The Church for Every Generation

There is a new word being tossed about in religious discussions.  The “dones” is a reference to a generation of people who are “done” with the church. The “dones” are professing Christians who maintain a relationship with God, but have no use for what they perceive to be the “church.” What they perceive is probably not reality!  Image is not everything.  For nearly 15 years I have pleaded with professing Christians to quit going to church in the sense of going to a “place” called by the name “church.” .  Over the past couple of years, I’ve heard more and more people tell me “I quit going to church.”  I know what they mean, but my response is, “no, you did not quit going to church” if you are a Christian! You may have quit going to a place referred to as the “church.”  Maybe you are merely a professing Christian and in that case you never went to church. “Going to church” is a bad habit that has endured for at least 150 years in this country.  The phrase “go or going to church” more properly refers to conversion and becoming part of the church.  Jesus said, “I will build my church.”  Those words were inspired by God and recorded by Matthew.  I don’t normally refer to the Greek text, but I’m frustrated, so here is a layman friendly lesson from the Greek text.  The Greek word translated “build” is from the Greek word oikodomeo.  It is a future, active, indicative verb which I take to be a predictive future tense.  It means the action will take place in the future.. It is in the active voice, which literally means “I will  be building” or to put it another way it will constantly and daily take place in the future.  It is in the indicative mood which means it is an indisputable fact.  What was Jesus going to build for the rest of human existence?  The church, which is one of the most misused, misinterpreted, and misrepresented words in the English Bible.  The Greek word inspired by the Holy Spirit, recorded by Matthew and preserved for every generation is the noun ekklesia.  It is compound noun derived from the preposition ek which means “out of” and I will suffer you the pain of explaining the spherical qualitites of Greek prepositions. The proper Greek noun  kaleo is literally translated  “to call”. So ekklesia (church) is literally “the called out ones.”  The church consists of those people from every corner of the earth and in every generation that has belonged, now belongs, or will belong to God, because of the finished atoning work of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.  To put it in familial terms, the church is the family of God.  So the unbeliever hears the good saving news of the gospel, is convicted and enabled by the Holy Spirit to trust Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.    It is “like” going to church and will be the first and last time they will ever go to church.  Then that person is one out of a collective large number of the church.  So what happens to the church?  The church within a given geographical area will assemble as commanded by Scripture and other times as required by intervening historical contingencies.  The purpose of the church individually and collectively is not to hear a preacher rant and rave about the most popular political theories, or how to live in the hip crowd, and any other cultural milieu, et al.  The purpose is to worship (privately, with the family, and collectively as a local congregation) and take pleasure in worshipping the triune God.  The mission of the church is to make disciples (that is where evangelism comes in, but evangelism is not the only aspect of the mission) and to live a holy life (not perfection, in any sense of the word), both of which require a serious study of the Word of God.   The ministry of the church means to serve the Lord with your individual gifts and ability according to the instruction of the elders (pastor and teachers) of the church.  The church is NOT a piece of property, a building, an institution, a denomination, or a place to go; It is the people of God.

Dr. David Wells in his book, The Courage to be Protestant, writes, “It would be quite unrealistic to think that evangelicalism today could look exactly as it did fifty years ago, or a hundred, or five hundred.  At the same time, the truth by which it is constituted never changes because God, whose truth it is, never changes. There should therefore be threads of continuity that bind real Christian believing in all ages.  It is some of those threads, I believe, that are now being lost.”

Of all the books I’ve written, The Church: First Thirty Years, explains the “church” based on the Book of Acts, which is an infallible normative and descriptive history of the church.  I challenge every Christian to read the book and see if some of the essential threads of Christianity are “being lost” as you read this brief article.  As I said in the Introduction and now repeat: “The first thirty years of the church ought to be a flagship for the last thirty years of the church.”

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