Lifelines March 11, 2018

What comes to mind when we hear the word church?  Probably, we think of a building with pews and classrooms.  Yet, the word of God presents a very different picture.  Jesus told His disciples that He would build His church (Matthew 16:18).  Obviously, He was not suggesting that he would soon put His carpentry skills to work and construct a building.  The church of the New Testament has indeed fallen into disrepair, but that has nothing to do with the conditions of a structure.

Most congregations that gather on Sunday morning bear little resemblance to the biblical model.  Their reason for assembling is unclear.  Focus might be placed on music.  Drums pound out the rhythm as guitars and pianos offer up the melody.  Somewhere buried beneath the noise are the words.  The message becomes secondary to the entertainment value.  Is that really what the Lord has in mind?

For others, the spotlight falls on the collection plate.  No one ever forgets to take up the money.  After all, maintaining a comfortable building takes a lot of bucks.  All those musical instruments aren’t free.  The staff has to be paid.  Overhead is high, and there is no other source of income except an occasional bake sale.  It doesn’t take long for the emphasis on money to consume the work.  1 Timothy 6:10 gets lost in the hustle of the wallet ministry.

Of course, the preacher steps out in his impressive suit or robe.  He is the star of some shows.  He shares his thoughts about how God wants us all to be rich.  He digs deep to find an appropriate verse or two as supporting evidence.  He speaks well.  Crowds gather.  They are convinced.  He rarely mentions holiness, discipleship or self-denial.  Those things do not attract an audience.  Health and wealth do, and he is an expert.  Just look.  He is both healthy and wealthy.  Afterwards, he retreats to his million dollar mansion in his chauffeur driven limo.

“I will build My church.”  Really, is this it?  Exciting music that leaves them emotionally charged but spiritually empty?  Nonstop pressure to give more and more?  A slick salesman luring starving souls with promises of prosperity?  Is all of this what the Lord intended for His church?  It does belong to Him.  It came at an astronomically high price (Acts 20:28).  As He hung on the cross, was He thinking, “I hope they have a good band?”

Joining Paul on the missionary road offers an idea of what mattered in the beginning (Acts 20:7).  Disciples gathered on the first day of the week for a specific reason.   He would write about that (1 Corinthians 11:23ff), and His source of information was impeccable.  The center piece of their assembly was the Lord’s Supper.  Remembering a crucified Savior occupied their thoughts and touched their hearts.  He made all the difference.  What could possibly mean more?