Why (and how) we should “grow up in Christ”; growing in both knowledge and love.
Universal Church Only – a vertical relationship.
From time to time, I will hear a believer say that they don’t have to be a member of particular local church – because they are ‘in Christ’.
Draw Near to God and to Others
Hebrews is helpful for anyone wanting to think about the importance of Church. In Chapter 10 the author writes to Christians who were losing confidence – some were persecuted, some were leaving the faith to avoid suffering, and others were abandoning Christ because they wanted to fit in with the world around them. His advice? – draw near to God and draw near to others!
When you became a Christian, your membership in the church took both a universal and a local shape – a wide and narrow view if you like.
The Church universal is the worldwide body of believers who meet in various locations and times around the world and throughout history who all profess faith in Jesus as Lord.
Brothers and sisters who are fleeing for their lives from the Islamic state fighters in Iraq and Syria, those who are on the mission field, those who meet as Christians around your country, and those that meet in the churches in suburbs around your city – are all members with you of the universal church – because we all have the same Lord and Saviour in Jesus.
Jesus speaks of the universal church. When he said to the disciple Peter in Matthew 16:18, ‘I will build my church’ he probably did not have in mind a specific local church on the corner of King David street and Goliath Avenue in Jerusalem! What he meant was that he would build together all those in the years to come, who would be his followers, the members of his body – his universal church.
The Apostle Paul addresses the universal church in Colossae when he says he ‘suffers for the sake of Christ’s body, which is the church’ (Colossians 1:24) and then to Timothy when he speaks of ‘God’s household, which is the church’ (1 Timothy 3:15).
Scripture testifies to the importance of being part of the universal church where we stand shoulder to shoulder with others in faith – even though we may not speak the same language, be from the same culture, have the same lifestyles, live in the same kinds of material circumstance, or even live in the same era of history.
Whenever I spend time with Christians of other cultures or languages, I recognise a beautiful reality – I have more in common with these brothers and sisters in faith than I do with many who don’t yet know Jesus even when they live in my own suburb or city!
But scripture also testifies to the ‘Local church’.
The Church local is your immediate church fellowship – the group of Christians with whom you share life with, face to face, week in and out. Those brothers and sisters who know you by name, who pray specifically for you, who help carry your burdens, who celebrate your successes and mourn your losses, and who help you to love and know God better and to serve him and others as you work to grow God’s kingdom.
Paul addresses the local church in 1 and 2 Corinthians (’to the church of God in Corinth’), and in Ephesians (‘to the saints in Ephesus’), 1 & 2 Thessalonians (’to the church of the Thessalonians’), Philippians (‘to all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi’). In Colossians he sends a greeting to ‘Nympha and the church in her house’ (Col 4:15). There is a very particular local church which he has in mind.
As you meet each week with a body of believers, you express your membership in a local church.
As Christians, it is important to recognise you belong to both the universal and local church. Why?
For one, quite obviously, there are many more Christians in the world than would be able to meet in your particular church space – but there is a time coming when all Christians will gather around the throne of Christ in eternity and worship as the full universal church. It is a wonderful blessing to recognise our place alongside so many others in Christ.
Yet, it also matters that we meet together as a specific local church, on a regular basis to serve God and others. Christians cannot gather as the universal church to hear the Bible taught and proclaimed, to baptise new believers, to sing songs of praise, to take the Lord’s Supper together, to reach out to the community they come out from, to serve one another, to hold one another accountable, to physically care for, to urge one another on towards love and good deeds.
Meeting in local churches is important for the life and well-being of all Christians.
For other articles in this series:
Belonging to Church
The Church – universal and local!
Draw Near to God and to Others
Core in Membership
In the world that we live in, ‘Membership’ is a fairly common idea. We have memberships to libraries, sports clubs, magazines or journals, road service organisations, schools, clubs, gyms, churches and much more.
We pay, to secure some benefit – be it the ability to borrow books, or to secure good seats to watch the cricket or football, or to receive the magazine that interests us, or guarantee help if the car breaks down, or help for the school to give our children better education, or a vote in the club that we belong, or cheaper entry to be able to use exercise equipment. You get the drift!
In many ways, the benefits of ‘membership’ in our secular world mirrors ‘membership’ in a church – but not completely – there is a difference.
We had an issue! It was obvious that if we didn’t do something about it our church family would be divided.
It was such an exciting time for us being a new church. As we talked about Jesus, so many people put their trust in him – and people from all kinds of backgrounds.
Christians are people of words – help yourself become a good reader. Here are 10 core titles that would give you a solid grounding and a good start.
If you could only read one book then make sure it is the Bible. A great deal – 66 books in one volume! Win. Good translations (of the many out there) include the New International Version, the Holman Bible, the English Standard Version, the King James Version (if you like older language) and most recently the Christian Standard Bible. My suggestion is pick the translation above that is used in your Church sermons.
2. More than a Carpenter – Josh McDowell
This is a good little book which will introduce you to Jesus. If you are looking for a good book to give to someone you want to introduce to Jesus – this will do you well.
3. Knowing God – J.I. Packer
This book gives you a good basis in Christian Truth. God by nature is so big and amazing, this is a helpful book to get you looking at the character and concerns of God.
4. The Atonement – by L. Morris or The Cross of Christ –by J. Stott
Both of these books aim to help the reader understand the significance of the cross of Christ. The most recent edition of the John Stott’s The Cross of Christ comes with an excellent study guide.
5. According to Plan – Graeme Goldsworthy
This book will help you understand how the Bible fits together – it helpfully looks at God’s unfolding salvation plan fulfilled by Jesus (Biblical Theology). If you find this book a little heavy, then God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts may be a good alternative.
6. Reason for God – Tim Keller
This book give you a good basis for defending your faith. For the believer or the skeptic, this is an engaging read.
7. Praying with Paul : A Call for Spiritual Reformation – D.A. Carson
This book will give you good basis for thinking about prayer and then challenge you to pray.
8. The Trellis and the Vine – C.M. Marshall and T Payne
This book is a practical ministry book which places the ‘how’ of ministry in the context of the ‘why’.
9. Disciplines of a Godly Man – R.Kent Hughes or Disciplines of a Godly Woman – Barbara Hughes
These books aim to help the Christian man or woman give attention to practices of godliness. Very helpful.
10. Jesus & the Rise of Early Christianity – P. Barnett
Understanding the original setting into which Jesus arrived and from which his good news first spread is helpful for understanding the historical importance of Christianity. This book is a great introduction.
For a helpful article on ‘Active Reading’ from Chris Metcalf go here.
Feel free to offer other suggestions (and why) in the comments.
‘May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you. May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples with equity and guide the nations of the earth.’ – Psalm 67:3-4
Sermon ‘May All The Peoples Praise You’ (Psalm 67) by Chris Jolliffe is now available in audio and video: http://bit.ly/2khXUgX
Read the whole chapter: http://bit.ly/2iYBJga
The question ‘Why leave a ‘church?’ may be a dangerous question to ask, especially on a church blog!
The reality is that all churches have people leave them – for both wise and unwise reasons. It is worth spending some time thinking about why one would take the step of leaving a ‘church’ and then further considering how to do that well. That said, I am hoping that no one reading this will in fact leave 5pm Church as a result!
In the previous two articles we have considered ‘What is ‘Church’?’ and then ‘What to expect of ‘Church’?‘ which as background should help establish that leaving a church should be thought about carefully – that is not a decision that should be made hastily or prayerlessly. If ‘church’ is about God’s people gathering as a family in Christ around his Word, it should give some pause for thought to a person when deciding to stay or to go. Leaving means leaving a family and a place where God’s word should be key to their fellowship.
Changing churches or leaving church altogether is no small thing.