When I first arrived in our city I was told two things about the existing Church here. Firstly, there were lots of them. In a city of 70,000 there were some 80 churches. Secondly, the biggest church in town was the Absent Church (the second biggest was the Roamin' Church). Over the past twenty years there has been little evidence to challenge this assessment. To have any chance of leading a church which could have its best chance of representing Christ and His Building Project to our city, I knew that I would have to commit for a lifetime and weather all storms. Over this time, my conviction about what God's Word says about the local church and my love for it has only grown. And although I am sympathetic to those who call themselves Christians yet absent themselves from a local church due to some bad experiences, I have little capacity that their vexation should be directed at Christ Himself.
...I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.Matthew 16:18b
It requires a good deal of foreign toughness for a pastor to weather church storms. I say 'foreign' toughness because it doesn't come naturally to most pastors, especially this one. Most real pastors are long-term pastors. They heed The Great Shepherd's words in John 10 to not flee when wolves ('adversity') come along. They stand and endure. They do this because they inherently love people. They think about people. They care for people. They carry people. They pray for people. They spend a deal of regular time seeking to grow in God's Word and grace so they can help others to do the same. But along the way people get upset and take offence. In leaving the pastor's congregation they seek to injure while claiming that they have been injured. In my younger days as a pastor this confused me and hurt a lot.
While we pastors don't always live up to people's expectations of care and attention, I have discovered that this same sort of thing happened in the Bible to the best pastors it describes. For example, Moses was a great pastor. He met with God face to face. Yet he had complainterisers and opponents from within his own congregation. Most of this arose when he did the right thing. In life you too may discover (especially if you are a parent) that those you care for may push back hardest when you've done the necessary thing! All leaders soon discover that not doing the right thing at the right time is nearly always the easiest thing. Moses had to become 'tough' and do the right and necessary thing even when it was difficult to do so. As if his example is not enough, my mind often thinks about Jesus as a pastor. He preached a sermon one afternoon that led to 15,000 or so people turn away from following Him! (John 6) He then received numerous complaints and allegations of being "offensive". Added to this, of the 12 specially appointed disciples, one betrayed Him and another disowned Him!
Then the disciples came and said to him, "Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?"Matthew 15:12
I have also discovered as a pastor, when you do the right thing, such as bring correction, some followers of Christ in your charge have not been sufficiently discipled to understand that correction is a Biblically necessary thing and that it is the means of God's grace for them to grow. It takes humility and a soft heart to be corrected. If we understand that the original sin wasn't so much about eating forbidden fruit as it was about the pride and arrogance to think that we (represented by Adam and Eve) could do so and get away with it! Thus, pride is our greatest obstacle to fellowship with God and attaining the beauty of Christlikeness, not the Devil, not temptations, not even acts of sin.
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."
If you are in a church whose leaders have never been instruments of God's correction in your life - either from the public preaching or from private counsel - chances are you are rarely (if ever) offended. But greater still are the chances that your are not in a Biblically healthy church!
And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
Second Timothy 2:24-26
I love being a pastor. It is the most rewarding job in the world (next to being a husband and father). It is a privilege of the highest magnitude. And I similarly love being a member of a local church. The local church is God's means of grace to strengthen His children for the battles we each face in life. Simply by being together as a congregation of committed believers gathered under the ordinances of worship, partaking of the Lord's Table together, offering our prayers gifts and time, being instructed together from God's Word, and interacting with each other in fellowship (where our goal is the strengthening of our mutual relationship with God) - we are strengthened in our souls. It is a divine imperative - not a divine option - to do this weekly.
not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.Hebrews 10:25
God is not done with the Church. On the contrary. God has ordained the Church to be salt and light (Matt. 5:13-14), the pillar of truth (1Tim. 3:15), and the vessel of His grace (1Peter 4:10). God has ordained for you to follow Christ by being committed to a local body of believers constituted as a 'church'. Together then we serve God's 5 purposes for the Church. These include binge a community of believers who-
1. Worship God together.
2. Witness to the world about the truth and the nature / identity / character of God, His ways, His will and His Word.
3. Provide welfare to the needy.
4. Help people to attain wellness in body mind and soul.
5. Educate people about God and His creation, teaching people to read, write and reason to the glory of God.
God wants you to be in a church for the following reasons-
1. He has ordained the local church as the means of His grace for you (1Peter 4:10).
2. It is only through the local church that you can obey the imperatives for following Christ as listed in Romans 12:9-21.
3. By serving in the local church God is able to fashion you into the likeness of His Servant-Son (Matt. 20:28)
4. It is only through the local church that God has decreed for you to be equipped for works of leadership (Eph. 4:11-13).
5. By you prioritising your fellowship to be in Sunday worship with your local church you are part of a glorious witness that God is using to reveal Himself to the world (Eph. 3:10).
to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.
See you Sunday.