The Church of Christ

Bitter Confusion

“Help Lord! Why is this happening? My church is breaking apart. I thought Christians were supposed to build each other up; not tear one another down. I am so confused right now. What is a godly church supposed to look like?” These are the prayers of young Tommy Fornost. His church is falling down around him. A third of the members are leaving for other churches in the community. When Tommy was first introduced to his church, he had enjoyed the openness toward visitors he found among the members.  Within a few months, however, he began to see cracks in his new church. Members were arguing and fighting among themselves and church discipline was used to punish those not “towing the line” and now this…

Your Experience

I know for many of you, the above example is all too real. Those same questions may have run through your mind, and your view of the church is muddled at best. On the other hand, some of you may never have considered whether your church family is living the way God intended. To each of you, I ask that as I discuss this topic, you think deeply about the importance and beauty of a church following God’s biblical design.

What is the Church?

In the mid-20th century, a group of men worked together to produce a new Mennonite confession of faith (1963 Mennonite Confession of Faith). Within this document, they spoke to the question at hand. They believed the church to be first, “the fellowship of those who are in the kingdom of Christ, the assembly of those who believe in Him, the brotherhood of the saints. Second, the church is the “local assembly of believers. It is in the [local] congregation that the work of teaching, witnessing, and disciplining is carried on.” They believed that when you trust in Christ for faith, not only do you automatically become a member of the universal church – those who have been saved through Christ – but you also become a part of a local congregation.

What is the Point?

Now you may ask, “why join a local body of believers?  Can’t it just be Jesus and me?” Yes and no. It is through Jesus alone that you are saved, but Scripture teaches that as a follower of Christ you will exhort, fellowship, and serve others within the local body.  The confession puts it this way, “believers [are to] unite in the church for instruction and nurture, for worship, for inclusion in the witnessing and evangelizing body of Christ, for the observance of the ordinances, for Christian fellowship, and for the discipline of the Word and the Spirit of God.” The point of a local body of believers is to exemplify Christ to the world while encouraging and exhorting one another to stay strong in the faith.

A Loving Brotherhood

The struggles of Tommy Fornost’s church are appalling, and to those of you who have experienced the same, painful. This situation is appalling because it is a blackened and twisted illustration of what God intended. The church is to be, as the 1963 confession eloquently states, “a brotherhood under the lordship of Jesus Christ, a loving fellowship of brethren and sisters who are concerned for the total welfare, both spiritual and material, of one another… it includes sharing generously both financial aid and the word of encouragement, and a willingness to give and receive counsel.” The church is a place where brothers and sisters in Christ can be vulnerable with each other and deal with the issues of life together.

A Gentle Reminder

Believers are commanded by Scripture to hold each other accountable. In other words, because you are a part of the body of Christ, your local church is called to care for your spiritual walk which includes correction or discipline when you choose sin. I think the 1963 Confession of Faith expresses this well,

The purposes of discipline are to lead each member to full stature in Christ, to restore to full fellowship the members who fall into sin, to clarify for all members the meaning of Christian discipleship, to promote the purity of the church, to warn the weak and immature of the serious character of sin and disobedience to God’s Word, and to maintain the good name and witness of the church before the world.

This being said, we must understand that discipline is not to be done out of anger or bitterness. The apostle Paul tells us that, “if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness…” As many of you know from experience, we often see church discipline being handled the wrong way. But when done in a spirit of love it can, and by God’s grace will, draw the believer back to a life of holiness.

A Call

Having read this article, I hope you don’t look at your church and feel disappointed or troubled by all the issues found there. Let me encourage you to see the opportunities for growth in those areas. Put your energy into encouraging those whom you see every Sunday and take an interest in their lives. Be honest, be transparent, and talk to your pastor about areas in which you would like to see improvement.  Finally, my prayer is that this brief summary of a scriptural church will cause you to dig in and study the subject more with the intent of strengthening your local church.

Aaron Aaron Beery lives in Elnora, Indiana, and has one brother and two younger sisters. He is receiving Biblical counseling training at Elnora Bible Institute while working as the school’s administrative assistant. He enjoys playing piano, singing, reading and horseback-riding. He hopes to use counseling in this sin-cursed world to speak into people’s lives for the glory of God.

3 thoughts on “The Church of Christ

  1. WHAT IS CHURCH? That is a very good question. I wonder how many of us as Christians every ponder that. How should a church service be conducted? What is the roll of leadership in a church? Do we really take care of each other like we should? Is there a certain amount of times that a church should meet each week? As I read the Scriptures I wonder if modern day churches and even us as Mennonites have any idea of what church should be like. I often wonder if Christ came into our communities today would He be well received or would we receive the same stinging words he had for the Pharisees? Have you ever sat through a Sunday School lesson about the Pharisees, and wonder how we can go through the whole lesson, discussing the things they did wrong but never bring it down to real life? Are we that much different? Are our churches any different? Do we add to the law and place burdens on people that should never be there? Maybe, maybe not, but I think it would be worth our while to honestly examine some of our teachings and see if they really are of God.
    I don’t have the answers to these questions but I think it is very beneficial for us to ponder and discuss things like this. To often I find myself just sort of floating through life not really pay attention to the things that matter around me. This ought not to be. May we all experience what real church is, and should be.
    Blessings,
    Nathan

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amen!

    Nathan, your comment ” but I think it would be worth our while to honestly examine some of our teachings and see if they really are of God.” got me thinking, maybe we should not start with examining our teachings first, but step back and examine Christ’s teachings first, then bring in to the picture the early church in Acts, and then the ante Nicene church as we have “commentary” writings from the men whom were taught and lived with the apostles etc.

    I believe that through this study one could start with a base of what church life was and should be as directed by Jesus, the Holy Ghost (via the apostles) and the apostle’s teachings. This would set a foundation to clearly see where our teachings lack, hinder, support, and exhort a proper church and Godly lives amongst the believers.

    I think too often we shy away from the early church and Ante Nicene writings, saying we need to move forward etc, and run to todays commentaries when there are entire volumes of books from the “Early days”, not too mention the actual Word of God…

    And don’t forget the early Anabaptist writings…

    Also a hardy Amen to “Let me encourage you to see the opportunities for growth in those areas. Put your energy into encouraging those whom you see every Sunday and take an interest in their lives.”

    Lets mold our lives to the Kingdom of God and not the Kingdom of God to our lives…

    Like

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