We have been going through a sermon series at the church where I serve as Pastor this month called “Rethinking the Church.” If you were to ask the common person on the street what they thought of when they heard the word “church,” you would get a variety of answers. It is for this reason that I believe that we should look to the Bible to give us a clear understanding of what the church should be.The church is to be a group of people that come from different walks of life and encourage one another as we seek to fulfill God’s purposes here on the earth. This is called community.
As the Bible shows us that the church is to be a community that is dependent upon one another, the question may come up “Why?” Why is it so important that the church be a community that shares life together with one another?
I would answer that question by saying that the church community is important because it is a part of God’s plan in building us into who we are supposed to be.
God has a plan of bringing redemption to our fallen world. Sin has entered in and wreaked havoc on everything. It has messed up our relationship with God, our relationship with other people, nature, and everything else.
God did not desire all of this destruction that has been left in the path of sin. This is why, from the beginning, He had a plan to make things right. He planned to come Himself and make things right. This is why Jesus Christ came to earth. He lived the life that we were supposed to live. He died our death – paying our penalty of sin. He arose from the grave to give us hope and assurance that His plan was at work.
Before Jesus left this world, He charged His followers (the church) to continue the mission that He began. We see that most clearly in what is called the Great Commission.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
This is a mighty task that we as the church have been given. We are responsible for taking the message of the gospel to all who need it. There is no place under the sun where this gospel is not needed. It seems that everywhere you turn there are people who are living in the shackles of sin’s clutches.
It would seem easy enough to understand that we as followers of Jesus Christ would need to take this gospel to those who we come in contact with and who need it so desperately. The question that continues to pop up in my mind is “why don’t we?”
I think sometimes the greatest hindrance that we have to doing what God has tasked us to do is a lack of boldness.
If you were to look up the word boldness in the dictionary, it would say something like “not hesitating or fearful in the face of actual or possible danger or rebuff; courageous and daring.” Sadly, this is a term that has dropped in its usage over the past 200 years.
The presence of danger or resistance has been around since sin entered into our world. We do not like danger or resistance. We would like to have a comfortable life, but Jesus warned us very plainly that in this world where sin is present, that would not happen.
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
It is because of the ever-presence of danger in our sin-filled world and the amazing task to share the gospel with all who need it that we need the church. The church is to be a place where this boldness needed to carry out our task is shared and grown in our lives.
I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. (Philippians 1:12–14)
Paul wrote to the church at Philippi about the situation that he was in. He was in prison for his commitment to the task of sharing the gospel with people. No doubt there were many who were concerned for him. Not only concerned for Paul but for themselves. Would this fate come upon them?
Adversity is not something that many would willingly put on their “to-do” list each day. Most of us strive to steer clear of any adversity that would try to come our way. It is seen as a type of plague that we should stay away from at all costs.
Adversity can be a good thing though. Adversity can actually build and reveal the quality of what is inside of us.
Paul states that the adversity that he was going through at the moment of writing (imprisonment) was actually serving to advance the gospel message to places and people it had never been before.
There is a teaching that is becoming more and more popular today that if one follows Christ then everything will be fine and dandy for them. They should not face any kind of adversity if they just have enough faith. That is a good definition of one ancient Hebrew phrase that Dr. Chuck Kelley (President of NOBTS) likes to use: “bologna.”
If Jesus said that this world will be filled with tribulations and adversities of all kinds, who do we think that we are to say that isn’t so?God can use any adversity that comes against the church to accomplish His plan, and more importantly He will.
How does God use adversity in the life of the church?
God uses adversity to build boldness in the life of the church to accomplish the mission.
And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. (Philippians 1:14)
Paul said that most of the Christians who had heard about his circumstances were not fearful or scared, but that they were speaking more boldly the gospel message.
There have been people from the very beginning days of the church who have believed that if they can simply persecute or instill fear in the church, then they could shut it down. The truth is that the church has only become bolder in its mission when it faces adversity.
When adversity comes against the church and the church seeks the Lord, the Holy Spirit rises up a boldness to stand strong. We realize that God gives us armor for the fight and the ability to stand strong together as the Body of Christ.
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Ephesians 6:13)
When people see the church standing not in their own strength but in the strength of the Lord, it causes a curiosity as to what does the church have that is missing from everywhere else. This gives the church the opportunity to share the great gospel of Jesus Christ with those who need it.
Adversity is never a fun thing. It will tend to last much longer than anyone would desire. It will cost more than many would like to pay. But for the church, it is a builder of boldness to accomplish the mission that we have been given.
The church is so much more than just a place where we come to sing songs and listen to a person speak. It is a community where we come together under the banner of Jesus Christ and bear one another’s burdens. We see the Holy Spirit build boldness in each member to be faithful to the task of taking the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who need it.