June 11, 2011

Doctrinal Statement Part 9

I had an interesting conversation with a woman the other day who professes faith in Jesus Christ, and appears to be stewarding her life for the glory of God, both in the way she lives her personal life, and the way she raises her children.
However, at the end of a enjoyable conversation, after I asked where she worshipped, the woman informed me that she didn't attend church anywhere, because she was "turned off by churches".  Instead, she "surrounded herself with people who supported her faith and the way she worshipped."
I can't judge another servant of God (Romans 14:4) - but I can discern a poor application of grace by knowing and applying the Word of God rightly.
Rejection of the institutional Church is "all the rage" today.  The defense seems to be in the belief that early Christians didn't belong to institutional congregations, where people took advantage of them emotionally, psychologically, and financially.  They met together out of love and a joy of being together without strict rules and regulations.

I have to defend Scripture at this point and declare without reservation, that Scripture absolutely and irrefutably rejects such a shallow and destructive view of the institutional Church.  That is why we come to a brief summary of what I believe about the Church of Christ in my doctrinal statement.

According to Scripture, the chief means of the Church is to:
Guard the faith
Encourage, protect, and serve one another
Teach sound doctrine.

According to Scripture, also:
Worship and Evangelism are natural Spirit-generated by-products of an active faith, not purposes for it.

Most people focus on trying to produce the last two, without an emphasis on the first three.  In fact, many people think the first three are superfluous or even by-products of the last two.  When this happens, they become "put off" and uncomfortable with God's design for Church Community.  It is interesting that while our generation promotes genuine faith not based on works, they seem to think maturity is evidenced by doing holy things while ignoring the maturity of truly knowing the Word so they can defend it, teach it soundly, and serve others WITH THE WORD, not simply acts of charity and/or offerings of praise.

With many institutions advocating an Acts 2 model of church development today, it is no wonder many are disillusioned about Christ intention and God's design for the Church.  When we read all of the New Testament, it is evident that most of the New Testament Text exists because the Church needed so much instruction on proper communal and private life when they realized that the imminent return worldview of Acts Two wasn't a healthy way to pro-generate the faith.  PAul actually has to tell them to "get back to work" and "stop being lazy" and "parasites".  They needed to start planning for long term service and life together and he and Peter and James established clear organization and authority structure in their letters for the purpose of propriety in Worship and Christian living.  Acts Two is a historical picture of the Spirit empowered beginnings of the Church, it is not a descriptive mandate for the modeling of every other church in history.  To focus on the story as a model misses the point of recognizing God's all-sufficient grace and the early Churches total dependance on God, and turns the Church into a man made effort to "act like they did" - the assumption being that they were truly "holy" and to do anything different is not.

Christ gave His life for His Bride.  He is returning for His Bride.  The issues of righteous living reflect the character and glory of God.  Over and over again, God says, "for my names sake".  For this reason, holy living in submission to one another and submission to the direction of Shepherds HE has ordained becomes a very serious matter all throughout the New Testament.  To ignore it is a shallow reading of Scripture and does not honor the one whom the reader claims to be living for.  If you would like to read a little more on this, please visit http://kengentzler.blogspot.com/2011/04/church-membership.html#comments
and 9marks.org.

Sufficient to say here that I have included a portion on the Church proper so that those watching my life and measuring my integrity will know why I rely on the community of God and why the Church proper and my Church local are the first lines of resource and commitment in my life.  It is not an act of piety, it is a passion to be the Bride of Christ in a way that focuses on His instruction for it, not my personal agendas and needs.

With you for His glory

8. The Church  I believe that the Church is the universal Bride 
and Body of Christ. This Body is composed of all regenerated 
believers in Christ regardless of denominational affiliation or 
church membership.
(John 3:29; I Corinthians 12:4-27; 
Ephesians 1:22, 5:23-30; Revelation 19:7)
I believe that the local church is an assembly of professed 
believers in Jesus Christ who have the privilege and 
responsibility to voluntarily join together in and for the 
purpose of equipping each believer to be obedient to God 
through vital, personal and corporate experiences: with Him, 
in His Word, with one another, and in evangelism.
I believe that the local church is God's primary means of leading 
people to Christ and presenting each believer mature in Christ.

(Matthew 16:18-19, 28:18-20; Acts 2:37-47; Hebrews 10:25)

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