Ephesians 5:32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.God's purpose in the earth today relates to the local church. The local church is, to paraphrase the Apostle, God's Plan A. God loves the local church! He wants us to love the local church as well (Col. 2:2).
Acts 14:21-23 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.We can see from the New Testament that the will of God for all people is that they receive Christ through the preaching of the Gospel and become a member of a local church. This is why being a part of a church community is not an option for the Christian. And being "a part of" should be read as: "serving with my gifts and abilities" in the local church. A Christian is a servant. Being a servant is developed within the local church. For some people this might mean handing out newsletters in the foyer. For others it might mean the high position of leading a small group such as a Bible Study Group. For some this serving might mean a ministry of special financial support as God blesses and prospers their life. Perhaps for some it means gathering with a few others to pray together regularly for the needs of the group and the church. We should all be serving in the church in order to be a part of the church. When we serve within a church it causes our attitude toward our church to be sweeter (Romans 12).
WHAT CONSTITUTES A LOCAL CHURCH?
Some people hate the local church. These people despise the New Testament notion of an ordered community being led by a God-ordained authority who lovingly lead, feed and care for the church. Some of these people who reject what the New Testament prescribes for the local church distort Scripture to justify either abstaining from being a part of a sanctioned church or develop such a critical, independent spirit that they reduce "church" to them + their bible + their lounge room. While there are some Christians living for Christ in countries which are hostile to Christ, where there are no other believers, the normative practice for any Christian is to be a part of a local church. This raises the question then- what constitutes a legitimate local church? The local church is legitimate, said the Reformers, when-
1. It is an ordered assembly of God's people who gather for the Word of God to be proclaimed.
2. It is sanctioned through the ordination of a minister to conduct the sacraments of the Lord's Supper, Water Baptism and Marriage.
3. It exercises godly discipline (both positive and negative, that is, through encouragement it disciples people into Christlikeness and corrects people when they stray into error).Since we are all required to be in a local church, it is also imperative that we understand what Christ's purpose for the local church is.
THE PURPOSES OF THE LOCAL CHURCH
Based on the Great Command and the Great Commission we can see four foundational purposes for every local church.
1. To gather together for collective worship of God - "to love the Lord your God with all your heart..."
2. To gather together for the Word of God to be taught - "teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you"
3. To gather together as a witness for God - "preach the Gospel"
4. To gather together for fellowship - "love your neighbour as yourself"
YOUR PURPOSE, YOUR CHURCH
Psalm 92:12-13 ¶ The righteous flourish like the palm tree
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
They are planted in the house of the LORD;
they flourish in the courts of our God.
Please join with me in prayer that we will be a part of building a strong, vibrant, healthy, Biblical local church that glorifies Christ and effectively reaches out together to see people reached with the Gospel.
Colossians 2:19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
I pray that we will continue to grow as a church. I pray that we will grow in number. That we will continue to see new people come to our church. That they will be welcomed and that those who don't know you personally will be challenged and will accept you as saviour. I pray we will continue to grow in knowledge. I pray we will be a disciplined people in reading your word. In committing your word to memory. To have wisdom in recalling the words we have read appropriately when speaking to our friends and family. I pray for those who speak and teachi in this church to be looking to you and your word for inspiration. That we who hear will know the truth when we hear it and likewise will be able to discern any untruths and know how to respond. I pray that indeed it is your word that is spoken from the pulpit and that people will be confronted with your word and your truth each week. I pray we will grow in love for our fellow man. I pray that we will be the good Samaritan of the new testament. We will show compassion and love for those around us. When we see others in need we will reach out. We will go beyond the norm in caring for others. We will be active in our good deeds. With our words we will uplift and encourage. With our actions we will help and support. We will continually lift others in prayer. Your love in us will be obvious to those around us and will lead to discussion and opportunity to witness. I pray we will grow in strength and boldness. We will have confidence in our salvation and speak out against those intent on tearing down the moral fabric of our society. When we see something wrong we will have the courage to speak out. When we see something wrong we will have the words to speak and the clearness of thought to act accordingly. Help us Lord to be true to your word. Help us to see things that prevent us from doing your work. Help us to recognise sin in our lives and help us to give it to you for forgiveness. May we seek a fresh touch by your Spirit to see your will accomplished in our lives. May our hearts capacity for you increase that we can compliment your work in this community. We love you and we love your people Lord. Amen
[Prayer submitted by Stephen Hill, Elder at Legana Christian Church]