The Church as It Should Be
- Tuesday, January 5, 2016
- By Tyler Strickler
The Church as It Should Be
As a pastor, I spend a lot of time thinking about church. And I should. It is my job after all. But when I read the top-selling books on how to do church and compare them to how the Bible describes church, I often see a disconnect.
We have been trained to look at church like the big-box stores we shop at for convenience. When we go shopping for church we ask questions like, does the church provide the services I want in time frames that work for me? Do I like the style? Are the chairs comfortable? Is the room inviting? Is the pastor funny and easy to listen to? Are there people my age who share common interests with me? Am I seen as a valued person to be pursued without having my privacy intruded? Do I leave church with the experience I was hoping for, feeling encouraged? And of course, the church is in no way supposed to pass any judgement on how I choose to live my life. No, they are supposed to tell me that I am okay and God loves me no matter what.
When the church no longer provides the services I want, I will get in my car and drive to one that will. After all, if Walmart doesn’t have what I am looking for, Target will.
We live in a me-centered culture where the ultimate truth is whatever makes us happy, and that mentality is infiltrating the church.
But then I read passages of Scripture like Acts 4 and am reminded what the church should be. In Acts 4, the church is brand new. Peter preached on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and the church was born as 3000 people came to faith in Christ. After this, Peter and John go to the temple, where they see a man born lame. Peter heals him in the name of Jesus, which draws a big crowd, prompting Peter to preach a second sermon. This time 5000 men come to faith in Christ (Acts 3).
Most Christians would say that they want to be a part of a church like that. But then chapter 4 hits, and we begin to see that following Christ is not all peaches and cream. Yet in the face of their first opposition, the early Christians demonstrate church as it should be.
The men who had just a couple months previous killed Jesus hear that Peter and John were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead (vs. 2). So they arrest them and put them on trial. Peter knew he would eventually be crucified (Jn. 21:-18-19). Was now his time to follow his Savior to the cross?
But there was no fear in Peter as he gave a bold defense for the faith. When the religious leaders threatened them, commanding them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus (vs. 18), Peter and John responded, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard.” They looked death square in the face and boldly proclaimed Christ.
I read something like this, and I think, wow! What courage! But it isn’t like they were not concerned about the opposition, for when they were released, they gathered the church and reported what had happened. Their evangelistic efforts were being resisted. What should they do?
Maybe they should change strategies. Maybe they should lay low for a little while until these challenges blow over. Or maybe God was closing the door on evangelism while they worked with the new converts. After all, the church was over 8000 people strong. Maybe it is time to make sure they are having their needs met. Or maybe a total change in emphasis should take place. Maybe they should focus on meeting people’s physical needs, open a soup kitchen, start a daycare, and just show people with their lives that they love them. Perhaps now was the time to start that Christian school Simeon has been taking about. After all, helping people live a better life now never brings criticism.
But none of these things were their response. Instead, they prayed a three-fold prayer. First, they recognize that what they were experiencing was in keeping with God’s word (vs. 24-27). Second, they find peace in the sovereign control of God (vs. 28). God was bigger than all this, and they could rest in this truth. Third, they do not ask that suffering would go away, but that God would give them the courage to speak the word with confidence, knowing that if they will do this, God will bear fruit through them (vs. 29-30).
And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak the word of God with boldness.
Finally, the chapter closes by giving us a picture of the unity and love of the church as everyone’s needs were met, not because people demanded it or were looking for it, but because everyone was sacrificially serving everyone else.
What should the church be? It should be a group of people deeply committed to their Savior Jesus Christ. This commitment will come out in proclaiming the gospel, in prayer, in love, in unity. And ultimately, God will be glorified through the church when they act that this.