lists five ministry gifts.
For a church to be complete in the ministry
of Christ, she must seek to have all these gifts operating in her midst. Trying
to function on less is like having an eight-cylinder engine trying to run on six
cylinders. It will run, but not like it was designed to.
Same Care One for Another
It is important to remember that the unity
of the Spirit is not a cold, organizational agreement, but rather a warm,
living, loving relationship. Paul ends I Corinthians 12 by reminding the
believers there that there should be "no division" in the body, and
that each should have the same care one for another.Ē
You can "go to church" and never
be touched by the triumph or trial of the person sitting in the same room. But
when we "become" the Church by developing and maintaining
relationships we will be affected by what affects others.
"Rejoice with them that do
rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward
another." Romans 12:15-16
Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Christ was
touched with the feelings of our weaknesses and because of it He became a
faithful high priest.
Likewise God desires for us to be touched
with the feelings of others in order for us to minister to them properly.
To say, "I know how you must
feel," when we really donít have a clue is a reproach to Christ and makes
for a very ineffective ministry.
Jesus felt what you and I feel. He
experienced it and His comfort is born of empathy not sympathy.
So should our ministry be born of empathy,
not sympathy! How human it is to have personality conflicts. Pet peeves cloud
relationships and we find ourselves judging more than praying. However, when we
genuinely care for those who "assemble together" with us, we will have
their best interests in mind, ever seeking to see them grow and prosper in the
The sum of the matter is simple. God intends
for the fullness of Christís ministry to be expressed in and through the
Church, which is His Body. For that to happen we must make a priority of
relationships, and from there encourage, use and receive the gifts God has
placed within the Body. No single person or ministry can express the fullness of
Christís ministry, we need one another.
Mission of the Church
Now that we have defined the Church and
looked at the dual issues of relationship and function, we can now turn our
attention to the MISSION of the Church. What is Godís purpose for the Church?
What are we supposed to be doing while we are waiting for the return of the
Two great dangers exist in the churches
today. The first is becoming ingrown. This happens when we only focus on the
people we have already collected and fail to reach out to those around us.
"But ye shall receive power,
after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me
both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost
part of the earth . . ."
"And Jesus came and spake unto
them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye
therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and
of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things
whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end
of the world. Amen. Matthew
These two passages express the heart of the
two-fold MISSION of the Church. That is, to reach the world with the
message of Jesus Christ and to make disciples unto Him.
Shall Be Witnesses
Jesus left the Church with a promise and a
It is possible to "go to church"
all your life and never receive the promise nor fulfill the commission. On the
other hand, "being the Church" means we will experience both promise
In these passages we find the key to
fulfilling the great commission -- power. Jesus said all power was given to Him.
The commission came from him who has power and authority.
This is where the promise comes into play.
Because all power was given to Jesus, He has the authority to delegate power to
the Church. It is this power that we need to get the job done.
Peter, James and John needed the power that
came with the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Why is it that the church today
doesnít believe they need the same power to do the same job?
The commission to the Church has never changed. Godís promise of power
to get the job done has never changed either.
Being the Church means that we understand
the task and the means to fulfill it. It means that we seek God for the same
power He promised the early Church. Being the Church means we seek to allow God
to use us as instruments of that power to impact the world in which we live.
In the King James Version of the Bible, the
word "teach" is used twice in the giving of the great commission. One
comes before the command to baptize and the second comes after. While
technically both words can be translated "teach", Jesus actually used
two different words here.
Many other versions translate the first
"teach" as "make disciples," which is accurate. The second
time Jesus says teach, it means to provide ongoing instruction. These two words
give the twofold thrust of the great commission.
The first is to make disciples, while the
second is to continue teaching them everything Jesus taught.
As I have already said, it is possible to go
to church your whole life and never experience the reality of what the Church is
How many people sit in church, yet have
never led another person to the Lord. They go to church, but have never
experienced the joy of helping another person become a strong follower of Jesus.
Yet this commission and power was not just
for the apostles in Jesusí day, it is for all who call upon the name of the
"...ye shall receive the gift of
the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all
that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." Acts
Does It Mean To Be A Witness?
Notice Jesus did not say, "You shall go
witnessing." Jesus said "you shall be witnesses."
If you mention being a witness in some
churches, they automatically think you mean you have to go knocking on doors
passing out "Four Spiritual Laws" tracts. While this may be a part of
being a witness, it isnít what Jesus had in mind when He said this.
The difference is the same that we have been
discussing throughout this study. That is the difference between
"going" and "being".
You can go witnessing, without ever being a
A witness is a person who has first-hand
knowledge about an event or subject. A person "witnesses" a car wreck,
so he has personal knowledge. He receives a summons to appear in court to become
a "witness" concerning the wreck. He is simply asked to tell what he
The same is true about being a witness for
Jesus. It isnít hard. You must first have a personal encounter with Jesus and
then find someone to share what you know with. It isnít hard at all.
Jesus said He would supply the power to be
witnesses. In other words, I donít have to convince anyone that what happened
to me is real. That is Godís Job. I just need to tell people that the same
thing can happen to them. The rest is between them and God.
What did Jesus tell the Church to do,
evangelize or make disciples? Think about it again. And Again! We were told to make
disciples, which is somewhat different then evangelizing.
Evangalism is a part of making disciples,
but it is not the totality of what God expects from the Church. Our idea of
evangelism today is very askew. We look at it as a traveling minister who comes
to preach a revival in the church, or someone who leads people into salvation.
Many "evangelists" preach great
soul winning messages and see great numbers of people respond to alter calls for
salvation. What happens afterwards though?
Statistics show that only a very few people
"converted" in evangelistic meetings today still actively follow God
after the first year.
What is wrong with this picture? This in not
what God intended. While it is unrealistic to think that every person we
"lead to the Lord" will actually stay committed, I think the problem
lies in the area of discipleship.
I think that is why Jesus said, "Go
make disciples." Our responsibility to the great commission is not
fulfilled with evangelism alone.
It is one thing to lead a person to pray a
prayer for salvation, it is another to walk with that person as they make a
wholehearted commitment to Jesus Christ.
This is where the two "teachings"
come into play. We need to teach people what God has to say about salvation, but
we also need to teach them that salvation means making Jesus both LORD and
SAVIOR. This is discipleship. Discipleship is much harder than evangelism
because it requires more personal time and energy. It requires that you get
involved in another personís life and actually help them become established in
the kingdom of God.
Evangelism can be fun and exciting. The
fruit is quickly seen (or so we assume). We get to brag about how effective we
are and what a great work we are doing. But discipling takes time and doesnít
necessarily show quick results.
This is why most churches donít emphasis
discipling new converts -- itís messy. Discipling takes time and energy and
the "P" word (patience). Itís easier to invite them to "GO
TO CHURCH" then it is to help them "BECOME" a part of
This is exactly why we have so many people
who "go to church," but never really experience the reality of God
there. "Being the Church" means we must step up to the plate and
accept our command and commission to make disciples of those we have led to the
Word of Caution!
A great danger can occur when a Church
begins to disciple people. If the leadership isnít careful the church will
begin to make disciples to themselves. They end up making followers of the
church, the pastor or its particular doctrinal views. This isnít what Jesus
had in mind either. We are to make disciples for Jesus, not disciples for
Setting aside the errors of the past, and
the dangers presented, we still have a mandate to make disciples of the world,
not just to evangelize it.
Our churches do not grow for two reasons.
The first is because we do not GO! God never told the world to go to church, He
told the Church to go to the world. It is unfortunate that much of evangelistic
effort revolves around inviting people to "GO TO CHURCH."
While people do get saved at church
meetings, I still have to wonder if this is Godís best.
The second is they do not take seriously the
command to make disciples. When this happens the new converts either quit after
a while or they never grow to maturity to become "fruit-bearing"
20/20 Vision of the Church
Years ago I heard a sermon preached by a
good friend of mine, Matthew Dow, entitled The 20/20 Vision of the
In medical lingo 20/20 vision is perfect
vision. It is balanced vision. Both eyes are operating together at optimum
performance. Nothing is out of focus. This was precisely the point Matthew made
in his sermon.
Using Acts 20:20 for the basis of his
message he spoke about the need for the Church to have a balanced focus in
fulfilling the great commission.
"And how I kept back nothing that
was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and
from house to house . . ."
Public meetings were a part of the early
Church and are still a major part of the Church today. However, equally
important were the meetings in homes. Paul modeled house ministry to the
churches he started. This is a lost practice in the modern church.
Much evangelism and discipleship can be done
more effectively in homes. This would involve both meeting one on one with
people or families and gathering in homes for prayer, Bible study and
One great weakness of the church in America
today is its emphasis on GOING TO CHURCH. As we have already seen in this study,
relationship and function are key elements to a strong Church. These elements
are best developed in small group settings such as occur in home fellowships.
Many of the problems that exist in the
traditional church of the Ď90's are solved by teaching "house to
Evangelism comes much more naturally, as
people will come to a home meeting when they might not come to a "church
Relationships are formed as people actually
interact with each other in a small group setting. It has been accurately said,
"it is hard to develop a relationship with the back of someoneís
head" (as everyone sits facing the front of the church where one or two
people do all the work.)
Spiritual gifts and ministries are
encouraged and developed in the home fellowship. Whereas in "church, the
emphahsis is on the ministries of a select few, with little time or place given
for "body ministry".
Real questions and problems can be discussed
and ministered to in the small group, where trust and confidence has been
These are just a few of the benefits of
having perfect 20/20 vision for both public and house meetings.
While there are other aspects of church
life, these thoughts should provide ample challenge for those who are striving
to be all they can be in the kingdom of God. We can be satisfied to continue "going
to church," or we can determine that we will "be the
For every person who has ever said,
"There has to be more to Christianity than this," I say, "God
Bless you as you BECOME THE CHURCH!"
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Copyright © 2002 Steve Highlander, all rights reserved. For more free online resources visit www.worldbibleinstitute.org, To contact the author email firstname.lastname@example.org or write Steve Highlander, 727 W. Sycamore, Nevada, MO 64772 USA.