I have seen a post many times over the last week on FACEBOOK. I’ll call it “GO TO CHURCH ANYWAY”.
I would never refuse a lost person or soul seeking Jesus Christ, into a gathering of the church, on Sunday morning or evening. When a hurting soul, not normally affiliated with the body of Christ comes in, it is a time, where the saints can practice grace and mercy.
That being said, let’s pump the breaks for a moment, because much of the positive feedback and comments, appear to be coming from the mindset, that the gathering of the church is a place for the lost to be ministered too, as a biblical and foundational piece of the mandate for the Church of Jesus Christ. Under this mindset, evangelism takes place in the building a group of Christians gather in—therefore the building must be outfitted to be user friendly to those who may be seeking (whether lost or very immature in their faith).
This mindset is not biblical, PERIOD! For in this mode of thinking, discipling the saints to grow into maturity must take a back seat to getting people to commit to Christ for salvation. Though I would never turn anyone away who comes to the building Encounter Church fellowships in, my priority is to the Body of Christ. This priority is outlined in Acts 20:28-31.
Acts 20:28-31 (NKJV) Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also, from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.
One of the perverse things is what is called antinomianism, which declares, if a person is saved and sinning it’s alright because they have God’s grace and are not accountable to God’s moral law. Sadly, this perverse thing is spoken against throughout the New Testament letters and is the foundation of many American church’s program of seeker sensitivity. It is also why the church likes true repentance, righteousness, and holiness, across the United States (generally speaking). Therefore, ministers take their mandate, not from pithy statements, but God’s word.
2 Timothy 4:1-5 (NKJV) I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
Because of our calling in Christ, I challenge those who are saying Amen to this popular FACEBOOK posting. I believe it is important to explore why, so many are so enthusiastic for something so foreign to New Testament practice, according to the word of God. Let us dig beneath the surface.
I. IS THE CHURCH EVANGELISM FOCUSED OR DISCIPLESHIP FOCUSED?
The answer to this is, BOTH, but we must understand where and how these take place. Let us investigate Matthew 28:18-20. In vs. 19 Jesus commands “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”. The command to “Go” means to physically “Go” out from where you are and find those who have yet to believe in Christ. This is the core of evangelism, a calling of the Church, but not its function when we gather.
Evangelism is to lead to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (the conditions for salvation), which is seen in one’s commitment to be baptized. We find that the making of the disciple is “teaching them to observe all the things…” Jesus commanded (vs. 20). In the early and uninstitutionalized church of acts of the apostles (really until about the middle of the 4th century), this was the model. Lost people were not invited into the fellowship of the saints, until they were baptized, which indicated they were willing to die for Christ.
Outside of America and other westernized nations, weekly gatherings of Christians, as times and places for bringing in the lost, is unheard of for two reasons:
- Those who are unsaved can contaminate the fellowship of holiness and bring in strange doctrine.
- For fear of being found out and shutdown or imprisoned by infiltrators.
Both reasons, line up with the passages sighted above (Acts 20:28-31; 2 Timothy 4:1-5). It appears, the church of Jesus Christ, in more difficult and persecutive surroundings has a different idea of the purpose of Christ’s church.
None of this means I would turn away a sincere seeker who wanders into a time of fellowship. The only issue is that the fellowship of the saints is for the building of the saints. This entails what is taught and practiced will lead to sanctified lives. For the sincere seeker this can lead to salvation, as they consider the claims and calling of Christ. For the person looking to fit into religion for the sake of a guilty conscience, who desire to remain in a sinful state, this will lead to being extremely uncomfortable.
II. SO WHAT IS THE CHURCH?
The church of Jesus Christ goes by a few names among them…
- The Church (Ephesians 5:27; Timothy 3:15; Hebrews 12:23)
- The Bride of Christ (Revelation 19:7-9; Revelation 21:2, 9-11)
- The Temple of the Living God, the habitation of the Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22)
- The House of God made of living stones (I Peter 2:4-5)
- A royal priesthood (I Peter 2:9)
- A holy nation (I Peter 2:9)
- His peculiar people He possesses (I Peter 2:9)
All of these speak of our separation from the world, purity as opposed to even the highest moral of the lost world (a form of godliness which denies the power of true godliness), and our being His property. One verse encapsulates all seven characteristics or names.
Ephesians 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
From this passage we see how the church, as the bride of Christ is perfectly compatible with the other. The word for “church” in the Greek is “ekklēsia” meaning “the called out one”. This being called out is similar to a bride adjourned on her wedding day, “holy” or set apart for her husband. The Church as the bride of Christ is called out from the world to Christ alone. In addition, this bride is the picture of holy perfection “glorious”, “not having spot or wrinkle”. This means the righteousness of Christ in practice, and in being before God.
This passage should once and for all knock the unbiblical idea of “the church is a hospital for sinners” out of the water. We are to be maturing in faith, peace, righteousness and holiness. We are holy in our essential person, no longer sinners and children of wrath. This is why the association with followers of Jesus being sinners in being is unbiblical. Do we sin? Yes, but it is not our practice because in Christ our core being has changed (Read Romans 6 the entire chapter II Corinthians 5:17 and I John 3:4-9). More on the hospital for sinners’ error in a bit.
III. WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE CHURCH?
The purpose of the church gathering together is as follows…
- TO BUILD THE BODY OF CHRIST TO MATURITY: Ephesians 4:11 begins a chapter long treatise on how apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are to build the body of Christ. Note that evangelist, was not the Billy Graham style we are used to, but men like Phillip who would go to an area of the unchurched, and preach the gospel, person to person and group to group. Once a body was formed, the apostles came in and gathered the new believers into fellowship, in an organized fashion, anchored by the apostles teaching. Though the evangelist would model his ministry to growing Christians, this would be as they went out among the lost of the city they were in.
- ONCE BUILT TO SEND OUT: Once built up it was incumbent the leadership would fulfill the “Go” of Jesus’ Great Commission, by sending out the members of the church to reach the lost among neighbors and friends. Once more this took place away from the gathering of the saints for two purposes. In this we see the purpose of the Church being “salt and light” (Matthew 5:13-16) and living its calling “to proclaim the praises of the one who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light (I Peter 2:10).
- CONSTANTLY DOING THIS TOGETHER IN SEEKING THE LORD: Hebrews 10:19-31 really hits the whole calling the lost into our meetings apart. Firstly, looking at Hebrews 10:19-25, we discover the beauty and exclusivity of Christian fellowship, because we are in Christ, we have privilege the world cannot understand or enjoy. Secondly remember that the Hebrews were being persecuted, to the point where some were leaving the fellowship of the saints to avoid trouble (vs. 25). So offensive to God is a follower of Christ leaving the fellowship, He gives this severe warning.
Hebrews 10:25-31 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
The church did not invite the world in because of fear of persecution. Around the world this is the case. You may say, “but we are not persecuted as they so it’s different.” Yes, it is. The reason we have not been persecuted overtly, is because the world has infiltrated and defiled the church, while we claim it’s a move of God that sinners love to come and stay. The unholy, prayer starved Church in America, is proof positive that the hospital for sinners is not working to mature saints, but rather has become a hospice house where the religious die with a pie in the sky view point of heaven one day.
Consider these commands from II Corinthians 6:14-18…
“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers”
“What fellowship does righteousness have with unrighteousness?”
“And what communion does light have with darkness?”
“And what accord does Christ have with Satan”
“Or what part does a believer have with an unbeliever”
“And what agreement does the temple of God have with idols?”
“Come out from among them and be separate”
“Do not touch what is unclean”
2 Corinthians 7:1 Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
When the church is in the business of making the lost feel at home in the fellowship of the saints, then the Lord Himself is not welcome in the midst of His own church. Yes the lost can come, if we have public services, but should they not find conviction, they’ll stay and become a blemish and spot on the character of the assembly and true teaching of the word of God.
Consider that much of the New Testament, including some of the most fearful warnings to the church from Christ in Revelation 2-3, is directed at world practice becoming acceptable in churches where the line between saint and the person still in their sin is blurred into nothing.
As a matter of fact, the rise of the Nicolaitans, who’s deeds and doctrine Jesus hates, reveal this truth (Revelation 2:6, 15). What were their deeds? They created the office of priest, much like the Roman Catholic Church, to absolve the sins of the people.
Why would they need to do that you may ask? Because their doctrine was antinomianism, which declared that the Christian need not worry about sin, because they had the grace of God, and when they built up enough guilt, they could go to a priest who would absolve their sin.
Not only is this in complete defiance of how normal believers walk in continual forgiveness with the Lord (I John 1:7-9; James 5:14-16), but it was enacted because antinomianism let the world into the church. They no longer saw the need to call people to repentance and faith in Christ. They merely pronounced professions.
This did not create a hospital for sinners, but a morgue of slowly rotting spiritual corpses (Read of the church of Sardis in Revelation 3:1-6). In practical terms, a hospital is not about the sick staying sick, but getting well and moving on. We are born again, fresh new creations into the church of Jesus Christ; new creations learning to be what we are.
If the church is a hospital at all it would be the post operation, where surgery is done and new life is disciplined in; but that leaves the hospital for sinner’s analogy dead, because you are no longer a sinner.
What the church in America has become is a convalescent home where true followers of Christ, wait if perchance someone would come along and share their desire for a healthy powerful and whole church. They wait while fighting off the disease and decay of others with them (who are not like them), because a majority of those they are gathering with, still live a religious sinner’s life.
May God correct us that we will awaken and enliven before it’s is too late. We do not want to become like the roach motels sold in stores today. Churches that look alive and accommodating but are really dead (Revelation 3:1-6), where the people check in, but being deceived, check out into the second death having had their names blotted out of the Lambs Book of Life.
Maybe we ought to rethink what it means to be the Church!