Do you know that pastors need to hear good sermons too? One of the great joys of my life is an annual pastor’s conference with the Banner of Truth Trust. I sat in in on some wonderful sessions that honed in on a simple theme: Devoted to Christ’s Church. I’d like for us to consider that idea from several angles.
1) The church which Christ built was not meant to be a tourist attraction. So often people’s lives can reflect that the church is something to be occasionally visited, but never regularly experienced. Christ gave His life for the church. As such, we find its inherent value in the blood which brought forth its life. Christ’s church is a necessary home for those who will draw closer to Christ. To remove ourselves from her midst is akin to hiding a plant from the sun.
2) The church is more than a party of one. The Apostle Peter notes, “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 2:5) We are together being crafted into a glorious abode for Christ. We can forget that our growth most often occurs in the midst of other people. We learn how to care by having those to care for. We learn to be cared for by having those to care for us. Our consumerist tendencies can undervalue the necessity of the church because we view it as a means towards our ends, as opposed to our spiritual renovation.
3) The church is gifted by Christ. This stunning reality is often overlooked, but Christ has not abandoned His church like a ship without a sail. He has, and is, and ever shall be actively gifting His church with pastors so that God’s people may grow in the knowledge of Christ. Churches are not fundamentally about programming, about leisure, about entertainment, about comfort, about community projects, etc. The church of Jesus Christ has one goal and that is the progress of the Gospel in the lives of disciples, and the advancement of Christ’s name among those who are spiritually dead in their sins. As one minister put it, “Only the church can do what the church can do.” To no one else has God committed the command to preach, the command to disciple, the command to partake in His sacraments, the command to worship. When the church fails to delight in these gifts Christ has given through faithful pastors, uselessness is not far behind. Put positively, when the church learns to delight in God’s gifts of the Word, the sacraments, prayer, worship and loving one another selflessly – this is when we find the glories of revival and a season of great advancement for the Gospel.
4) The church is hopeless apart from Christ. Jesus promised the Apostles upon the confession of Peter that His church would never fail, saying, “I will build my church.” (Matt. 16:18 ESV) The church cannot grow apart from Christ. The church cannot prosper apart from Christ. The church cannot exist apart from Christ. The most important and necessary element of every church is the abiding presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. For many, this may be obvious, but it is our forgetfulness of the obvious that so often leads to heartache. Christ builds the church not pastors. Christ builds the church not the people. Christ builds the church not denominations. Christ builds the church not organizations. Christ builds His church.
5) The church is in need of real maturity. As Rev. H. B. Charles remarked “The church needs to know what not to say ‘amen’ to.” The great warning that Paul gives in Ephesians 4:13-14 is that the church needs to grow up and that the mark of such maturity involves the ability to recognize lies and reject them. The mark of an immature church is that they are “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” (Ephesians 4:14 ESV) Instead, we are called to grow up into the image of Christ by means of the gifts of Christ, that is faithful pastors and faithful teaching. How do you combat lies? You do so with the truth. How do you combat darkness? You do so with the light. How do you know what the reject as from the Devil? You bask yourselves in God’s Word and commit yourself to rejecting an anemic Christianity for a grown-up one which is committed to the King and His bride, the Church.