Building a Church that Points to and Honors Christ PII

Incarnational Churches First and Foremost Display Christ 

How well is Christ displayed and deployed in you and your church?  

Our call is to live for Christ, and we do this when we live in Christ, reaching for others through Christ,. But first, we have to take a serious, self-introspective examination to see how well we display Christ. If not, we will get it wrong and misrepresent Christ and His call. Yet, pastors and Christian leaders think they are doing well by their efforts, pointing to the mega church stars, programs, and/or resources. Yet, in reality we are not; our people are not being connected, not growing, and not being fed and led in a deep, more impacting relationship with Christ as Lord.  And thus, they do not see others as important and rarely will go to them. We forget that we have a heritage, call, and purpose, that our Head is Christ, and our model and template for who and what we are and do is found in Him; this is found in the incarnation (Phil. 4:10-23). 

The incarnation simply means God came to be one of us, as a man. He was fully man while at the same time remained fully God. This is why He could identify with our plight in life and also take our place in punishment. He lived a normal human existence for over 30 years; He experienced all that we experienced, including all the emotions, relationships, and temptations. He was and is amongst us.  

What is being incarnational? It is found in the truth of how Christ came, lived, and how He lives in us. Christ came to us, and in so doing, we are to go to others in His Name. He is the cause of our being a Christian; collectively as a Church, He is our Redeemer Who, for necessity, had to come save us. Jesus Christ is God, Who was one of us, living in this world and in its sin. Yet, He remained sinless. He did not concede to worldly ways or the temptations at hand; thereby, He enabled us to be saved so that we would not be lost forever. This all comes down to what the Church is to do, which is the cause for which we celebrate, and that is Worship and discipleship that is a place to go to and as a movement on the go to others. This is what we celebrate this holiday season as the Christmas miracle. The incarnation is the miracle that truly happened for our salvation. The incarnation must also be to us an application in how we relate to God and to others as well. 

Christ’s incarnation means we become what He will have us be so we are living out the Gospel as our lives are touching other’s lives, even at church. We are transformed by being rooted in the life of our Lord! Therefore as He takes us, we take Him with us to others. 

Yet, from our research and experience, this is rarely practiced effectively. We forget His sacrifice and replace it with our pride, agenda, and trends, thinking we are doing the right thing. It is ironic that a lot of churches will do a lot with marketing and promotion but little to build one’s faith and the marketing of one’s self to display the goods of our lives in Him. What our label is as a local Christian church can be totally different from what is inside of us personally and on our campus.

Building a Church that Points to and Honors Christ PI

Learning from Who Christ is and what He has done to be a Church in Love  

Ephesians 3 and Hebrews 13 

What is your church up to?  

We, as followers of Christ wo worship, fellowship, and serve in His local church must realize we are the containers of His grace, both as individuals and as a communal assembly. This means we are also the display cases of His presence, love, and principles for one another in the church as well as to others outside of the church. This comes about from our faithfulness and fruitfulness; we must do a better job at this. When we do live in and for and through Christ, something extraordinary happens. Our churches become beacons of His grace, lighthouses of collective abundance by our love and care, and we even go to people in need. People feel loved and part of something real, impacting, and effectual.

Unfortunately, we tend to miss the mark on what Christ would have us do concerning how we relate to and treat one another in His Body, His Church. And, many who come to our places of worship see little evidence of this abundance of faith and fruit in action; neither do they see us coming to them (Mark 3:1-6; 1 Cor. 15:20; 2 Cor. 5:20; Gal. 5:19-23; Heb. 10:38; James 2:12-13; 2 John 1:6; Rev 2:1-3:22). 

Being an “incarnational church” means we have a grasp on who Christ is and who we are in Him. This is the foundation of being a Christian. Who is He? What did He do for me? What is my role and purpose? How do I relate and treat my fellow believer and neighbor? These themes stand out as we celebrate Christmas, because Christmas is the celebration of what the incarnation is, that is, that Christ, being fully God Who created the universe and Who always existed, chose to come down to us, to be one of us. In so knowing, we can be doing by practicing the incarnation in the lives and places of others. Therefore, we as a church are the people of God living out the Gospel in other’s and our cultural climate just as Jesus, who dwelled and moved among us, did.

Building a Church that points to and honors ME!?

These next few blogs will be about learning from enigmatic, prideful, megalomaniac folks who have new trends and ideas, who are on the cutting edge, who seem to come across as relevant, impacting, inspiring, exciting and connecting… so we can move our church closer to ourselves and further away from Christ. Then I can say, look at ME! And to do that, I need to do? Look to myself! Look to others I like and who I would like to be like. Then I need to seek, what can I do to ignore the Bible and God’s Word, replace it with my ideas and the latest and greatest movement and claim I am great; I am His most vital servant and trendsetter?  

Me, me ,me, me, church is all about me, what I want, what I need, who can please me to make me look and feel good???  

Sounds good right? It should be, this is our sinful nature at work, that is what most pastors and churches are doing these days either by fault or by happenstance. Perhaps what you are doing, right? Think not?! Then drop to your knees! But…do you do this: How do I please myself, how do I get people to please me and to focus on me and my desires and how do I get my church people to bend to my will has their lord and master???  Seriously, is there even a hint of this in you or your church? I know it has been in me… placing the focus on the self and not on The Christ! If so, REPENT or get out of ministry! 

OR, or, or, we can do it right! Look to Christ! We can model, learn and seek Who Christ is and what He has done, His Lordship and live out and communicate this in love to be a Church in His Love to share His love….Building learner’s, builder’s, and appliers’ of His Word and Love!

Five Main Reasons Why Going to Church is Important

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25

1. First, church is a place to belong, as the church can and should be. We are in community with one another as we belong to Christ and sincerely act it out. When a person puts his or her trust in Christ as Lord and Savior, His Spirit makes him or her a member of God’s family-His children in His Church. All Christians are born into this family and it is this community that will live forever; it is where we belong. So we need to be involved; if not, we should look for a group of other believers with whom we can meet regularly for worship, teaching, encouragement, and service. In other words, we need a good, local church (Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 12:12: 2 Cor. 5: 17).

2. Second, church is a place to serve, as God’s Spirit gives each of us special spiritual gifts and abilities that we are to use in service to Him and for one another. In addition, these gifts are designed to work with another’s gifts; thus as we serve, we do so as a community in Him. Christians need to be involved in the local church so we can discover our function and use our gifts. We live in a world of self-centered thinking, but we can be an example of something and point to Someone who is so much better. It is all about Christ’s example and command to serve others and how each of us seeks to apply this. Each of us needs the church and the church also needs for us to function correctly and effectively. In the church, we can grow spiritually; we learn more so we can serve more. This will also cause us to experience the excitement and adventure of helping others grow. As we discover how God has gifted us, we can use those gifts in the opportunities He gives us to learn and grow more (Rom. 2: 6; 1 Cor. 14:26)!

3. Third, church is a place to be served. Just as the various parts of our bodies depend on one another, so, as it is described in Scripture, Christians are to be reliant upon one another. Your eye gives you vision; your ear gives you sound. All the while, your brain processes the images and sounds so you can respond to your environment. You cannot see or hear with your individual organs, nor just with your brain. When you are involved in the church, you will find that you are in a community where one another’s needs are met as all work together in oneness and purpose for God’s glory. God normally meets our needs by using others, and He uses you to meet the needs of others; this is the church’s purpose with Christ as the head of it. Church members need to depend on one another just as the members of a human body do (1 Cor. 12; 14-27; James 5:13-16)!

4. Fourth, church is a place to grow. Just as our physical bodies need nourishment to function, so our spiritual lives need to be fed. This spiritual food is discipleship, which includes worship, prayer, good biblical instruction, and mentoring. As Christians praise God and pray, a special bond comes about. Gifted teachers and preachers who know and use God’s Word and care about you can help you grow. So, plant yourself in a good church and grow (Acts 20:7; Col. 3: 16; Heb. 10:25)!

5. Fifth, church is a place to work together. Our Christian faith is personal but not private. Healthy Christians are not loners; rather, we are in relationship with one another. God uses our intimacy with one another to help us. In so doing, we are spurring one another on. As He is intimate with us, we are to be so with one another. Jesus said that the world would watch relationships among Christians: By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) The church’s role is to help us learn how to love and obey God and keep us accountable and involved (John 13:34-35).

The Consequences of not Knowing the Bible

 

The Church, as well as the airways, is becoming more and more filled with bad, false teaching from faulty models of biblical interpretation! At the same time, more and more Christians are not delving into the Bible for their spiritual nourishment, rather swapping it for “feel good” books that do not properly instruct and/or turning on the TV for the false teacher crowd—or else doing nothing at all for their spiritual growth. Bible studies, Bible based small groups where God’s Word is sought, delved into, discussed and used as challenge and talking points for a life that is transformed are shrinking and/or missing from most lives of Christians and absent from most church programs and happenings. Endeavors that remain are being attended less and are lacking value and promotion. Additionally, we have the problem of busyness; church leaders—even pastors—are too busy to bother with Bible reading, thus leading from pride and presumption. The people in the pew are so overwhelmed in life, work, family life, and even at church that the Bible, which could solve their problems by showing them their call and God’s precepts, is the last place examined. In many American churches, we have lost our instruction book to the detriment of the Christian community’s spiritual formation, as well as the ability to know and model Christ to the community and world at large, leaving the people in the pew spiritually bankrupt and the neighborhoods with bad models of Christ and thus unreached. 

When we do not garner our spiritual nourishment from God’s Word, the Bible, and instead trade it for our whims and mind-sets, we cheat ourselves and weaken our churches, holding back Christ’s work in us and our church’s life; we neuter God’s potential work to those around us too. 

Thus, we swap what is good, legal tender for that which is counterfeit and thus leave nothing in our spiritual wallets but confederate notes that are worthless and thus of no spiritual or fruitful value to spend for life and ministry. To counteract these evils and stop Bible illiteracy, we must feed from God’s glorious and wondrous buffet of precepts for our faith and knowledge. 

This is actually easy; just take the time to read it through. It just takes minutes a day, less than half of a half-hour TV sitcom, to know our Lord and grow in Him for an effectual, transforming life and to dig out what He plainly and abundantly has for us so we have His spiritual spending power. Our reading of the Bible is not meant to merely learn its trivia; rather, we are to be rehabbed in Christ, be changed, renewed, and transformed. We must take this remarkable currency of His remarkable and astounding precepts and spend it for our spiritual improvement and then for kingdom building. But, what gets in the way of our good buffet and spiritual currency? Simply ignoring God by ignoring or misusing His Word. 

What does Bible illiteracy give us? A failed church and a meaningless life! 

As our churches give what they think are eloquent and edifying discourses, they are, in fact,  delivering empty words and the image of a divine bell hop, not the Holy LORD whom we worship, lean on, and learn from and with whom we discourse. So, shallowness and pretentiousness have taken our churches hostage, leaving our pews filled with ignorant, hurt, disconnected children of God who do not know His love or His ways and who make pathetic faith decisions and bad life choices, creating more dysfunction and stress in their lives and homes, and a church that is inept, dysfunctional, and impotent, with an incapacity to know and glorify the very Lord we are to be all about.

How BIG of a Problem is Bible Illiteracy in the Church?

 

            These words may be strong, but they are true: From our research and experiences, we have discovered big problems in our churches, the sheepfold of God’s chosen and precious creation. The sheep are skinny and dumb! And, many of the shepherds tend to be merely puffed-up, directionless idiots leading their flock away from the prime pasturelands of our Lord rather to feed on the garbage plies of the world and in turn crafting obtuse sheep with bad nourishment and a lack of proper care. They are ignoring our great Shepherd and instead relying on the way of the wolf and not on the way of our Lord (Heb. 3:12-13.; 4:1-2; 5:11-6:3; James 1:22-25)! 

We are seeking anti-intellectualism at one end of our church spectrum and shallow seeker-ness at the other. We are becoming overly scholarly to the determent of any impact from God’s Word, totally ignoring His precepts and replacing them with ours. 

Both spectrums give mere “sermonettes” that have no substance or effectual teaching. They give no kind of challenge or discipline that is necessary for authentic Christian growth, thus creating small-minded pew sitters who can’t even find their way around the Bible or even know the difference between John the Baptist and John the Disciple. While other churches may say they are Bible and conservative orientated, they too have moved away from the Bible with a fixation on business and consumer models for ministry, seeking a consumer approach to church, relying on strategies for growth instead of the pursuit of love, trust, and obedience to our Lord. Or, they are, as James tells us, merely reading the Word, not doing as it says (James 1:22).

We are seeking anti-intellectualism at one end of our church spectrum and shallow seeker-ness at the other. We are becoming overly scholarly to the determent of any impact from God’s Word, totally ignoring His precepts and replacing them with ours. Both spectrums give mere “sermonettes” that have no substance or effectual teaching. They give no kind of challenge or discipline that is necessary for authentic Christian growth, thus creating small-minded pew sitters who can’t even find their way around the Bible or even know the difference between John the Baptist and John the Disciple. While other churches may say they are Bible and conservative orientated, they too have moved away from the Bible with a fixation on business and consumer models for ministry, seeking a consumer approach to church, relying on strategies for growth instead of the pursuit of love, trust, and obedience to our Lord. Or, they are, as James tells us, merely reading the Word, not doing as it says (James 1:22). 

What does Bible illiteracy give us? A failed church and a meaningless life! It creates shallow Christians and pretentious, incompetent leaders. This is not about knowing Bible trivia, rather applying God precepts to our lives and church!

 

 The result? Shallow people and a faithless church, moving away from the Bible and embracing anything but Him and His Word. I am not talking about liberalism, although this is a problem too. Rather, I allude to conservative and Reformed churches moving away from the centrality of Scripture and the disciplines to learn and grow, substituting cheap stories without substance, shallow messages without challenge, and pride replacing love and fruit to be the icing on the cake of pretentiousness.

As our churches give what they think are eloquent and edifying discourses, they are, in fact, delivering empty words and the image of a divine bell hop, not the Holy LORD whom we worship, lean on, and learn from and with whom we discourse. So, shallowness and pretentiousness have taken our churches hostage, leaving our pews filled with ignorant, hurt, disconnected children of God who do not know His love or His ways and who make pathetic faith decisions and bad life choices, creating more dysfunction and stress in their lives and homes, and a church that is inept, dysfunctional, and impotent, with an incapacity to know and glorify the very Lord we are to be all about.

The Top Ten (10) Trends Affecting Church Health

1. The healthiest churches have an active supportive and trained leadership—spiritual, growing and contented members who are excited about the Gospel.

2. The healthiest churches have a high reverence for the Bible and are involved in discipleship and the multiplication of it.

3. There is a direct correlation between the decline of small groups, those who actually study the Bible, or a decline of quality small group Bible-based curricula (versus a mere book study) and the decline of evangelism, stewardship, spiritual growth, and leadership participation!

4. There is a direct correlation between the decline of personal devotions and personal prayer and Bible study amongst leaders and pastors and the decline of church health, evangelism, stewardship, spiritual growth, and leadership participation!

5. American Christians increasingly tend to be more and more isolated from their non-Christian counterparts, in one’s family, workplace, and secular society in general. The more one is involved as a Christian, the less influence they have to others in the world for the Gospel.

6. Non-Christians, academia, and the media are more and more openly hostile to the Gospel. At the same time, many younger non-Christians (ages 14 to 30) are more receptive to the Gospel message.

7. Less than 10% of Reformed and Evangelical churches (not mainline or Catholic) have an evangelism program or plans for one.

8. The churches that are growing both numerically and spiritually in fruit and maturity have an active missions program and local outreach.

9. The churches that are growing both numerically and spiritually in fruit and maturity have preaching and small groups doing active teaching or expository or exegetical Bible sermons and not simple messages.

10. Younger people, 14 to 30 year olds, are seeking a deeper relationship in churches than previous generations. They want relevant worship, deeper Bible studies, preaching that is centered on the Bible and the glorification of Christ, and practical life-relational helps. The dropout rate of 14 to 30 year olds is at an all-time high—50% to 70%. The primary reason is that they want more and the churches they visit do not offer it! The other 30% to 50% drop out because of apathy and indifference, a loss of hope, and the Church cannot fulfill them anymore.

The Slippery Slope P XIII

 

Is Jesus Lord or are Culture and Trends “Lord?” 

This indicates the replacing of biblical thinking and teaching with the latest trends in church growth, or ministry models that are not Christ-centered. This can come from outright rejection of His Lordship to a weakening of it, such as liberalism. And, it usually comes in to the Conservative Evangelical and Reformed churches as embarrassment to proclaim Him boldly, or as the embracing of weak ministry models. Perhaps, we fear reprisal from liberal-minded people, or even misguided fellow Christians, if we are fundamental (as in from convictions with his Truth) in our approach. So, we keep to ourselves and no one knows who we are either at work or in our own families. His Way is not being lived out. This also comes to us by our thinking that we are being relevant and accepting, when we are actually betraying his Lordship. 

Yes, we can be relevant and not compromise! We are to be real and accepting but not compromising; a line must be drawn to which we must be held.

If this is not so in the leadership, they must be stepped down, then trained and discipled. The leadership must set the example to model His Way in humility, servant hood, and in the boldness to exercise discipline when necessary. There is never a call to be offensive to others; rather, we are to be bold in His Fruit. Make sure, if you follow any models or trends, that they are biblical and not compromising or you will have a Church of Perfidy!

The Slippery Slope P XII

Does Your Church Buy into the Relativism of Your Culture?  

Does your church teaching or ministry model consider that Jesus is just a way but not the Way? He is to be THE Way, THE Truth and THE Life (John 14-15; Acts 4:12). What about teaching that there are no right or wrong absolutes, therefore neglecting morals and virtue? What about trying to be so careful not to offend anyone that we do not say anything to convict or to instruct?

How can a person be challenged to grow if we do not redirect his or her path in love, and, when needed, call a spade a spade? What about the embracing of sin, saying it is OK in an attempt to show love and acceptance?

This might include embracing homosexuality and saying it is OK. We are called to reach out to all those who are in any kind of sin, including homosexuals, but at the same time, we are not to accept the sin. We are to care and love and show them Christ without compromising morality or His precepts. What about failing to confront people in sin or to condemn the sins of our culture? We must live by example as well as point out errors—not only in our church but also in our society (Exodus 20:1-17; Rom. 1:16-32; 1 Cor. 6:9). We must be careful here, as we can easily slip off His Cornerstone and become a Church of Perfidy!

The Slippery Slope P XI

Are you Watering Down His Word with Trends and the Ideas of Men? 

Perhaps not, you think. What about the preaching in your church? Is it Christ-centered or human-centered? Are you being seeker sensitive yet not communicating Christ’s Sovereignty and Lordship, His holiness and Supremacy (Col.1)?

Are psychology and the over-use of illustrations and stories taking the place of expository preaching?

There is nothing wrong with using the insights of science and behavioral science, as long as we come clean with the veracity of sin and personal responsibility. Are you just teaching popular topics that please people rather than going through the Scriptures verse by verse, thus not teaching? A church does not have to be liberal to water down the Word; it is done in conservative churches all of the time by the neglect of it! If your preaching is weak from a biblical standpoint, you have a Church of Perfidy!