bits from bob....

What Does This Church Believe About...? (#4)

by Robert J. Young
©, 2002, Robert J. Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

God's people are to be the body of Christ where spiritual growth is nurtured, the temple of God and his Holy Spirit where worship is expected, the family of God sharing meaningful, intimate fellowship, and the fullness of Christ representing Christ's presence in the world. If the church is to minister the message of reconciliation [2 Cor. 5], we must rethink the role of preachers and the nature of ministry. The body will not grow up and nurture and edify itself until church leaders take seriously the challenge to prepare all Christians for works of service (ministry) [Eph. 4]. Each part of the spiritual body must fulfill the role which is his or hers.

Who is a minister? Are you? What does a minister do? Who is a priest? Are you? What do priests do? What is the difference between ministers and priests? Every Christian is a servant and a minister, every Christian is a priest with access to God. As long as we depend upon preachers to do all (or almost all) of our evangelism, the church will be stymied in getting the gospel message to the world. We will not be the fullness of Christ until we demand that individual Christians making up the corporate church represent and reflect Christ. The church that is serious about being Christ's fullness in the world cannot long countenance wimpy Christians. The standard is high; the challenge is to grow up in Christ.

We in the churches of Christ have affirmed the priesthood of believers in theory, and denied it in practice. The preacher is too often hireling, more often "magic." Everything must not revolve around hired personnel. When the first century church was scattered [Acts 8:4], the word was preached everywhere. But the apostles were still in Jerusalem! [Read the entire chapter.]

The contemporary church struggles with evangelism because our approach is incorrectly focused. Nowhere in the New Testament is anyone ever encouraged to be evangelistic. No one is ever shamed for being non-evangelistic, even in Corinth or in the letters to the seven churches. Evangelism is not by guilt, but by grace. Grace does not deny effort, it denies earning. Evangelism is not in fear, by deceit, or by manipulation.

Evangelism is by discipling (the word is often translated teach, as in Matt. 28:19). Mature Christians make disciples by teaching others, mark those disciples through baptism, and mature those disciples with further teaching. Only then can the cycle be repeated.

Paul told Timothy to entrust the word to faithful ones who could and would teach others. This is not just to develop more preachers. The servant of the Lord teaches. [All of this is in 2 Timothy 2.]

The maturing, growing body of Christ, seeking the stature of Christ's fullness, is able to speak the truth in love. This is the only way the message spreads. God saves people in relationship to others. The gospel of reconciliation is not only vertical, but is also horizontal [Eph. 2:11-22]. Every Christian must understand, apply, and live out these simple truths. We cannot love God whom we have not seen if we cannot get along with our brothers and sisters whom we have seen.

As long as we are immature, complaining, small, arrogant, reactionary, critical--we will hinder evangelism. The fullness of Christ must dwell in us by faith, just as God's fulness was in Christ [Col. 2:9]. The entire church must partake of the divine nature [2 Pet. 1:3,4]. That standard applied to every Christian will revolutionize the church's influence upon the world as light and leaven and salt. The church will not be guilt-focused. The church will be active, vibrant, vital, speaking the truth in love, compelled by Christ's love, snatching others from the fire. May it be so!

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Last updated January 7, 2002.