I am starting a new preaching series at church. This series will deal with the topic of The Church. I don't normally preach topically, I have a strong belief in expository preaching, but I also believe that there are times when certain topics need to be addressed. I would like to share the two most dominant reasons why I am embarking on this study.
Reason #1 - There are several major misconceptions about the Church.
I feel like, especially in the last few months, that I am constantly encountering several major misconceptions about the church. These misconceptions are exuding from people who are on the outside of the church, but also from those who are inside the church. (When I say "inside" and "outside" the church, I am speaking about those who attend regularly and those who do not attend regularly or not at all.)
One of the most frequently encountered misconceptions goes something like this, "The Church is an optional part of the Christian life." or "The Church isn't a vital part of my spiritual life." We've all encountered this in the form of the guy who believes that he can be "...just as close to God while I'm fishing as I could ever be in a church building!" But this misconception is growing and is changing into an overall sense of "the church is bad, but God is good" and is resulting in (literally) millions of people leaving the church.
I recently read about a study from George Barna, president of the Barna Group, that describes this shift away from church as revolutionary and he wants to be a part of it. He even implies that this personal shift away from church, that so many Americans are involved in, is irrelevant to God by stating, "Whether you become a Revolutionary immersed in, minimally involved in, or completely disassociated from a local church is irrelevant to me (and, within boundaries, to God)."
You can read more about George Barna's thoughts on this topic in the Christianity Today article titled, No Church? No Problem. And though I am not recommending it, nor have I read it, there is a book by George Barna dealing with this same topic. It is called Revolution.
Even though I do not believe that everyone outside of church is not a Christian, I do believe that it is a serious fallacy to believe that leaving the church is completely disconnected from leaving God. Church was (and is) God's idea. Christ is very intimately and passionately connected to the Church. And because I've read the end of the story, I know that Christ's passion for His Church comes to fruition in the last days. He never gives up on the idea of Church.
So, I am going back to the Bible to see what it says about church. I want to know what God says about this topic, since it is His project. I am praying that God will give me wisdom as I consider the illustrations, examples, and teachings concerning the church.
Reason #2 - I am convinced that Edgewood (the church where I pastor) is not as Biblical as it should be.
...or maybe I should say, "as it could be." Don't get me wrong, I love my church. I love the people who are there. I love that God has brought me here at this place, at this time. I've seen God's hand in so many ways at this church already, but I am convinced that change in a Biblical direction needs to happen.
Frankly, it doesn't do any good to study the Bible on any topic without considering how to put that into practice in your own life. If we study the church, then we need to ask how we can be a more Biblical church. During the first few weeks of being a pastor I would say occasionally that we wanted to be God's kind of Church. If that is true, then this is where we need to go. I have come to care less about who is coming to church or how many are coming to church, than I do about what type of church we are.
If you are the praying sort, then I would appreciate your prayers as I study this topic, as I learn what the Bible says, as I seek to diligently preach these truths, and as my church collides with scripture, pray that we will be willing to change.