There are many forms and types of churches today. Something for everyone, they say at a smorgasbord. Of course, in the early days of the church, it was not that way. There was only one church in Jerusalem to start with, and then other local churches came later. Each successive church was established to teach the same truths.
We can thank God today that the Church is the Bride of Christ, and that one day we will be presented to Him in white – which is the righteousness of the saints. John saw this in Revelation 19:8: “And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.”
Until that time, the local church is to seek to be pleasing to God in all it does, and in all it allows. The church as a whole is to be set apart, or sanctified, just like we as believers are to live holy to the Lord. Each of the New Testament epistles sets forth more truths about the church, concerning:
• Its worship
• Its conduct
• Its doctrine
• Its service
• Its members
• Its power
Although not every one of the epistles may touch on all these topics, each one of them will touch on some of them. A few of them also reveal how the church is to deal with sin, or specific problems within that may hurt God’s glory and limit its effectiveness.
It seems that many churches today have forgotten some of these principles and are merely copying what other churches are doing – including copying some who have already veered off course. In doing so, they have forsaken some very basic things – particularly why they even exist at all. Like the church in Revelation, they have left their first love.
I personally visit or preach at many churches. I’ve seen a lot of things. In some of the churches, God’s hand of blessing is very evident. In many churches, it is not. Social programs may fill the church schedule in some churches, and people begin to think that having food, fellowship and fun is the mission of the church!
It does not take much to remove the blessing of God on a church. Sometimes it may be just one individual preventing the blessing – like Achan (Joshua 7). In that case, it may be the removing of that one thing that may be the key to fresh blessing. Revivals often involve the subtracting of some people from a church, as well as the addition of others. Numbers do not necessarily mean that God is blessing, nor does holding meetings called revivals mean that the hearts of those present are really hungry for God.
The apostle Paul describes this principle of individuals who may corrupt a church. He also explained what to do about it in I Corinthians 5:6,7: “Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” Many times, though, fervent prayer can move God to act to clean up His church.
While churches do not necessarily need to remain static in terms of culture, they do need to ensure that what they do fits in with the Word in terms of doctrine and practice. There are some things the Word will not permit, which will remove the blessing:
• Glory being given to someone other than God – such as to singers, musicians, preachers, certain members, etc.
• Having goals other than the fulfilling of the Great Commission.
• Holding, or not holding, services for purposes other than the fulfilling of the Great Commission. Some services I’ve seen were pure entertainment. Sometimes church services were canceled Sunday evening for the Superbowl?
• Visitation is not at all important in some churches.
• Motives for preaching are not always right.
God desires a pure church. It is fortunate, and according to His plan, that people cannot see into other people’s hearts. As a result, this means that actions speak louder than words. If the blessing of the church depended on your godliness, sanctification, and desire to live for God – would it be blessed? Does your presence in the services cause God to want to bless it, or withhold those blessings?
Thank God for the blood of Christ which cleanses us from all our sin – and is able to keep on cleansing! None of us are worthy, but He “is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24).