This is Part 2 of our new teaching series: “The Church!” John did a great job last weekend in Pt. 1 by giving us a great overview and setting us up for this series- talking about The Church universal and how to be a part of it and who we are as a part if it, etc. In Pt. 2 I want to answer the question: “How does the Church really work?” And I promise you this is going to be very practical for you personally and for us as a local church. But, before I unpack that, let me ask you this…
TENSION QUESTION: How many of you have been involved in a church that didn’t seem to work right, or you don’t know or care how it worked, or it simply didn’t work right according to how you thought it should?
Those are all legitimate questions and they most likely create some tension for a few reasons:
- The religious data in America seems to support the idea that the church may not work the way it’s supposed to. Way too many “unchurched” people with a previous “churched” experience!
- The church may not work right because we set it up like any other American organization, which may line up with the “laws of the land” but may not align very well with the “law of the Lord”, or how God says it’s supposed to work!
- PEOPLE! Enough said! Let’s be honest, we all have our quirks, our opinions, our selfishness to deal with, our experiences, our models, etc. Come on now, that’s true for all of us! And we ALL can have an IDEA of HOW WE THINK it should work!
TRANSITION: So, let’s consider some “Church 101” and look at some of the very basic, yet very crucial elements that tell us “how the church is suppose to work!”
How Does The Church Work? As a Theocracy not a Democracy!
Of course, theocratic government is not our orientation or inclination. Our American governmental system was developed by the Greeks and yes, we like it because of what it means!
Democracy [demos = the people; “cracy or kratos” = strength/rule, so democracy = rule by the people]! If we are brutally honest, it’s kind of crazy to suggest that THE CHURCH is ruled by people and not by God! Wouldn’t you agree??
Theocracy means “rule by God!” Think about it- who do you want in charge, you or God? Me or God? Sure, we like the “I’m in charge” deal when it’s all great, but then when it turns south, we’re quick to ask, “What happened God, why isn’t this working, aren’t YOU in charge?” Well, no, He wasn’t, and that was the problem!
Of course too, it’s hard for us to say God is in charge and He rules the church- government by One, when we can’t necessarily see Him, etc. So, what does that require from us for it to work right? Faith, obedience, and trust!
By faith, we accept that the Church belongs to God, Jesus is the Head, He is building it, and He needs to be in charge.
Through obedience, we align with the pattern for the Church according to the plan Jesus gave in the NT and make sure we function that way.
And we trust that IF God is in charge, then He will also take care of “business!”
Consider these verses:
Psalm 127:1 Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.
Mt. 16:18 Jesus said, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
Eph. 4:11-16 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
They all say the same thing! God is in charge because it’s His Church- Jesus is building it and resourcing it accordingly. Jesus builds His Church one person at a time, not one building at a time! The buildings only facilitate ministry to reach more people! The buildings are secondary and the “body” is primary!
And the body submits to the Lordship of Jesus and surrenders our rights so we can not only be in agreement but more importantly in alignment with how he has structured his Church- theocratically, not democratically!
How Does The Church Work? When It’s Founded on Godly Purpose Not on Selfish Pursuits!
The bottom line is that we must ultimately know what the church is, why it exists, and who it is for, and never make it about self-absorbed activities or self-centered ambitions! God’s purpose for the church must always be clear and our surrender, submission, and service to God’s purposes, especially in respect to the roles and responsibilities Jesus has established- called each of us specifically to, as the only way the Church can work right.
In Mark 8:34 Jesus essentially establishes the criteria for “Church Membership!” “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” And there it is! Surrender, Sacrifice, Submit! We leave our ego, our pride, our selfishness at the door; better yet, at the Cross so Jesus is not simply “Savior” but Lord- His purpose prevails!
The question must always be: “How does God want this to work?” What is God’s will? How does God want the church to be set up, structured, supported?? Those are the questions we must always ask so we are always serving His purposes, not our own. Because when this happens, guess what? You, me, those around us we’re called to reach, find that all our needs, hopes, and dreams, are met by Jesus at the Cross!
So, once we understand The Church is a theocracy and it’s about what God wants, this next thing is how the church get’s shaped…
How Does The Church Work? When It’s Formed by Biblical Principles Not by Man’s Politics!
Since the church is a theocracy; not a democracy nor a dictatorship, politics have no place in the church! It’s hard perhaps for some of us to realize that God is neither Republican nor Democrat! He is Sovereign!! That means God establishes the Law (thankfully full of grace and mercy), carries it out based on his own infallibility and integrity, and promises us “sonship”, “ownership”, and ultimate “liberty and justice!”
And God really only wants us to “vote” on one thing- to serve Him! Throughout the OT you see the struggle of Israel because they were constantly “voting” on everything except to serve God! You can’t find one place in the Bible where Israel voted for the right thing- they voted not to leave Egypt, voted not to cross into the Promised Land, voted not to have God has their king, voted not to accept Jesus!
I’m not suggesting we can’t vote… I’m simply saying that we want to keep voting to a minimum because most of the time all voting does is pit us against one another because of politics and opinions! There’s little room for the presence of God when the Church becomes “political!”
We must never forget that Jesus came to build a church not become the candidate for a political party! God simply does not want our lives to be governed by politics because in the end, that only pits us against one another, against our world, and sometimes, against God, and actually leaves us with very little accountability!
In politics accountability is about legislating more rules- the lowest level of accountability possible!! In The Church, accountability is realized through loving relationships!
In politics credibility is all about accomplishments… In The Church, credibility is all about proven character!
In politics everything is about what pleases people… In The Church everything is about what pleases God!
That’s why, instead of politics, God gives us principles to live by: The Beatitudes, the Golden Rule, the Great Commandment, that reveal the best possible life we could want for ourselves, as well for others to be on the receiving end of! Jesus says, “Aspire to these things and see if the world isn’t a better place because you’re a better person!
The Church can only be shaped by the principles of God’s Word as exemplified through the life of Christ, never by politics… Which means finally this…
How Does The Church Work? When it is Functioning According to the Biblical Pattern Not According to Popular Opinion!
One of the most challenging things Jesus tells us about being followers and part of His Church is this: “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” John 15:19
Jesus also prayed this: “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” John 17:14
Then Paul comes along and says this: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs (“patterns”) of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Rom. 12:2
So, when you apply these statements to who and what they’re referring to: “The Church”- you realize that God structures and sets things up differently than the “world” does! Jesus says, Paul says, “Don’t pattern yourself or The Church the way the world does!”
Now, that’s both a challenge and sometimes a balancing act because we’re also called to “obey the laws of the land!” Yet, we must organize and operate according to the blueprint and pattern we see in the NT Church! That’s what’s great- we have a pattern to follow!!
God wants us to organize on purpose, to build people, not programs, to operate according to HOW THE CHURCH WORKED IN ITS ORIGINAL CONTEXT! The New Testament, especially from Acts to Revelation is the proof and documentation of the church working right and how it worked right! There is a pattern revealed that I’ll briefly relate…
- The Church is the Body of Christ and He is the Head!
- The Church is Led by Leaders Who are Appointed and Anointed by Christ to Equip the Church! (Primarily Elders and Deacons)
- The Church is Called and Commissioned by Christ to BE and to GO MAKE Disciples!
- The Church is People in Relationship, with God-Ordained Responsibilities Accounted for According to God-Ordained Roles!
Show the “New” Constitution and Bylaws… This is our best attempt to align ourselves organizationally with the NT pattern for The Church! It may or may not be a perfect document to lay out how we align with those three things, since it requires us to meet certain requirements for incorporation in the State of Colorado. But, it does not compromise How the Church Works according to the NT pattern!
At the end of the day, you can take this document and lay it down beside this book- the Bible, and we can agree with this (Constitution) but we better be sure we are aligned with this- the Bible! And it really isn’t nearly as complicated as we try to make it…
HOW DOES THE CHURCH WORK?? I think this says it all. Again, it’s the words of Jesus: “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35
That’s Church 101! The Church works because we truly, honestly, and deeply love one another! The culture needs the church to work right! You, me, need it to work right.