by Dr. Dave Coryell, Executive Director
God’s work is never in jeopardy. He works through our human efforts even when they are flawed or incomplete. He touches lives through the modern day form the church has taken; however, it is critical for us to pause and consider whether something has been lost that needs to be reclaimed. Taking this step will allow the church to truly live out its core purpose instead of being re-purposed for our modern times.
About five years ago I attempted a task that pushed my creative limits. I am not what people call a “handy” man. My home projects often become greater disasters than what needed fixing in the first place. On rare occasions the Lord smiles upon me and my projects work out. One example is when I decided to take an old desk and turn its drawers into rustic looking shelves. These shelves would then hold antique sports equipment in our basement family room. I saw beyond the dilapidated drawer condition and imagined returning them to their original purpose in a totally new, unique and beneficial way. I could have decided to “Re-purpose” the drawers by painting them and using them as flower pots or fire wood. This act would have found a new purpose and use for the drawers while preventing me from reclaiming why the drawers were originally made.
Today people have attempted to re-purpose the church instead of reclaiming its core purpose. Departing from the church’s core purpose leaves a significant void in people’s lives. Allow me to provide some scriptural evidence to hold up against our current cultural setting.
First is a call to Commitment. Acts 1:8 says “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” I have heard this verse used by teachers numerous times. Normally it serves as a motivator for people to think about reaching others for Christ that are close to home, in the broader city or region, in neighboring states or countries, and in all the different parts of the globe. What people do not normally embrace is Acts 8:1- “On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout . . .” wait for it, wait for it- where were they scattered? “Judea and Samaria!” The Holy Spirit’s power rapidly grew the church as mentioned in Acts 1. This came to fruition following the persecution and ensuing rapid dispersion of Christians as they spread beyond Jerusalem. Today, Christians are challenged to spread the gospel without a significant call to sacrifice- essentially turning drawers into flower pots. This kind of challenge has good intentions but lands us on the 2 Timothy 3 list, which concludes with verse five, “Having a form of godliness but denying its power.” Reclaiming the church requires commitment through sacrifice.
Second is a call to Connection. Today, many churches grow rapidly by having campuses, live streamed messages, and excellent EVERYTHING including music, teaching, children’s programs, and clearly marked information or welcoming areas. None of these items are bad; in fact most of them are really good. The challenge comes when we study Acts 2 and recognize what regular activities the early church was instructed to carry out. In Acts 2:42 we find that, “They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.” Verse forty-four continues by saying, “all the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” Today when people say they have attended “church,” most people mean to confirm that they have attended a worship experience. This experience involved them driving, or in some cases walking to a church building, sitting in a sanctuary or auditorium, listening to some of the setting’s customs (announcements, recited prayers, special music) and watching a program that allows occasional group singing before hearing a motivational message. Two thousand years ago the early church grew because it had to flee for survival. Then non-Christians began witnessing the incredible lives of believers as they supported each other in their new nurturing communities. The non-Christians recognized what they were missing and so the church grew. Reclaiming the church requires intimate connection.
Here is a painful reality- to be a Christian means to be close enough to a small group of people acknowledging Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior that can be mutually accountable to one another. At the same time this group is vulnerable about and willing to meet each other’s needs spiritually, emotionally, psychologically and physically. By this definition, how many people in the US actually attend “church” on a regular basis? How many Christians have one to two close friends that can support and challenge them in this way? Begin with you- do you currently have the close connections to support you as you commit to sacrificially bring people to Christ?
Everywhere I go in the world I meet people who are praying for revival or a second Reformation. God may choose to work in this way. But maybe, just maybe both of those things will happen once we reclaim the true core purpose of the church- Commitment and Connection!