Much can be said about the overall state of the American Church. The report may not be as good as it should be. In fact, if truth be told, the church in American seems to be rapidly losing credibility. Once the very fiber of life in the United States, the Church is growing impotent, archaic, unimportant and an unnecessary distraction in the minds of the majority of Americans. For many reasons, unfortunately, many who are sincere followers and disciples of Jesus Christ are growing silent in the face of the spiritual battle being waged for the future of America.
Today, the media is directing this nation’s path forward. Truth in media is becoming a rare find as it is replaced by opinion, gossip and manipulative tactics to mislead the public or steer the thinking of readers/viewers in a pre-determined direction. In a similar manner, it is becoming difficult to find a pulpit consistently preaching the uncompromising Word of God. Too few churches focus on preparing their congregations to be disciples fulfilling the Great Commission. The popular church-growth techniques are eerily similar to that of the main stream media: Feed the masses what they want to hear and watch them follow without resistance. It reminds me of the Pied Piper syndrome.
The church. “A group or assembly of persons called together for a particular purpose…. as that community of people in which and through which the Spirit of God is working…. Paul believed God is present among his creatures in and through a living community of people, consecrated for a particular purpose, like the temple of old.”¹
Is the typical contemporary American church that devoted and unwavering community of people in which and through which the Spirit of God is working? If so, why are their voices muffled and difficult to hear against the backdrop of compromise, self-exaltation and rebellion (see 2 Timothy 3;2)?
Perhaps it’s time to refresh our memories about the church’s purpose (based on the definition above) for which we have been consecrated–like the temple of old.
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says,
“When He ascended on high,
He led captive a host of captives,
And He gave gifts to men.”
(Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.)
To summarize this passage, it is interpreted to mean the purpose of the church is:
The ascended, victorious Christ has given spiritual gifts to His church to extend His sovereign rule over all.²
Paul teaches that Jesus is the ascended, victorious Lord over all and that He has sovereignly given various spiritual gifts to His church so that “He might fill all things” (4:10). To me, this simple interpretation encapsulates not only the purpose of the church, but the responsibility every believer bears as he or she becomes part of the corporate Body of Christ. But, is that what we’re hearing taught from the pulpits and does the mission of the local congregation reflect this divine commission in its focus and work?
In order to participate in the church’s mission, we must be actively using the spiritual gifts Christ has given us in order to extend the knowledge of His sovereign rule over all. This is more than just a hint of evangelism. To be sure, this is the priority of the global Body of Christ, the local church and each of its members–of every believer who confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father. The American church, as well as every congregation worldwide, should be in the primary business of extending the knowledge of Him who is the Source of all things, the Creator of all things, the Ruler over all things.
The American church, to a great extent, has become inward bound. In many cases, if you listen to the announcements or read the bulletin, you’ll quickly recognize the focus of the local body. If it’s not obvious that the mission of your church is to extend the knowledge of Christ and His sovereign rule over all, it’s very possible you have been participating in the conformity of the American church to the popular trend to grow inward rather than outward.
If you question where your church leadership stands and the true mission of your local body, compare the teachings to those of the early church. Sadly, you’re likely to conclude that Christians have become lazy and expect to be served and pampered, very much unlike the Apostles and Christian leaders of old who gave their lives for the sake of the Gospel, who would stop at nothing to take the message of Jesus Christ to the people wherever they were and in whatever circumstances they lived. They risked everything by defying laws prohibiting the spread of the Gospel and — AND GOD PROTECTED THEM and, as necessary, gave them grace necessary to face whatever punishment was meted out to them as they took the message of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ to the known world. Their focus wasn’t building projects, fundraising or high tech programs or shows. [Note: None of these are innately wrong but should never overshadow or take the place of the true purpose of the church.]
The church was raised up as a body called to function together for a particular purpose–the propagation of the Gospel. The focus of the American church must be to fulfill the purpose for which our Savior gave His all.
There’s a saying: “Be the change you want to see in others!” If change is needed in your local assembly, let it begin with you. Refuse to be silent until it becomes clear the mission of the church is to extend the knowledge of Christ and His sovereign rule over all. Anything less is on a slippery slope to conforming to the schemes of the enemy to delegitimize and undermine the power of the Living God, instill faithlessness and mistrust in the people and to “exchange the truth about God for a lie and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25).
© Jan Ross
All Rights Reserved
¹Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (p. 458). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
²Steven J. Cole, Christ’s Purpose For His Church. Copyright ©2008 Bible.org, (reprinted with permission).