In a response to one of my blogs Marli, who has only been a Christian for a few months, mentioned that she had heard a sermon I preached on “Jesus Yes and Church No or Jesus Yes and Church Yes”? In that sermon I gave four reasons from I Timothy 3:15 why Jesus Yes and Church No is an oxymoron and why Jesus Yes and Church Yes is the only correct answer. I preached that sermon because I believe that many Christians are confused and complacent about the role the church plays in the present program of God and the role that God would have the church play in our own lives as Christians.
In fact, since I preached that sermon I have had a number of people tell me how they were convicted about their misplaced priorities and then tell me that they have already discussed with family members that they were going to have to do some reordering of their priorities. I mention that because it indicates that people who are part of a good church (as these people are) can without even knowing it have an unbiblical perspective on the role that God wants the church to play in the world and in the lives of individual Christians.
We might expect that unsaved people would have a very light or even negative view of the importance of the church. The problem is that it’s not only that people who claim no commitment to Jesus Christ hold this perspective on the church. The issue is that many professing Christians have a take it or leave it attitude toward the church. If being involved and even attending the services of the church doesn’t interfere with something else in their lives then they may do God a favor by actually coming to one of the stated meetings of the church.
This complacent attitude may be fostered by a number of different things. It may be that the church with which they have casually identified has ceased to function in a biblical way and no longer accurately preaches and teaches God’s Word in practical and relevant ways. It may be that they are not even Christians at all and therefore have no hunger for spiritual food. It may be that the church then attend is very legalistic and has become extremely judgmental toward people who will not dot their i’s and cross their t’s in keeping with an oppressive list of do’s and don’ts. It may be that the church with which they have superficially identified is filled with cliques and divisions, strife and contention. It may be that the church is practicing dead orthodoxy and lacks life, warmth and enthusiasm. It may be that the church has abandoned or is in the process of abandoning “the faith once delivered to the saints” and they don’t want to attend or be involved because they disagree with the heterodox direction the church is taking. And it may be that they have never been exposed to a clear biblical teaching about the role the church can and should play in their spiritual growth and development.
If some of the things I’ve mentioned are their reasons for not having a high view of the importance in their lives, then perhaps it’s time for them to start looking for a church that is functioning in the way the Bible says a church ought to function. However, if their lack of actual dedication, commitment .and deep involvement (as it is in the case of many) are due to a lack of clear teaching (ignorance) on what God says about the role of the church in His program for this present time in the world and in the lives of Christians, then what they need is teaching and a call to change. To me this is crucial in that I am convinced that one of the reasons the world has little respect for the church and is therefore making little impact on the world is related to the unbiblical way that professing Christians view the importance of the church. And if John Calvin is anywhere close to being right in what he writes about the role of the church in the lives of Christians in his Institutes of the Christian Religion then it is no wonder that many professing Christians are so superficial, shallow and ineffective in their spiritual lives and ministries. Calvin says, “there is no other way to enter into life unless this mother conceive us in her womb, give us birth, nourish us at her breast, and lastly, unless she keep us under her care and guidance until, putting off mortal flesh, we become like the angels (Matt. 22:30). Our weakness does not allow us to be dismissed from her school until we have been pupils all our lives. …God’s fatherly favor and the especial witness of spiritual life are limited to his flock, so that it is always disastrous to leave the church.”
Do you think Calvin is being a little strong in what he says? What do you think he means by this statement? Do you agree or disagree? If you think he is overstating the case and, if so, how is he doing that? And why do you disagree? Or why do you agree?
Please remember who Calvin was – he was one of the reformers whom God used to show the errors of the Roman church. Primarily, he is trying to emphasize what we’ve been trying to say about the importance of the church in God’s program for the world and for the individual Christian. He’s saying that God’s usual prescribed way of bringing people to Christ and helping them to grow in Christ is through the ministry of the church. He’s not saying that the church saves, but the church is the primary instrument God has prescribed to do the work of evangelism and edification. And he’s saying that this will be God’s way of doing things and that we will need the churches ministry for our spiritual growth until we die.
Well, must run. We have a meeting we must attend here in
South Africa. Again, we welcome your comments and responses. If you have anything to add that relates to the subject we’ve discussed in this post, please send it to us on the comment section. Or if you just want to say you understand and perhaps agree with what we’ve written even if it’s just a line or two, your comments would be much appreciated.