Imagine if you will, a great forest fire raging through the landscape. The fire blazes through everything it comes across until suddenly, it reaches a great stone wall. The fire rages for as long as it can, but the wall prevents it from going any further. The fire calms and the flames die down to burning embers, the raging fire has run out of fuel.
Now, how can this imagery be applied to help set a clear picture of a Christian and more importantly, the Church? What I hope the imagery assists the reader with is the fire that rages in our own soul for Christ. Each individual that is Baptized in the Holy Spirit is alight with passion for doing the Lord’s will and carrying out the Great Commission…right? What does it mean to be alight for the Lord? What would that look like for the Church? What is the Church and what is our purpose, our goal, our calling? I hope to answer these questions and more. I pray that I can bring to light walls that are preventing you from raging forward for Christ and together we can go beyond the walls!
To define the church, we need to first look at what Jesus said was our mission, our goal and our calling. more commonly known as The Great Commission.
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:16-20
“Go therefore”, Jesus commands us to GO out into the world and make disciples of all nations. That is singly the most important purpose or mission of the Church. Other aspects that are very important to observe is fellowship with one another. We are called to be as one Body, one people united for Christ. Accountability, teaching and being taught, mentoring and being mentored. All of these are very important aspects of the Church, but they still don’t line up with what we are called to DO. We are called to go beyond the walls of the Church and to make disciples among the nations. Before I go further into what going beyond the walls would look like, let me first point to what remaining in our walls would be like.
Genesis chapter eleven, The Tower of Babel, the birthplace of languages. Before mankind was scattered by force, there was one universal language. The people reasoned with one another to remain in one location and to build a city and tower in order to build a name for themselves. They set out with a mission that God had not commanded them to do. In truth, God had commanded them to go into all of the world and to be fruitful and multiply. In Genesis chapter nine we see God speaking to Noah.
And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” – 9:1
and again in verse seven.
And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.”
The people did not obey, they remained in their walls and built great wonders instead of going into the world as commanded.
Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” 5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth. – Genesis 11:1-9
What then was the issue of building a city and making a name for themselves? What’s the big deal? Applying that to the modern Church, we can see modern correlations as to why that is wrong. Notice in verse four how they even acknowledge that they do not wish to do as commanded, they have no intentions of going out into the world. They are more concerned with making a grand city and a tower reaching the Heavens. They have set out to make a name for themselves, their name and their fame outweighed the Lord’s command in their minds.
You may see this amongst your own congregation, where the heated debates revolve around church projects and church building renovations and expansions. Now, if your congregation is fighting for a seat and people are standing in the halls for service, then expansion of the building is needed of course, but that’s rarely the case. More often we see congregations argue and even split over trivial matters, such as the color of the carpet, or the color of the paint used on the walls. Have we allowed the Church to forget its true purpose and calling? Are we more concerned with expanding the walls of the church than we are expanding the Body of Christ? As individuals we each must evaluate what it is we are fighting to achieve. Is it to bring others outside of Christ to Him and to make disciples or are we more concerned with numbers and how large we can grow a single congregation in a single city? God calls us to reach our local communities, there is no doubt of that. However, if we aren’t willing to go beyond our own cities to teach others of Christ, then how do we expect the locals to be attracted to our faith? It isn’t gimmicks (door prizes, food, gift bags etc.) and huge auditoriums that we need to bring people into the church. The Word of God alone is what is needed to bring people into the true Church, the Body of Christ. Scripture tells us that it is through the power of the Holy Spirit that someone comes to know Christ. I can guarantee you that no single person has come to Christ because their local church was equipped with hundreds of stage lights, fog machines, and a professional band. It was because of the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. Testimonies are filled with how Christ has saved them from their former selves. Through Christ alone are they saved, it is not due to a single pastor, a single worship leader, or any other. Although those may be the means by which people heard the Words of God or the opportunity the Holy Spirit took to stir people’s souls, it is not by their power that Christ was made a part of people’s lives.
In essence, my point is that we cannot allow the Body of Christ to abandon its true calling to chase after numbers in our pews and in the tithe plate (note: Tithing is a command, not a suggestion). How we spend our resources and how we minister to the congregation is vital to the health of the Church. A certain church comes to my mind that is well known, but widely unpopular in the Christian realm. Pandering to the world and taking tactics that water down the scriptures to limit sermons on Hell and focusing heavily on the blessings of God. This church has grown to be massive and takes in billions of dollars a year, which a vast majority goes right back into maintaining and expanding the building. I am sure that there are true believers in that particular congregation, however, when the pastor’s main focus is to keep the people coming and has painted God as a genie that will bless your life immensely if you continue attending church, then there are major theological issues involved. As humans, we would be absolute fools if we think God owes us anything. Does God bless His children? Of course He does! Out of love He blesses us! All that’s needed to destroy this teaching that God blesses us because we have been good is the story of Job. Having done nothing wrong, Job is tormented by Satan, yet he remains faithful and accomplishes the task God had set before him. He is humbled in the end after He questioned God, but that story alone makes it clear that we are expected to remain faithful to God even if worldly blessings aren’t given in return. He sent His Son to die on the cross for our sake! Who are we to demand more out of Him? God is not someone you barter with, you do not trade goods and services, you serve Him because He is the redeemer of your soul and your Heavenly Father.
Oh boy, I feel like I’m all over the place and I’m long-winded. For the sake of length I think I’ll split this into two parts. Below are some notes and I would like to ask that you please leave a comment letting me know if I have accomplished hitting all of my points effectively. I tend to doubt myself and feel like I’m just rambling nonsense.
Quick notes to return to later:
1) Tower of Babel to be used as an example of expanding the church walls, rather than expanding the church Body.
2) Define the church.
3) point out real life connections and how to remedy the issue.
4) What makes a believer? What makes a disciple? (Simon the magician)
5) Mission minded versus number minded.