Search This Blog

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Anxiety for the Local Church

χωρίς των παρεκτός ή επιστασις μοι ή καθ ήμεραν, ή μέριμνα πασών τών εκκλησιών (2 Cor. 11:28).  "Apart from other external things, there is the daily pressure upon me of anxiety (concern) for all the churches" (My translation).
Paul has just given a lengthy list of the physical pains that he had endured.  Apparently he could have added or expanded upon this list of things that his body had gone through.  He now switches to something that he sees as an even greater battle.  "Apart from other external things" that he could have listed there is one thing that never eased up on him internally.  The thing that robbed him of sleep or of rest was 'the daily pressure of anxiety' that he had for all the churches.  Countless things were happening in the world during Paul's time and his external body was paying a price for his devotion to the things of God, but the one thing that consumed Paul was his love for the εκκλησία (church).

επιστασις (pressure) - "Responsibility for a matter, pressure, care . . . the sense of anxiety caused by a heavy sense of responsibility" (BDAG).  μέριμνα (anxiety, concern) - "Anxiety, worry, care" (BDAG)  The antonym (opposite) for the word anxiety is unconcern.  The apostle Paul was not a man who exhibited no concern for the local church, but rather he felt the pressure daily and lived his life in continual concern for 'all the churches'.

The word for anxiety can be used negatively or positively.  Negatively it is used in the gospels to show that some of the seed that was scattered was choked out by the 'cares' of the world.  These people were so consumed with the world that they never produced any fruit of the kingdom of God.  Paul is the opposite of this.  His concern was not for the world.  Paul's heart, soul, and mind was consumed with the local churches of his day.  He was not a false apostle (2 Cor. 11:1-15), but rather he was a true apostle and this was seen in his zealous love for the local churches.

A pastor who has no love for the local church is no pastor at all.  There is a list of qualifications for being an elder of a local church (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9) and Paul would also by example show that 'concern' for the local church is also a qualification for any minister of the living God.  The Lord Jesus shows His concern for the local church in that He laid down His life for the sheep (John 10:11) and He obtained the church of God with His own blood (Acts 20:28).

The Lord Jesus so loved the church that He gave His life to obtain her.  The apostle Paul so loved the church that his life was consumed with care for her.  The men and women who have gone before us were martyred, burned at the stake, sawn in two, ripped to pieces by wild beasts, imprisoned, and hated by the world because of their undying love for the Lord Jesus and His church.

What about you?  Do you love the church?  Is your mind and heart consumed with ways to serve the local church better?  Do you look for ways to be a blessing to your church?  Do you consistently pray on the behalf of your church?  Are you the one who is always speaking positively about your church?  Examine your heart today and see where you are in your affections towards the church.  If you desire to love God, follow Jesus, be led by the Spirit, and imitate the apostle Paul then you will naturally grow in your love for the church.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Only Local Church

"We give thanks to God always for all of you . . . mentioning . . . remembering . . . and knowing (1 Thessalonians 1:3-4).  Paul mentions this local church constantly in his prayers.  He remembers their 'work of faith', 'labor of love', and their 'steadfastness of hope'.  Paul's heart for this church is expressed in 1 Thess. 2:17 and his heartache that occurred because he was απορφανίζω  'torn away' from them. He wanted to come to them, but at this time he was hindered.  He had a great desire to see them "face to face", but was unable at the time.  Paul loved this local church.

Praise the Lord that somebody truly has a love for a local body of believers.  Paul had preached the gospel that birthed this church and was run out of town for it (Acts 17:1-9) along with Silas.  It is safe to say that Paul had paid some high prices as a result of his love for the local church.

It seems strange today that when a pastor speaks highly of the local church and teaches clearly the responsibility of the church members, someone will inevitably say, "So you think your church is the only church in town".  It would be akin to someone reading Paul's letter to the Thessalonians and concluding that they were the only church in the world.  This type of response to a pastor who loves his church and teaches responsibility for his members is unfounded and misguided.

For an example one would only need to consider marriage.  A man begins to explain what a wonderful wife he has, how patient she is, how loving she is, and how beautiful she is. The people that he shares this with respond and say, "So you think your wife is the only woman in the world".  The husband would aptly respond and say, "No, she is just the only woman in the world that I have committed myself to in marriage".

The church that you belong to is not the only church in the world, nor the only church in your town, but the church you belong to is the only church that you have committed yourself to serve your Lord in.  Certainly there are biblical reasons and exceptions for leaving a local church, but many people are leaving churches for reasons that cannot be justified by the person leaving.  

Biblical reasons for leaving a local church would include death, being providentially moved out of the area, being called into a ministry that would require your departure, the church makes major doctrinal changes that clearly goes against the sound teaching of the Word of God, and other like reason could be listed.

Un-biblical reasons for leaving a church would include hurt feelings, not getting your way about a matter, desire for something bigger and better to appeal to your flesh, unreconciled relationships, looking for a place where there will be no demands upon your life, looking for a place that no one will hold you accountable, and other like reasons.

If you possess an attitude towards your church that is more negative than positive then it is time to repent and develop a new attitude.  Confess your issues to God and confess the wrongs that you have toward your church, your leadership, or towards your other brothers and sisters.  Ask for God's forgiveness over your sin and for strength to reconcile any broken relationships that you have.  Secondly, look for ways to humbly serve your church for the glory of God and for your good.  Lead out in prayer, door to door witnessing, assisting in property maintenance, and find creative ways to show your commitment to the local church where you currently hold membership.  Ask God to grant you a great love for your church and that by the Holy Spirit you will be empowered to serve your Lord in the local church that you call home. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Perfection in the church

I ran across an interesting quote concerning the local church by John Calvin and thought it was worth writing down.

"If the Lord himself teaches that the Church will struggle with the burden of countless sinners until the day of judgment, it is obviously futile to look for a Church totally free from faults".

The number of reasons that people leave churches is entirely to long to list, but in my observation and in the circles that I run in, the reason that people leave churches is because they are churches.  What does that mean?  The generation that I live in goes to church for far different reasons that the bible gives for being a part of the church.  The bible explains church to be about truth, holiness, discipline, godly fellowship, accountability, work of faith, labor of love, steadfastness of hope, receivers of the Word, examples to the world, and turning from idols to serve the living God.  

Today's generations goes to church for entertainment, baby sitting, cheap prices on summer camps to get their children out of their hair, conscience appeasing, pizza, programs, reputation, social status, and certainly for what exciting things they can provide for the kids.  Note: None of the above things have a biblical foundation for church.  

Back to Calvin's quote.  Those who are always looking for another church, because the one that they are a part of has so many faults.  All the future churches they go to will have faults and the overlooked truth is that the fault most always is in the person who keeps finding faults.   

Final observation:  Instead of looking for a church free from faults, perhaps you could find a church that would expose your faults.  That is what a biblical church does, because the biblical church exist for the glory of God and not the exaltation of man.  As John F. MacArthur said, "It is absolutely essential that a church perceive itself as an institution established for the glory of God.  I fear that the church in America has descended from that lofty purpose and focused instead on humanity".  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


"My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth . . . (James 5:19).  

I have been preaching through the book of James for the past year and will come to the final two verses this Sunday.  I have only done my preliminary study so far, but I was startled by the word 'wander'.  In Greek πλανάω means "to proceed without a proper sense of direction, go astray, be misled, wander about aimlessly (BDAG)".  Webster defines it this way, "to move about without a fixed course, aim, or goal, to go idly about, to follow a winding course, to go astray".  For a word picture it is like a cork in the middle of the ocean.  The cork simply goes with wind and tide ever closer to the bank.  In the text the wanderer is aimlessly going through life and each day he is getting further away from the truth.  Like the cork (if the water represents the truth) he is aimlessly getting more and more shallow.  

The apostle Paul tells Timothy that the church of the living God is the "pillar and support of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15).  It strikes me today as I live in a town that has over 100 churches listed in the phone book that the little corner of the world that I live in is made up of wanderers.  People wander in and out of church every day.  The book we are studying in Sunday School (Life in the Father's House; Wayne Mack and Dave Swavely) stated that "53,000 people leave churches every week and never come back"!  That is simply staggering to my heart and mind.  I am perplexed, saddened, and grieved over the self-inflicted destruction of people who will throw away one church after another as they aimlessly wander further from God and closer to shallow worldliness.  

It is heartbreaking to think that people who confess to be followers of Jesus  Christ will wander from church to church and even complain about the churches they leave, but yet they will be unremittingly committed to the school-house, job, secular groups (Boy Scouts, Athletics, Chamber of Commerce, etc), and to personal hobbies.  On the above listed groups they will encounter selfish people, mean people, disgruntled people, arrogant people, deceptive people, and even downright evil people.  However, even with those type of people they will not wander away from these groups, but if something at church does not go their way they quickly wander on to something supposedly better down the road.  

With all the wandering that goes on today I have a question.  Why do people overwhelmingly wander from church to church, but do not wander away from the worldly institutions in the same way?  Well to answer the question I must quote my grandmother (100 years old and will be 101 this month) when she told me, "John Randall, people do what they want to do".  There is great revelation in this statement by my grandmother and it centers on the word 'want/desire'.  When a person has 'want/desire' he will endure any difficulty for the sake of being a part of what he loves.  When a person is simply doing something for the sake of conscience he will easily wander from one group to another because he has not the 'want/desire' for the truth.  Any man who loves truth will be committed to the end to the local church.  Why will he be committed?  He will be committed because the church is the "pillar and support of the truth".  

Do you want to stop your wandering ways?  I recommend that you look to Jesus Christ as your true north on your spiritual compass.  Jesus is the truth and there is no truth outside of Him.  Jesus Christ has a bride and her name is church (Rev. 21:9).  Find a church that preaches the Word, observes communion and baptism and invest your life there for the glory of God and for your own good.  Give 100 percent to your local church until you die and trust that God will bless anyone who loves His bride.  

Stop wandering around like a cork in the ocean and put your anchor down on biblical truth!  Dear wanderer, if you continue wandering you will kill yourself with a multitude of sins.  However, if you will cling steadfastly to Jesus Christ and demonstrate your love to Him by serving His bride you will find great favor in His eyes.