Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Does the Local Church Have Anything to Do with Evangelism? And Are Revivals Connected to Discerning the Body?

The pastoral staff at FBC has been thinking through Ed Welch's When People Are Big and God Is Small. We finished up today with chapters 12 and 13. I was really encouraged with chapter 12, which surprised me with a very church (corporate)-centered emphasis on the Christian life. In a book that lends itself to a fair amount of individual reflection, the reader might expect a discussion of "Love Your Brothers and Sisters" to stress individual effort. But Welch warmly clothed love for brothers and sisters in the robe of local church membership and commitment.

Two sections illustrate the helpfulness of this chapter. In the first, Welch provides some good thoughts about evangelism and expectations re: the local church. In the second, Welch connects self-examination at the Lord's Supper with the body of Christ.

Evangelism and the Local Church

"'I want you to forget about institutions,' said the evangelist. 'The gospel is not about churches. It is about a decision you make before Jesus and nobody else.'

"What do you think of his approach? He is right that individual people 'must repent and be baptized' (Acts 2:38). And I can understand that some people have a warped view of the church, so the evangelist did not want those preconceptions to cloud the spiritual issues. But isn't the call to trust and obey a broader call than 'Jesus and me'? The promises of God are 'for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call' (Acts 2:39). And isn't the person being called to Christ, who is the head of an institution? When people were converted in the book of Acts, it was assumed that they would be part of a local fellowship. It could have been no other way. they had been usered into a community of the resurrection, a community of the Spirit."

The Lord's Supper and the Local Church

"When you are told to examine yourself before the Lord's Supper, what do you think about? Most likely you remember a list of recent private sins. If you do, great! For some people it is the only quiet moment in their lives, and it is an excellent time for the confession of sin and repentance. Yet, as good as that is, the passage is saying something more. What Paul is exhorting us to esamine is our 'recognizing the body of the Lord.' Are we realizing that the church is one? Are we aware that those with whom we share the Supper are the body of Christ? Our family? This is clearly the context of the passage.

"This means that we should remember that it is through Christ's death that we are reconciled to God and each other. He has made us one, and we set our hearts on pursuinig unity in love. The Lord's Supper is a great time to pray and plan for oneness with our brothers and sisters. It is a time to explore new ways to be kind, compassionate, and forgiving.

"The apostle's exhortation also menas that we should repent of sins that have divided God's people. have we gossiped against or slandered anyone? Have we avoided people? Have we been sinfully angry with anyone?

"Jesus himself gave specific directions for pursuing this unity.

"If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother; then come and offer your gift. (Matt. 5:23-24)

"When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your sins (Mark. 11:25).

"The apostle Paul said the same thing in his letter to the Ephesians.

"We are all members of one body. 'In your anger do not sin': Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry. (Eph. 4:25-26)

"Can you sense the urgency in these directions? Only a church that is united in love can truly display God's glory to both spiritual powers and the world, and only a church united can stand against Satan's efforts to divide. The Bible is unquivocal: if you have contributed to a lack of unity, deal with it now. Revivals should start at the Lord's Supper."

2 comments:

Steve said...

One of your church members is visiting in California. I have known of your church for years through her brother, but didn't until recently connect your blog with her church. I thought I'd let you know that she spoke very highly of her pastor.

Vitamin Z said...

Seems like God deals mostly with groups of people in the Bible cover to cover. We don't find the so often used "personal relationship" anywhere in the Bible. WE are the body of Christ and WE is the main emphasis of Paul's letters as he writes to the churches. God is looking to create a people for himself. Seems like this is this Biblical witness. Are individuals part of this? Certainly, but only so far as they are connected to the God birthed whole.