Ephesians 4:11-13 ESV
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…”
The way most people seem to “do church” these days, at least here in America, is not the way that it was originally intended to happen.
For one, there should not be just one shepherd of the people doing all the ministering. There should be more than one shepherd in a congregation, and their jobs should be to equip us spiritually for the work of the ministry. And, we should then be going out teaching, encouraging, healing, visiting the sick, sharing the gospel, and showing hospitality, etc.
Many pastors of church congregations face burnout, discouragement, and depression, and some of them even fall into serious sin, because the weight of the ministry is all on their shoulders. For, they are expected to do all the teaching, all the preaching, all the visiting, and all the counseling and encouraging, etc.
And, they are expected to be businessmen, marketers, and entertainers, too, who know how to keep the people coming in the doors, and who know how to keep them there, too.
Yet, church gatherings are not to be for the purpose to draw in large crowds of people of the world via entertaining them so that they will feel at home among us. For, the church is not supposed to be a business marketed like any other business. The true church is the people, but not all people, but those of us who are in genuine relationship with Jesus Christ via dying with Christ to sin and living to him and to his righteousness (Rom. 6:1-23).
And, the purpose of our gatherings is to equip us for ministry so we can go out to the world, and so that we, too, can minister to one another using the gifts and ministries the Lord has assigned to each one of us. And, this is so we can help one another to grow to maturity in our relationships with Jesus Christ, and to help build one another up in the faith through mutual encouragement and the strengthening of one another in the faith.
And, this can’t happen at these gatherings if the gatherings are focused more around attracting and entertaining the world and the flesh of humans, rather than being focused on Jesus Christ and his holiness, and on encouraging one another to walk in holiness and righteousness so that we are not led astray by sin’s deceitfulness.
Ephesians 4:14 ESV
“… so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”
Too many people within the gatherings of the church (or the institutional church) are immature, tossed to and fro by many winds of doctrine, which are being taught to them by people who claim to be God’s shepherds, but who are crafty and deceitful, and who are leading the people astray.
In fact, most of these modern-day “churches” (businesses of men) target the immature so that they can mold them according to their ways, not God’s ways. So, they lure them into their gatherings by promising them fun times, entertainment, a relaxed atmosphere, unconditional acceptance, cool programs for their kids, great music, and winsome pastors who are fun.
So “church” has become just another family-oriented entertainment venue, targeted at winning the world to their gatherings, to increase their numbers, and to build their earthly kingdoms.
Yet, I am not saying that none of the modern market-driven churches teach the Scriptures. A lot of them do, but most of them appear to teach a very watered-down version of them.
Much of what is being passed off as biblical teaching in these congregations is tainted by men in their deceitful scheming, who are wanting the world to feel at home in their gatherings, and so they won’t teach the gospel Jesus taught. In other words, they won’t teach denial of self and death to sin and walking in obedience to our Lord as part of working out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12-13; Rom. 8:1-17; Lu. 9:23-26).
And, so we have a whole lot of church congregations comprised of the people of the world (non-believers), nominal believers (in name only), immature believers in Jesus (living in adultery to their Lord), and some mature believers in Jesus Christ who are walking in holiness.
For, they are lacking true shepherds (godly ones) to lead them in the paths of righteousness, because they are following after business marketing plans for how to conduct and to build their “churches,” rather than them following after the Lord and letting the Holy Spirit lead them in how to lead their flocks to maturity in Jesus Christ, their Lord, and in holy living.
Ephesians 4:15-16 ESV
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
So, what can we do about this? What can you do? What can I do? Well, for one, we need to be in serious relationship with Jesus Christ, daily putting sin to death, and putting on Christ and his righteousness. We need to not be holding on to any pet sins, but we need to be walking in holiness in the power of God’s Spirit living and working within our lives.
We must be in the Word of God daily, drinking it into our minds and hearts, and then be doing what it says. And, then we need to be sharing it with others, too. And, we need to be sharing the gospel of our salvation, but not just with the world, but with “church people,” too, for not everyone who confesses Christ as Lord is truly saved from their sins and bound for heaven.
And, we need to pray for opportunities to share with others what is on God’s heart, too, to let them see what he sees regarding his church and how they have been functioning, and to share with them what the Lord’s church, his body, is to be. We need to point them to the Scriptures, and show them that “church,” as many people define it, is not truly “the church.”
Why? Because Christ’s body, his church, has been turned upside down, and it barely even resembles Christ’s body anymore, nor does it function as his body. For, thieves and robbers, who are wolves in sheep’s clothing, have taken over “the church” and turned it into a house of robbers, i.e. into a marketplace, and it is no longer a house of prayer, for the most part.
And, then we need to be functioning as the body of Christ ought to, using the gifts God has imparted to us, and fulfilling the roles – the parts within the body of Christ to which he has assigned us to do and to be. And, we need to be speaking the truth in love to one another, and not lies, so that we can help one another to grow to maturity in Christ AS EACH PART DOES ITS WORK.
So, even if the church congregation with whom you have been affiliated is not following the biblical role model for how we are to operate, as Christ’s body, it doesn’t mean we can’t follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, individually, in doing what God intends for us to do in encouraging one another to walk in holiness and in obedience to our Lord.
People may think you are crazy, at first, if you try it, though, just so you know. But, start sharing Scriptures that have ministered to your heart with others. Share poems and songs, too, which inspire us to live godly and holy lives. Share a devotional God has given to you, or one you have read, to encourage others in walks of holiness, as well. And, use the gifts God has given you to minister God’s love and grace to one another, too.
And, this is an excellent time to begin with this, too, if you have not already made this your practice. You can post Scripture verses on Twitter, Facebook, Christian Discussion Forums (various ones), LinkedIn, emails, text messages, or on video chats or whatever. And, you can share words of encouragement, hope, and healing, and songs, hymns and psalms, too.
And, do this, not just publicly, but personally, one on one, for we all need encouragement, especially right now. But, don’t share shallow feel-good messages that water down the gospel of Jesus Christ and that coddle people in their sins, for that helps no one, and that only leads people astray.
For, to encourage others in Christ means to urge, to inspire, and to embolden one another to follow Jesus Christ in obedience, and to walk in holiness, and to let the Holy Spirit be the one to lead in our lives, and not the influences of the world.
And, honestly, you may not get a lot of kudos doing this, and you may even get some rejection, but you will be making a difference in people’s lives for eternity that far outweighs any rejection you may get in return. And, you will be blessed doing it, and others will be blessed by you doing it, too.
John W. Thompson / Randy Scruggs
Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary
Pure and holy, tried and true
With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living
Sanctuary for You
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