Article copyright by Bob Rogers.
Many people say that they believe in Jesus but don’t believe in the church. Yet I submit that it is impossible to be a disciple of Christ apart from the church. Why do I say that?
1. We can’t use our spiritual gifts without the church. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to all believers, but it is always in the context of the church. It says in 1 Corinthians 12:7-12 that every believer is given a spiritual gift for the common good, because we are all part of the body of Christ.
2. We can’t show we are disciples without the church. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). I may know I’m a disciple but I can’t show I’m a disciple if I sit at home alone and don’t show love for fellow believers.
3. We can’t experience God’s greatest presence without the church. Matthew 18:19-20 tells Christians to agree together in prayer, and where two or three are gathered that way, God is there.
4. We can’t take communion without the church. By definition, the Lord’s Supper is meal of Christians gathered together to remember the body and blood of Christ given for us upon the cross. In 1 Corinthians 11:17-26, the apostle Paul continually uses the phrase “come together” to describe observance of the Lord’s Supper. Since we cannot take communion without expressing unity with the church, it follows that refusal to express communion with the church is a refusal to express communion with Christ.
Christ died for the church. Christ is the builder of the church. Christ is the head of the church. Christ is the shepherd of the church. Christ is the groom for His bride, the church. Christ is coming again for the church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against His church!
Copyright 2017 by Bob Rogers
Outreach magazine publishes a list of the 100 largest churches in America and the 100 fastest-growing churches in America.
But when we read about the church in the New Testament, we don’t read Paul reporting to the church that when he left Ephesus they were running 200 in Sunday worship. Instead of talking about numerical growth, he emphasizes spiritual growth. So why don’t we?
Instead of so much emphasis on church growth, we should talk about church health. So what makes a church healthy, anyway? Paul gives us a full description in Ephesians 4:11-16.
1. Leaders who equip
“And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers…” (Ephesians 4:11, HCSB)
Healthy churches have leaders who equip their members.
In this verse, the last two leadership gifts are indispensable to local church health. In Greek, the terms go together, “pastor-teacher.”
Pastors (translated “shepherds” in the ESV) bring guidance and comfort to the flock of God.
Teachers instruct the church in correct understanding of the Bible and Christian living.
Notice in verse 12 that these leaders have the purpose of training, or equipping, the church to do their work.
If a church is going to be healthy, it must have a pastor/teacher who is feeding the congregation God’s Word on a consistent basis.
2. Members who serve
“… for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ…” (Ephesians 4:12, HCSB)
Healthy churches have members who serve. Churches that grow rapidly from sensational entertainment often burst like a balloon and wither away. But when members serve, they reproduce healthy growth.
The “saints” are all the believers. “Saint” means a “holy one,” and every believer is called to be holy and set aside for God’s service.
It says the saints are trained by the leaders so that the saints can do the work of the ministry. So all members are called to serve.
3. Unity in the faith
“… until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son…” (Ephesians 4:13a, HCSB)
Healthy churches are united. Unhealthy churches are divided. Notice the two ways he says we are to be united: by doctrinal faith (“in the faith”) and by personal faith (“and in the knowledge of God’s Son”).
Remember the lesson from Noah’s Ark. It may stink sometimes, but we have to stay together, because we’re all in the same boat!
4. Growth measured by Christ-likeness
“… growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.” (Ephesians 4:13b, HCSB)
Too often, churches measure themselves by numerical growth. And it is true that healthy churches should have numerical growth. However, there are churches that have numerical growth but they are not healthy. A tumor can grow, but it isn’t healthy. And some churches explode and then die down. Others grow and grow in numbers, but they are attracting people for entertainment or because their standards are lax, and people are not being discipled.
Notice that verse 13 gives the correct measurement of real growth: “a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.” That is our measurement of growth: are we like Christ? If our budget grows but we spend our budget on a bowling alley for church members instead of helping the hurting and sharing the gospel, we may be growing in numbers but not in Christ-likeness.
Healthy churches measure growth by being more like Christ.
5. Teaching that provides stability
“Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit.” (Ephesians 5:14, HCSB)
Another great sign of a healthy church is that the Bible is so consistently taught, that the members aren’t tricked by heresy and false teaching.
Years ago, a powerful wind storm blew an oak tree on the youth building of the church where I was pastor. The tree had shallow roots, and when the winds came, it fell. A healthy church that teaches the Bible is like a healthy tree with deep roots. It doesn’t fall under the pressure of false teaching.
6. Honest and loving relationships
“But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head– Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15, HCSB)
Healthy churches have honest and loving relationships. “Speaking the truth in love” means that we are honest with each other, we speak the truth, but we are also loving when we do it. We don’t just try to please each other. If something’s wrong, we deal with it, but we always seek to deal with it in love. That’s challenging, but it’s vital to having a healthy church.
7. An environment that encourages involvement
“From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.” (Ephesians 4:16, HCSB)
Healthy churches create an environment that encourages involvement. “From Him (Jesus) the whole body, fitted and knit together… promotes the growth of the body…”
Many people think that it doesn’t matter if they are involved in the church or not, that the church won’t miss them if they are gone. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
A healthy church is a church where misfits can fit in. A healthy church is a place where the displaced can find a place.
This world is in desperate need of healthy churches in every community. Christian, are you allowing God’s Spirit to work through you to make and keep your church healthy?
Yet I submit that we need the church. (I’m talking about the people, not a building. The early church met in houses, and many meet in homes today.) In fact, we cannot be biblical Christians apart from the church. Why do I say that?
1. We can’t use our spiritual gifts without the church. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to all believers, but it is always in the context of the church. Romans 12:5-6 talks about how we are all part of the body of Christ as we have different gifts. It says in 1 Corinthians 12:7-12 that every believer is given a spiritual gift for the common good, because we are all part of the body of Christ. Prophesying, teaching, serving, giving, leading, showing mercy, and so many other spiritual gifts are either done among members of the church or together with members of the church.
2. We can’t show we are disciples without the church. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). We are told to serve each other, teach each other, feed each other, pray for each other, encourage each other. I may know I’m a disciple but I can’t show I’m a disciple if I sit at home alone and don’t show love for fellow believers. No wonder Hebrews 10:25 commands believers not to forsake gathering ourselves together, but instead to encourage each other.
4. We can’t take communion without the church. By definition, the Lord’s Supper is meal of Christians gathered together to remember the body and blood of Christ given for us upon the cross. In 1 Corinthians 11:17-26, the apostle Paul continually uses the phrase “come together” to describe observance of the Lord’s Supper. It says in 1 Corinthians 10:17 observes that by sharing the bread of communion, Christians are expressing their unity: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” Since we cannot take communion without expressing unity with the church, it follows that refusal to express communion with the church is a refusal to express communion with Christ.
Christ is the builder of the church.
Christ is the head of the church.
Christ is the shepherd of the church.
Christ is the groom for His bride, the church.
Christ is coming again for the church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against His church!
Continuing my series of photo blogs on houses of worship, I share a photo that is one of my most recent, but one of my favorites. Providence Baptist Church is an historic congregation that dates back to 1818, yet this church in rural Forrest County, north of the city of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, has a worship center that blends the classic and contemporary. On the classic side, there is the red brick and columns in front, with a white steeple. But the high pitch of the roof in front that juts forward, and the columns rising to meet it, give just the right contemporary touch. Add to that the curb appeal of a country church standing proudly on a hill, and this church building is an amazing eye-catcher.
Copyright 2014 by Bob Rogers
I continue my series of photo blogs of houses of worship that I like with the creative design of Black Rock African American Episcopal Church near Washington, Georgia. This worship center caught my eye because of the amazing way that it brings together the entrance, steeple and pitch of the roof. I don’t know if there is any symbolic meaning to the three-part steeple on the front (perhaps for the Trinity?), but it certainly has an unforgettable look that I love.
Continuing my series of photo blogs of houses of worship I like, we see a great example of a wonderful Lutheran tradition. Notice the red door at on the sanctuary of Bethel Lutheran Church, Springfield, Georgia. Local Lutherans tell me that many Lutherans paint their church doors red because one must go through the blood of Jesus to enter the church. That’s great theology, and the classic all-American white wooden structure to this congregation is outstanding for its simple beauty.
Copyright 2014 by Bob Rogers
I continue my series of photo blogs of houses of worship that I like with a Roman Catholic church. The Church of the Holy Family is a traditional Catholic sanctuary located in downtown Columbus, Georgia. It caught my eye as a majestic example of modern church architecture in the Gothic style, so popular in Europe and among Catholic churches.
Copyright 2014 by Bob Rogers
I continue my series of photo blogs of houses of worship that I like, with a very unique worship center. The sanctuary of St. Mary Magdalene Christian Orthodox Church looks like it might be in Russia, but it’s actually located in a rural area just outside of the small city of Rincon, Georgia. This building shows that a congregation does not have to be large to build an absolutely gorgeous building. Notice the dome and cross, a popular design among Eastern Orthodox churches, and the icon above the front door, as well as the musical pipes on the front lawn.
This is the second installment in my photo blogs of houses of worship whose architecture I like. Tabernacle United Methodist Church is located in the Sandbridge area of Virginia Beach, Virginia.
This sanctuary is a white wood design that was popular among many Protestants in the 19th century, particularly Methodists. (This building was built in 1830). I particularly like how the building has an entrance that juts forward and then continues upward into a steeple. This congregation has also kept their building spotlessly clean and carefully landscaped. This is one of most eye-catching country churches that I have ever photographed.
Copyright 2014 by Bob Rogers
I love taking photos of houses of worship. Over the next few days, I will post some of my favorites, and share what I like about them.
I’ll begin with Richburg Baptist Church, Hattiesburg, Mississippi. This is a classic red brick worship center, especially popular among Baptists. Like many in this style, it has red bricks, with a white column porch in front. Yet this congregation added some other nice touches to that basic design. Notice the stained glass, the cross cut-out in the steeple, and the arched bell tower in front of the worship center, with a cross on top. Simple, yet beautiful.
A hymnal in my left hand, a Bible in my right
Tossing a communion cup on a one-foot hop.
Cascading with a committee on Sunday night
Spinning a budget, now what will I drop?
A juice-stained Bible by my foot on the floor
Heart cut on the cup, fingers shut in the door
I thought diabolo was a juggler’s trick
But I ended up falling on the devil’s stick.
(If you see a video ad below this post, please understand that I have no control over these ads, and that I do not necessarily endorse the product.)
Sunday, August 11, is “Back to Church Sunday” at the church where I pastor, First Baptist Church of Rincon, Georgia. Thousands of churches across America will observe “Back to Church Sunday” sometime this fall.
We know that many people get out of the habit of going to church during the summer, and many have dropped out altogether. But we want to encourage you to come back! This is a good time, as the church begins its fall activities. Take my poll above, feel free to leave your comments, and watch for more posts about reasons to get back in church.
I am giving away a free copy of Thom Rainer’s book, I Am a Church Member, this week on my blog. Here’s what you need to do to win:
1. Follow my blog. If you are not already following, click on the link at the right and sign up.
2. Leave a comment below telling me what your church does, or what you wish it would do, to disciple new members. You must leave me an email address in the comment, so that I can contact the winner.
I will select a winner based on the comments (the person must also be a follower of my blog), and I will announce the winner on Friday afternoon. LifeWay will mail the book directly to you. (By the way, the winner must live in the United States or Canada.)
In June 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, allowing federal benefits for same-sex marriage partners in States that already have legalized same-sex marriage.
How should we respond to this? Here are a some brief thoughts of my own, and links to what other Christian bloggers are saying:
1) We must respond with Christ-like love. Ranting and raving on Facebook and Twitter and angry words to our friends and family will only confirm the unbeliever’s preconceived notion that Christians are judgmental and narrow-minded.
LifeWay researcher and Southern Baptist author Ed Stetzer calls for gracious, Christ-like responses in his blog: http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2013/june/prop-8-doma-and-christian-response.html.
2) We must prepare to live in a non-Christian culture. Our parents lived in a generation where Judeo-Christian values were the norm. That is no longer the case. We will need to stand by Christian values that are at odds with our culture, and be prepared to graciously endure persecution, if needed, when submission to anti-Biblical standards are demanded of us. Do not conform to this world, but be transformed (Romans 12:1-2).
Sylvania, Georgia youth pastor Steve Dresen reminds us of how the early church responded in a culture that did not share our values: http://stevendresen.wordpress.com/2013/06/27/scotus-same-sex-marriage-and-the-churchs-identity
3) We must not give up. Don’t forget that the majority of States still do not allow same-sex “marriage.” In many nations around the world, such as Africa and Eastern Europe, homosexuality is still considered sinful by the overwhelming majority of people. Just as the prophets in the Old Testament boldy spoke truth to their culture, we too must proclaim the truth, rather than concede defeat. Last year I preached a sermon entitled, “What the Bible teaches about homosexuality may surprise you.” You can read it here: https://bobrogers.me/2012/07/09/what-the-bible-says-about-homosexuality-may-surprise-you/
Roman Catholic scholars make some good points about how the Supreme Court decision does not end the debate and that “gay marriage” is not inevitable. Here is the report from the Catholic News Agency: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/gay-marriage-is-not-inevitable-analysts-say/.
4) We must remember that God is on His throne. God was still on His throne when Noah built the ark, when Moses fled from Pharaoh, when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians, and when Jesus died on the cross. The demise of God and godliness has been overstated many times before, and God always turns it around for good. Rather than despair, Christian, let us get on our needs and pray for a new movement of God that is totally dependent upon the power of God, not the power of politics.
If you are looking for a resource for your church’s new member class, this is a book you will want to read.
Thom Rainer, CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, has written I Am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the Difference. It is a short book that can easily be read in one sitting, but it has the potential of making a big impact in local churches.
The book opens with a story about two members of the same church with completely opposite attitudes about church. Then he zooms in on the Biblical attitude members should have in six short chapters, based on Rainer’s extensive research in attitudes among church members. These chapters teach members to be active, bring unity, avoid the tendency to insist on personal preferences, pray for leaders, lead their own families to be involved, and to treasure church membership as a gift. The main point of the book is that church membership is not like a country-club membership with perks and privileges.
There are some churches that reject the term “membership,” saying it is an unbiblical modern term. Rainer disagrees, pointing out that 1 Corinthians 12:27-28 speaks of the “individual members” of the church. Rather than reject the term, Rainer seeks to give a Biblical definition of the term “membership.” He emphasizes that Biblical church membership is a treasured gift, just as our salvation is a gift, and thus we should serve in our churches gladly, not begrudgingly.
One of the strengths of this little book is that each chapter includes a pledge of loyalty for members to make. This requires the reader to respond to the challenge of the book. Each chapter also includes discussion questions, making this book an outstanding resource for small group or one-on-one study for church members, both new and old.