Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Focus on the Basics

Several months ago I read a study of why some churches remained comparatively small while others went on to become mega churches.  They concluded that, in general, smaller church leaders focused on relationships.  Medium sized church leaders tended to focus on programs such as the music program, youth programs, senior programs, etc.  Leaders of large churches tended to focus on organization, much like the leaders of major corporations.   Leaders of small and medium congregations were encouraged to become more focused on building their organization in order to grow their churches. 

Unfortunately, such an approach overlooks the most basic principle of Christianity.  Christianity is about developing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.   As the relationship with Christ grows, it begins to affect relationships with one’s family, coworkers, and other Christians.  Without the relationship with Christ, the other relationships are merely human relationships having nothing to do with Christianity.  Even a small church can lose their Christian nature if the focus shifts to other relationships, rather than the relationship with Christ.  Medium and larger churches need to make a special effort to focus on that relationship with Christ if they are to avoid becoming merely a religious business. 

To build a church that is pleasing to God we must start with the understanding that God created mankind and that he loves them as we see in John 3:16-17.  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”  The depth of his love is sown by the fact that his demonstration did not depend on our response to his sacrifice, according to I John 4:10.  “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

The depth of our love for God is based on our understanding of his love for us, as I John 4:19 tells us.  “We love him, because he first loved us.”   Real love requires getting to know even the unpleasant sides of a person.  I Corinthians 13:6 tells us real love “Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.”  Infatuation produces an unrealistic picture of a person but real love wants the truth.  We must understand that not only is God a God of love and mercy, he is also a God of justice and wrath, and will not ignore sin.  Ephesians 5:5-6 warns, “For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.  Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.”

Only as we understand how much God hates sin can we begin to understand how much he loves us, that he is willing to forgive us and cleanse us from all our sin.  As we begin to appreciate the depth of his love for us, we begin to want to show our love by pleasing him.  In John 14:21, Jesus said, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.”    We will begin to focus on what he wants, not to gain his favor, but to show our appreciation.  John 14:24 warns, “He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.”

Jesus and God will manifest themselves to those who love him in miraculous way, and II Corinthians 3:18 promises that as a result, we will become increasingly like him. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 

Ephesians 4:11-16 tells us.   “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”

For God’s purpose to be fulfilled, Pastors and teachers will have to help us get a complete understanding of who Christ is and how much he loved us.  They will have to teach about his love, mercy, and grace but also about his judgment and wrath against those who reject him and his standards.  The focus will have to be on building a relationship with Christ rather than on other things.  If we focus on our job of edifying or building the Christians, God will build the church. 

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