Sunday was my first time to preach at Vaiden Baptist Church in three weeks. I have been out of my pulpit for the last three weeks participating in revival meetings. I want to interject how amazed I am at some of the evangelists I know who preach 40+ revivals a year. I do not know how they do this! I was in three different churches over three different weeks and felt like I had not been active in my home in months. As I ate, interacted and preached in these churches I noticed certain things about these churches. This has got me pondering about some of my experiences from a lifetime of being in churches. Allow me to share a few observations from my experiences and Scripture.
I. CHURCHES ARE UNIQUE.
From time to time I will read or hear a person share what is wrong with churches, or what churches need to do, or the latest trends in churches. I advise everyone not to give too much credence to such articles for every church is different. In the churches I preached in recently there were countless differences. One church ran every facet of the service off video projection. One did not have video projection or screen at all. I was not aware there were any churches without video projection left. One church had a steeple and one did not. One church had huge stain glass windows and one had small windows that were barely noticeable. One church began at 11:00, one began at 10:45 and the other began at 10:30. In one church every man in leadership wore a tie. In one church no one wore a tie. One church gave a hearty “amen” throughout the service. One church looked at me as if they were frightened and trying to figure out what I was going to do next. I read of their ministries from the bulletins. One church was intentional in attempting to impact the kids of their community. They were advertising events and ministries through the summer targeting children. One church was concerned about ministry to their members in need. They discussed various needs and problems of church members. They made plans and preparation to meet these needs. Because of the internet it is possible for laymen to read expert opinions about what their church should be doing and look like. CHURCHES ARE UNIQUE.
II. CHURCHES ARE SPECIAL.
Some practices in churches would drive me out of the ministry if they were done in the church I pastor but some of our practices would aggravate or even infuriate some. Once I preached some services for a church that sang one particular song as the call to worship every service. I need to add they also sung it poorly and without any emotion. It was a brutal experience. I have many friends that I have preached for who take prayer request in each service. I don’t think I could handle taking prayer requests at the beginning of each service. To me, it is a service killer. Imagine having a stirring call to worship filled with emotion followed by someone saying pray for …….. insert gut wrenching prayer request here. There is a time for intercessory prayer. Again, to me, this is not the time. Some churches love testimony time. I have preached many services where at the end of the service the question was asked, “Does anyone have anything to say before we go?” If I ever say that call 911; I am having a stroke. Some have greeting time. Some recognize birthdays and anniversaries. Some are formal others are casual. Some are made up of old congregation others younger people. They are all special. We have bought into the mindset that growing, large, cutting edge equals special. Wrong! That church that sings the same song as a funeral march every Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night is special. She is special to God and to those precious saints who attend faithfully. They love their church and how they do church. We are to admire the strongest, fastest growing churches. However, we are to admire any church who is faithful to the Lord and His Word. Regardless of size, average age or type of ministries churches are special.
III. THE LOCAL CHURCH IS THE CHURCH.
This thought will be confusing to many today who have bought into the notion of the universal church. Today, the view of the local church is so low that some professing Christians scarce believe the local church is necessary. This is a foreign concept to the New Testament. What is done in the name of Jesus in the New Testament following the ascension is done through the local church. The local church is seen as the church in the New Testament. The common Greek word for church in the New Testament is “ekklesia.” This word means a called out assembly. This would have to be a local assembly. The majority of the time when you read the word “church” in the New Testament it is referring to a local assembly. For instance, I Thessalonians 1:1 reads, “Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy: To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to you and peace.” Any question what Paul means? He is writing to a local assembly meeting in Thessalonica. Read I Cor. 4:17, “This is why I have sent Timothy to you. He is my dearly loved and faithful son in the Lord. He will remind you about my ways in Christ Jesus, just as I teach everywhere in every church.” Paul taught in the local church. Certainly we understand there are Christians around the world who have trusted Jesus and are part of the body of Christ. However, the believer is to function and focus on the local church. The New Testament pattern is the work of the Lord is done through the local church.
One final thought on this matter, the Lord’s Supper and Baptism are the two ordinances of the church. They are to be administered in a local church setting. There is a real danger today of believers loving the church universal while ignoring what the New Testament describes as church – “the local called out assembly.”
IV. ALL BELIEVERS NEED TO BE PART OF A CHURCH.
We have all heard the nonsense of learning deep truths about God in nature. People use this thought to justify their golf, fishing, hunting, farming, swimming, sleeping late, etc… and dropping out of church. Romans 1 does describe that certain things about God can be realized through nature. Those attributes that can be recognized are He is God and He has eternal power. The revelation from nature is limited. You can’t learn of God’s redeeming love or His eternal plan from nature. You can’t discern the fruit of the Spirit by watching a sunrise. You can learn that God exists and is all powerful from nature. Hebrews 10:25 reads, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” For the believer, these unique, special, local churches are necessary. I can’t imagine not being part of a local assembly. I love preaching revivals and sharing in as many churches as I can. However, I miss something when I am absent from my local assembly. I need them and they need me. We need each other so that we can be built up and mature in Christ. This is the function of the local church.
V. VAIDEN BAPTIST CHURCH IS THE BEST!
After three weeks of being away it was awesome to be home yesterday!