Building a Church that Points to and Honors Christ PVI

Incarnational Churches are not led Astray 

Scripture in Hebrews, 2 Peter, and many other places clearly tell us do not be carried away, as in do not be led astray by false ideas, trends, or other things just because they are new. Lusting for something we may think is better, from a bad food to being charmed by a clever preacher, or teaching false doctrines and thinking, hey, that is their interpretation and it is OK, we will fail at being an effective church. We are just as responsible in listening to bad or false or junk teaching as the false teacher who speaks ill of God’s Word is for spreading them. False doctrines are rooted in speculative thinking and whims and not upon God’s clear Word; they kill our growing relationship with Christ and others and dissolve the incarnational approach to church life because they will leave us complacent so we do not reach forward and outward with the Gospel of Truth. What we will have is the emptiness of false ideas, meaningless rituals, and traditions that serve no purpose and do nothing to grow one’s communion with Christ or fellowship with one another. For it is by grace we are saved and we respond to God in and by faith. 

If we get too carried away with our ideas we will miss Christ, so we must be in His Word, be reflective, be in prayer to see what we are really doing and who are we serving (Psalm 31:16)? 

We must go to God’s Word—not to whims; the Bible means what it says and you can know who is false because false teachers will never use discernment or context or real word meanings. They will deceive, and not receive His Truth, thus your church will be resting on a crumbling foundation rather than the strength of Christ’s true Truth. He is our Altar and help; our truth for daily living comes from Him and nothing else—no ceremonies or special practices, for such things do no good and may even hurt us. Only by God’s special favor will we excel spirituality, in life, and in Church. For Christ suffered and paid our debt of sin so we can all live in Him and be there for one another (Lev. 7:11-18; 1 Cor. 10:18; Eph. 2:8-9; 2 Peter 2).

Building a Church that Points to and Honors Christ PV

Incarnational Churches show Brotherly Love and it is Real 

In what ways does brotherly love define you? How should it? Francis Schaeffer and others have told us over the centuries; men from Augustine, Kempis, and Aquinas as well as the Reformers have warned that the attitude and trends of the church tend to be the attitudes of the culture. We must heed this warning; for if we do not, this will be a very wrong outcome! We are called higher, to be incarnational so we can listen and put into practice what Christ teaches and gives to the lives of others. We are to be good, fruitful, and faithful as followers, first and foremost, before we can be so as followers and as leaders. We are to care for our souls and watch over and care for others too. This is Christian community and effective leadership in action—the practice and application of our faith in our lives first and then letting it pour over others. For we lead by venturing forward with our eyes upon Christ as Sovereign Lord. This is a responsibility; as we follow our Shepherd, we shepherd others. We do not dictate or lead from behind nor do we connive or manipulate out of our pride; rather, we are in front, forging ahead on His path, being the example, encourager, and teacher, cutting the way of His Way for others to see and follow. We make Him real and visible as we all come to the throne of grace. Let us be fruitful, practical, real, and faithful. If we are not, we will have enormous problems and strife instead of the love of Christ in and through our churches and us. 

As Christians who are receivers and partakers of the incarnation, we are to be in a tighter community together in Christ as Christ-followers. We are to be deep friends who are bonded as family, and take this practice unto others around us.  

The purpose of our doctrine and the study of His Word is not just for the knowledge, (which is very important), but our supreme goal should be what we do with that knowledge. This is the relationship that is growing in Christ, then outward to others around us. Remember: His shed blood paid for us! You have truly dedicated your right to yourself and church to Christ! We give Him our all! It is easy to die for a cause, but are you willing to live for Him in perfect obedience so your life is poured out, your strength is gone, and you must rely on His? Hebrews, chapter thirteen, reveals what happens when we follow the incarnation, placing it into application. This is about keeping our personal and mutual faith real and growing, which means the encouragement, support, and using of spiritual gifts, and everyone working as a team. This is the strength and prime purpose of the Church that comes from our growth and worship; without them, we will fail. Our relationship with the Lord must be transparent and not secretive (unless you live in a closed Muslim country) (Psalm 34:8; Rom. 1:8-17; Eph. 4:15-16)!

 

Building a Church that Points to and Honors Christ PIV

Incarnational Churches Go to People 

Following Christ means just that: we follow His character and teachings. We also follow Him so He takes us where the people and needs are and where we can meet Him there. This may require the deliberate rearrangement of our traditional thinking, so our lives apprehend the application He has for us. This may mean planting a church where it needs to be, making ministry and relationship happen where the people and needs are. I learned many years ago from the founder of Young Life, Jim Rayburn (who was a Calvinist and a Presbyterian pastor) that we must go and not wait until they show up. Because our thinking in the Reformed Church as well as many Evangelical churches tends to be to wait for them to come to us, which is seen also as the template for the mainline churches. Well, people will not come; we have to go to them and live our lives well enough that they will want to come to us to meet Christ and worship Him. We have to see people as separated from God, who can’t or won’t see Him because of the clouds of hurt and culture, and of course, sin. They need an example more than they need answers; they need hope and love more than they need a tract or a onetime program, and they need to see it as consistent. Because in God’s sight, every person is important; everyone is a gift, made in His image, and we are to display that image of what each one can be. 

The question is: are you willing to rearrange your life so that you can be with people who matter to Jesus? And who are they? Jesus says they are our neighbors! 

Incarnational churches do not have programs that only cater to those who come; they go to others too. We can’t be a “come and see” organization; we have to be a movement that also “goes and tells.” We can have the goal, hope, and mindset to make our church totally focused on Christ and His Way. It is how we lead, how we treat others, and how and where we go that represent the ways of Christ. People see the church by how they see Christians in action. How they see God is how He is displayed and deployed in the life of believers. Thus, our template, vision, and goal as a local church are by the teaching and example of Christ. Period. We are called to love and to continue to do so to build our church for Christ’s glory no matter what the circumstances or oppositions. In so doing, we show hospitality to both those we know and those we do not know.

 

Building a Church that Points to and Honors Christ PIII

Incarnational Churches are Impacted by Christ 

Christ’s Incarnation was about His building a crossing for us by His cross, so the unsaved may become Christians, and then we are to build a crossing for others so they can know Him too. We do this in our personal lives; as leaders, we bring our growing, impacted relationship with Him into leadership as a servant, which is what “servant leadership” is all about. Then we model this so it becomes a contagious practice collectively for the body of believers with a since of deep and profound love and gratitude for our Lord, and then seeing others as His children too. Thus, as we practice church, we bring Christ to others as Christ was brought to us in birth (Eph. 3:14-21). 

This is an aspect of servant leadership, where God calls us to a higher level of excellence, one of love—so that our call, vision, ability, and integrity are all translated into functionality for a healthy, vibrant, triumphant church. In “Incarnational Leadership,” we will lead the way Christ led; in the incarnation is at church, we treat and go to others the way Christ did. Then we commit to lead, but not in the ways of the world, or in the way of others who are biblically ignorant who may manage our churches, or of those whose eyes are on worldly wants. So, we are the influencers and not partakers of our neighbourhoods and world.  

What does this look like? The Epistle to the Hebrews’ closing chapter shows us this call with an exhortation to be incarnational in our love. The word “incarnational” is not there, but the concept is. In fact, love is one of the main themes of Hebrews as well as many of Paul’s Epistles and of course, was the pinnacle of Christ’s work and teachings. We are to love fueled from our hope and faith, all of which make a triad of primary virtues from which all Fruit and character flow. This is what being “impacted” means. We are in full contact in and by Christ, fully engaged in Him so we can build our faith that helps us bridge our interpersonal relationships. We do this as people who love the Lord and, as a collective of Christians, show others that we are true and genuine followers. We show others our love, caring for people because we are being dependent upon Christ and His precepts in order to be real and effectual in Kingdom values and the modelling of His ways to the world (Phil. 2:6-8).

 

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.

Got Intimacy with Christ?

Do you long for intimacy with Christ as Lord and love of your life?

Christ gave us grace from His love to make Him our home of faith and motivation in life. Then, He prepares an eternal home for us too. The question is, as Christians, do we give back our worship, praise, gratitude, and devotion to Him? Are we at home with Him as our main inspiration, impulse, and comfort in this life, not just in the life to come (John 14:23)? 

We can be assured He cares and loves us beyond description; but, do we love Him back?

God has a purpose for this world and for our lives and it is all about communion in and with Him. We must find a way to increase our awareness and love for Christ in our daily lives so our lives mean something more than just “what I want” and “what I can get.” It must be Christ-focused, for this is what Heaven is all about too! 

Christ brings us Heaven! He brings peace and a future to us who do not deserve it. Because of Him, we have hope and a future and most of all, we have Him both now and forevermore! What is better than that?! There is nothing that can be a greater motivator and comfort than knowing for certain who Christ is, what He has done, and what place He has for you and me! Now, let us live our lives as if that is true—because it is true. And, keep in mind these powerful passages as well as John 14 in mind, as love and obedience are connected in Him!

When to Leave a Church?

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:7-8

We are called to obey your leaders, to have respect for their authority and their call to care for and keep careful watch over the people as shepherds, because leaders will be held to account. We are called to submit to those in authority and to value and respect them, enjoy orderliness, and learn from them. In contrast, a person with a lack of faith will not respect others because the emptiness where faith is supposed to be is filled with pride and even self-destruction, worry, and stress that lead a person nowhere good. This does not mean we submit to dictatorial or dysfunctional leadership (Isa. 21:8; Jer, 23:4; Ezek. 3:17; 33:6; 35:7; Hab. 2:1; Acts 20:28; Heb. 13:7; 1 Pet. 5:2-4; 3 John 9-10).

However, sometimes leaders and pastors are not following Christ, rather following their pride or misguided intentions and thus it may be time to go to another sheepfold. So, when do I leave? When it is dead and there is no life left and there is nothing you can do, you need to look seriously at the situation. Being a member of a church is like being partners in a marriage; when you leave, it is like experiencing a divorce and thus is to be taken sincerely and soberly, and with prayer. Seek what you can do to improve things and always make sure you are not the one causing the problems of division or discord, unless you are fighting for biblical truth. Even if that is the case, do so in love. Obviously, leaving a church is not a sin unless you are in disobedience. There are times when you need to take a stand, and if it fails, it may be necessary to move on to a healthier church. God gives us a green light to move on when:

· Heresy and false teaching are being proclaimed or a platform for that to take place is present and the leaders refuse to repent, or if there is just no teaching and you are not being fed (Romans 16:17; Galatians 1:7-9).

· The pastor and leaders do not reverence Christ or His Word (1 Corinthians 5:1-7; Colossians 1:15-17).

· The pastors or leaders are living in sin and refuse to repent (1 Corinthians 5:9-11).

· The pastor or leaders are over-controlling and operate in the weakness of the flesh rather than in the power of the Fruit of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:33; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:7-9).

· The diseases before mentioned, such as gossip and hypocrisy, are rampant and you are being hurt to the point you cannot function or worship, and there is no discipline for those who sin (2 Timothy 3:5).

· If you are the person who is sowing discord or division, you must leave right away. Run-do not walk-to the nearest exit and do not join another church until you repent and get some healing (Galatians 5:1-23)!

Besides that, it is hard to say; you need to think, seek wise counsel, and be in prayer. You should never leave a church for petty or superficial reasons. Examples might be that you do not like the speaking voice of the pastor, but he is teaching well, or you do not like the color of the carpet or the style of the music or how the kitchen is run, or that someone you do not like is elected or appointed to a leadership position. You need to stick to your commitment and responsibility. You need to be in prayer and ask our Lord how He can use you there. Are you growing? Is there a place where you are needed to serve? Is there anything you are doing wrong for which you need to repent? What about your attitude and motivations?

If you do leave a church, do not leave quietly or covertly. Meet with the pastor or leaders, dialog and give them clear reasons, remembering to be biblical and in the Fruit of the Spirit and in prayer. They have the need and right to know, so improvements and conviction by the Spirit can take place. Or, maybe you are in the wrong. So, make sure you listen. Then if you leave, you need to forgive and move on. Never, ever stay to spread bitterness and division (Prov. 6:19; John 13:34-35; 17:21-23; Rom. 16:17; Gal. 1:7-9; 1 Cor. 1:10; 5:1-11; 15:33; Eph. 4:11-14, 31-32; Col. 1:15-17; 3:13; 2 Thess. 3:6, 14; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; 2 Tim. 3:5; Titus 1:7-9; Heb. 13:7, 17)!

Let us gain our composure and confidence regardless of how many true believers are in the church, and live as His disciples for His glory!

© 2009, R.J. Krejcir, Ph.D., Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development www.churchleadership.org/

Looking for a good church?

Is your church perhaps a little weak? If you are not involved in a good church or you need to reform the one you are in, these are the basics that Christ has set forth. Here’s what to look for:

  • Worship: Songs and hymns in praise to God that are reverent with adoration! Knowing who God is: we are the performers and He is the audience as we give Him praise!
  • Prayer: Intimate words and thoughts expressed to God with care toward one another.
  • Preaching: Inspired and biblical, challenging us to live for God, lifting Christ up, and showing us implications we need to apply!

· Teaching and Discipleship: Solid biblical instruction from the Word of God to spur us on to growth!

  • Sharing: Joyful support for the work of God through missions, outreach, and the living of a life without compromise!
  • Fellowship: Encouragement from the family of God!
  • Discipline: Not allowing someone to distract or harm others through personal agendas and sin!

We need to go to a local church for the express reason that it is spiritually beneficial; and when we have benefited, so will others. Because of what Christ has done to give us saving grace and regeneration that we did not deserve, so we must respond with gratitude. The Reformation themes of “guilt,” “grace,” and “gratitude” show the progress of our walk. The process starts with our fall and our sinful nature, which is our “guilt.” Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, saves us for His glory and purpose, which is “grace.” Then, we respond by modeling the love and care of our Lord, which is “gratitude.”

We need to see our responsibility to care for His church properly and faithfully. His message will be pronounced and proclaimed through us with power, conviction, and in clarity and truth. People will be challenged and revival will break out. We have the privilege to know and proclaim what was once a secret, things that the Patriarchs and Prophets could only dream of. Now we can boldly tell others-in lifestyle, in words, and with confidence. It is about His riches and His glory! For the ultimate secret, what is foolishness to those who are not in Him, is that the God of the universe is living in us, employing us, empowering us, and loving us. He is our assurance, so let us share this great joy and never let it be a secret! We are called to share His glory and Truth! Do this with warmth, kindness, and in truth. Give to others what we have been given (John 10:10; Eph. 1:17-18; Col. 1:24-29; Heb. 10:25)!

Why We Should Go to Church

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. Ephesians 1:17-18

It can be easy to just give it all up and fall back into the world. There is so much conflict and disillusionment there that sometimes I am surprised that more people do not drop out. Statistics from The Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development, as well as Barna Research reported recently that perhaps 50% of people who go to a church are not even Christians. I first heard of this statistic when I was in seminary, and even from my “hero,” J. Vernon McGee, whom I would visit as often as possible. He often said he believed a strong percentage of people in the church were not Christians at all! At first, I did not believe it; but, after years of pastoral experience and looking at the research, I now know this to be very possible.

The early church (that is, the period in Christian history right after our Lord’s ascension up until the 4th century when Christianity became legal) went through a period of wide growth and geographic expansion, even in the face of extreme persecution. The Bible describes many instances of spectacular growth, starting at Pentecost. But, most people came to faith through a slow process. Justin Martyr, a man who exhibited extraordinary faith and was persecuted and killed for it (and became the word we use for experiencing persecution-martyr) did not come to the Lord by a sudden, emotional experience, but a long, slow process as most people did at that time. He says he first heard about the faith from an elderly stranger who engaged him in a philosophical conversation, common in that day. But, this elderly man planted a seed that grew over time. In addition, Justin Martyr saw the faith by observing Christians and was stirred by what he saw.

Most of the early Christians went through a several-year process where they were discipled, instructed, and encouraged before they were even baptized or received the Lord’s Supper. This was called “Catechumen,” where we get our word catechism. Today, in most churches, we have a tamer process of confirmation, membership, and so forth. Others may receive Christ at an evangelistic event and just proceed through a short membership class. The difference is that without a process where a person new to the faith can be properly instructed and discipled, he or she may not take a deeper ownership of the faith and become totally transformed by it. By not taking total ownership, one would be unable to know about our Lord and how He can transform our minds as well as our emotions. In the face of persecution and even death, a deeper ownership of the faith enabled those early Christians to thrive and grow and worship Him more.

Our American society has spent 50 years planted in front of the television, including me. I can’t miss “Star Trek” or the History Channel. We have created for ourselves a culture dependent on instant stimulation and gratification. Our temperament has been focused on the quick fix and instant results. A generation ago, the average person could spend his or her whole career at one job. Now we get offended if we do not get a promotion every year, and we change jobs every few years. We become restless; the TV generation has become shallow and “turned off” by church because it is boring to them.

We are a society that focuses on rejection and failure, and that focus paralyzes us from achieving our full potential. It is probably because the TV has replaced our spiritual life, shortened our attention span, and left us with questions and objections that turn to emptiness. A friend in the entertainment industry told me that the average TV program has over 20 different images every minute. So, when you watch a half-hour “sit-com,” your eyes will receive over 600 images. When we read a book, we receive one image. We are addicted to stimulation; most people want more and thus, it is hard for us to settle down.

In our church life, we can have the same expectations in communities with dozens to hundreds of churches from which to choose. So, the average Christian may hop and shop around for months or even years, and never get fully involved or use his or her gifts as one is called to do. Then, the boredom may win out, and he/she gives up. We have lost the sense of adventure and wonder that we used to have. We may see the apostles as “amazed,” “frightened,” “overjoyed,” “tired,” and “saddened,” but we never see the apostles or anyone else in the Bible as bored. God wants us filled with meaning and purpose; “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10). We are to go to church so we can participate meaningfully and purposefully with our gifts and abilities.

We need to be drawn to the church for a deeper reason than the promise of good child-care or entertainment or even eternal life-deeper than to find excitement and escape from our boredom.

Events intended to attract people to the church are essential, but we must have discipleship and equipping methods too. We must have a passion that comes from the very core of who we are as human beings-Christian beings who have surrendered to the person, work, truth, and character of Christ. If not, we will be unable to survive the pressures of life and the persecution we may receive. Without this, the early Christians would never have grown or been able to show courage in the face of persecution. This tiny sect of Christianity would have never survived a generation, let alone two thousand years.