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  • Writer's picturePastor Nathan Lipscomb

What Is Your Church?

If you have ever had to search around for a church to join and call home, then you will probably understand that there is an insane variety of denominations out there. Within any given denomination, there is also great variety. Quite the buffet to choose from! Locally, here in Staunton, if you stand on any hilltop, you will see many belltowers, steeples, and crosses. When you knock on doors, most of the people you talk to are churched people, but not that many of them are sure of their salvation. Time and again I hear the sentiment, "Well, I just didn't hear that kind of preaching and teaching in my old church. No one really ever told us the gospel or even used Jesus' name that much." Not every religious gathering is a church, and not every church is a New Testament, biblical, Christ-centered church.

No church is going to fit neatly into one of these categories, but we, as church leaders or as laymen, can look at these church types and watch that we don't stray off into one of these ditches.

Is your church a program-centered church?

A church needs to have a vision, a direction, a clearly defined purpose. As a leader, we feel the need to plan and organize in order to see the growth in our people that we dream and pray about. Programs are born through that careful thought and planning. How else can we put the plan into practice? But, then if we're not careful, those programs can catch a stiff breeze of their own and chose their own direction. Whether it's the music program or the youth program, let's not be so attached to the status quo, that we can't put them on pause to reevaluate if they are Christ-centered and are profitable to the edification and growth of our members. I believe reevaluation of our methods is good practice from time-to-time, not because we should be constantly evolving and changing with the whims of society, but because we can easily get into a rut where we are working but no longer serving. If the goal of our outreach program is to reach the lost with the gospel, what are the some effective methods that we have been missing? If our goal is to train up our young people in God's Word and encourage them in their walk with God, then what is the most effective way to connect with them today? By the way, personal contact is still the best and most effective way to be a soulwinner or a youth leader. We can't replace ourselves with tracts, games, social media posts, videos, or programs; we need to be there day after day, month after month, year after year. That kind of faithfulness and attention yields fruit.

Is your church a people-centered church?

I know, someone is saying right now, "But, isn't the church made up of people? We're supposed to be reaching people with the Gospel, right?" Both of those things are right, but neither are to be the central theme of the church. The problem with setting up people at the center of the church is that we have a tendency to do whatever it takes to keep those people there and keep them happy. No doubt you can see how this can change the direction of the church by holding it hostage. The big-tithers are no more valuable or important to the Lord than anyone else in the church. The popular, smart, talented, or beautiful are no more useful to the Lord's work than the surrendered Christian who doesn't boast such things. In a seeker-sensitive church, the leaders determine what kind of people they would like to see walk through the doors of the church and gear their advertising, music, dress, and message to attract the target audience, usually the "up 'n comers". If we really want to make people important in our ministries, we can only do that through going out into the highways and hedges and compelling them, all of them, to come to Christ, even the "down 'n outers"! If we want to make our church members important, then we need to compel them to walk daily with God in all of His faithfulness, love, and holiness. These things can only really be done in a Christ-centered church.

Is your church an entertainment-centered church?

No, I don't think most of us would think that our churches are entertainment-centered. This runs along the same lines as the program-centered church. Just like we need plans to operate, we need music and preaching. If the preaching or the music is Biblical and appropriate to the believer, then they will enjoy it. If the Holy Spirit is moving, then those who are walking with the Spirit will be moved. Manufacturing that enjoyment purposefully, or attempting to imitate the moving of the Spirit through humanly means may be exciting, but it is user-generated and not of God. I believe that if we are going to sing in church, we should do it with all our hearts, with all our might, and with all our souls! Our songs need to be grounded scripturally in their theology, convicting in their message, moving in their melody, and excellent in their performance. We can't replace sound theology with repetition or replace conviction with volume. The moving of the rhythm can't replace what the Holy Spirit used to do in our hearts when we first grasped the meaning of a hymn as we sang together. If the electricity were to go out of your church for a month, would the "power" also seem to go out? No doubt, any church would likely lose some people if the creature comforts of air conditioning and padded pews were removed, but is your church reliant upon the methods of entertainment to keeps its people interested and attending? I am not against air conditioning, microphones, or screens. They are useful tools to effectively further the main goals of the Christ-centered church, but to feel that it is necessary to keep on the cutting edge of technology in order to maintain the current congregation is not the hallmark of a Christ-centered church.

Is your church a Christ-centered church?

In I Thessalonians 1, Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica, and commends them for several characteristics that need to be present in our churches as well. In verse 1, he makes mention that their church is grounded in God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son; it is a Christ-centered church. Next he commends them on their unceasing work of faith, and labor of love. When combining the words "unceasing", "work", and "labor", no doubt, images or remembrances of long physical toil come to our minds. However, notice what compels the church to continue on, faith and love. Stop and meditate on that. No really, take your time, I'll wait. Ok, now look at what must temper that labor: "patience of hope." Hope in what? Hope in our church leader's best laid plans or his charisma to carry us through? Hope in denominational power, prestige, or financial reach? No, it's hope in one thing, or person rather, "Our Lord Jesus Christ." In verse 5 Paul refers to the preponderance of the gospel. It wasn't just spoken, it was backed by the power of the Holy Spirit upon the bearer. In verse 6, the church is a follower of the Lord, desirous of the Word of God despite trials, full of joy, and ultimately, they were examples to other churches and the world around them of the difference it makes when God redeems a sinner and makes a new creature out of him. A Christ-centered church produces genuine fruit that remains. A Christ-centered church produces servants. A Christ-centered church reproduces.

As a young pastor, who is desirous of success, I'll admit that it is extremely easy to get caught-up in keeping people happy, building impressive programs, putting too much focus on entertainment and technology, and building my own kingdom while neglecting the fundamentals of what I was called to do: Go, Preach, Baptize, and Teach.

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