Today we decided to visit a nursery because we need some ground cover and other small plants for our log rock garden. Because of lockdown, we don’t travel much or too far, so I decided to surprise Jenny by taking her to a Garden Center quite a way from us. We arrived at the Garden Center only to see a sign board saying they are moving to Atterbury Road opposite Mooi Kloof Estate on the other side. They are moving! We entered only to find the place empty apart from some sand and garden features. They might have moved already.
Getting to the other side was a rather long travel. When we arrived, we found they are still setting up there. All that way, and they can’t give us what we want. They can’t give us anything in the line of plants or ground cover. The strange thing is that I googled them and their webpage said absolutely nothing about them moving or being busy moving.
So, we travelled all the way back towards where we live and went to a nursery in Kilner Park. We were very specific, saying we wanted ground cover that could stand against the winter’s frost and that produced flowers. We also wanted some succulents that are robust and give flowers. We got exactly what we wanted. The one place gave us nothing at all and the other provided all our needs.
A church might be exactly like we experienced. One might give you absolutely nothing of spiritual value and the other might give you exactly what you spiritually need! One might ask, what is the purpose of a church? That is, why does the church exist? And, what ought the church to be doing?
Different people expect different things from a church. Many go to a church to see what they can get out of a church. I recall a lady, educated with a prestigious title, who attended church on and off over many years. She never got involved in the church’s activities, although we tried to draw her in. She chose to come and go and remain on the distant fringes. After years of doing as she did, she requested a counseling session. I met with her only to find her lambast the church for not providing what she felt the church ought to provide. Her idea was that the church needed to receive her and reach out to her in friendship and care … not using the Bible or Prayer, not doing evangelism, not getting her to do ministry … just tea and biscuits and social visits. What she failed to get was that the church bases all its ministry and activity on the Bible and from the Bible every extension of the pulpit must flow!
What this lady wanted of a church was being socially entertained without any spiritual or evangelistic application at all. Many are like her. They want a church like that Garden Center that has nothing to offer. We wanted plants that look great, and they offered nothing. This lady wants a church that offers her what she wants but does not want that which could shape her soul for eternity.
There are many others who want entertainment in the form of great music and singing and short messages that uplift … but no “heavy” Bible teaching. They want what John MacArthur taught against. They want sermonettes, not sermons! He said, “Sermonettes make Christianettes.”
So what ought a church to provide for worshippers? Naturally, the building, seating and layout are important, but none of these make the church! Good, lively music and singing are important, but these don’t make the church! Great coffee or tea after the service is welcomed, but this also does not make the church! Having a good Sunday School for the children, youth meetings and fellowship groups are important, but they do not make the church! So what makes the church? Firstly, it is important to note that the church is people, not the building or music or coffee! The Greek word ecclesia means a body of Christians called out of the Roman and Judean system to come together into a separate civil community.
It meant a politically autonomous body of Christians under no king but Jesus, under no other jurisdiction but that of Jesus. No man ruled them, only Christ. That was the reason these same Christians ran into trouble with kings and rulers; the same reason they were arrested, crucified and martyred. They dropped Caesar as their king and took up Christ.
The church is a people who have separated themselves from the world to live under the Lordship of Jesus, following the Bible applied by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, you need to expect a church to do and be what the Bible says. God appoints spiritual leaders in the shape of pastor-teachers and elders to care for the Body’s spiritual life. These leaders need to look after themselves so that they can look after you.
Acts 20:28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.
They need to provide a healthy spiritual diet of sound doctrine so that the Body might be able to discern Truth from error!
1 Tim 3:2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
They need to teach dependency upon God.
Col 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.
When the leaders of a church are called and appointed by God, teaching sound doctrine and men of prayer, that church will give you what you need (and what you should want), unlike the Garden Center that could give us nothing … and unlike some churches who only offer entertainment and nothing for the soul, its security and its eternal future!
Dear God, thank You for showing me through the Bible what You want a church to be like. Help me to fulfil my role in the church, respecting and submitting to my spiritual leaders, learning and growing in grace. Amen.