We are excited to introduce to you the next episode in the series ‘Is Church Important?’ Building up to P4C13, we are working to develop the concept of the importance of the local church from a personal level – interviews with real people from a real local church. Why? Because this year’s theme is ‘The Body: God’s Plan for the Local Church’.
This episode is an interview with Emily Craig, a recent college graduate and member of Westwood, home church of the Cavanaugh family. Emily and Daniel explore the question, ‘Is Church Important?’
Have you every wondered if the title of this blog is true?
From a real and tangible standpoint, Paul gets strait to the point when it comes to putting on in Colossians 3. Just a casual look at the text reveals the need to bear with the people that God has placed in our lives. Paul doesn’t waste time getting to the heart of the matter. He knows where the struggle is. He has seen it and lived it. He knows that God’s people can be prone to selfishness and pride if not confronted with the truth. Paul knows that dealing with people is a great avenue for showing the glory of God. So, Paul jumps in the deep end. He begins with a very basic fact of life, we have to live and work with humans.
I have put up with him?!
Yes, you do. In fact, you have to bear with him [Col.3: 13].
But what does it mean to bear with one another? What does it look like? Why must we invest our energy in “bearing”? We are to bear with one another, but when you get down to it – people are just down right difficult. Who needs them? There must be a reason for why Paul camps here – why he spends the remaining portion of our text dealing with our interaction with the people of God.
In fact, you have to bear & forgive.
In the text, “Bearing with one another,” means to endure. But to what extent are we to endure? How far are we to go in our enduring? Ask yourself this question: how much has Christ endured for me? Live in forgiveness towards one another. As Christ has forgiven you [as implicated in the first part of chapter 3] so you must forgive others. This is a command that stands based on the standard that is given to us in Christ’s example.
Sometimes the grievances are small and petty. Other times they seem to give the appearance that the whole world will come to and end. No matter how big in magnitude or small in comparison, we are to forgive as Christ forgave.
If Christ has forgiven you so much, why are you unable to forgive others? Live in the light of His forgiveness. Only then will you be able to truly bear with the local body He has placed you in. Grow in your understanding of how much Christ has forgiven you. And let it seep into the heart of your being and reflect in your love for others. When you embrace Christ’s forgiveness, you are embracing the joy of offering it to everyone who wrongs you. You are embracing the calling to be a living example of the forgiveness of Christ
In fact, you have love.
As if Paul has not touched something sensitive within all of us enough, he goes deeper into our heart by mentioning that which is central to all other virtues: love. As one commentator says:
“In keeping with the motif of putting on clothes, love is the belt or sash that pulls all these things just mentioned together.” – John MacArthur
Love is the primary virtue above all others. Without genuine love, no other virtues can be cultivated. Genuine love is the only thing that can bring “perfect harmony” among God’s people. It is the atom that binds God’s people together in harmony, the adhesive of the church.
Here is the litmus test of whether you genuinely love those around you. Do you love others because of what they give you or do you love others without expecting anything in return? The word of God says, “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die [Rom. 5:7].” Christ died for us who are unlovely; surely we can forbear the petty grievances of those who are the redeemed.
So here is the over arching point. People are not an option in the economy of God. They [we] are here to show Christ through our love and forgiveness of one another! We are a living testimony of Christ himself. This is why the local church is so important. This is why we are commanded not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together [Heb. 10:25]. When you reject the people of God and isolate yourself from them, you are telling God that His economy – his way of doing things – is a waste of time. “You got it all wrong God! I don’t know what you were thinking but surely this is not it!” And He responds: “Don’t forget, I loved you when you were unlovely. I forgave you when you were wallowing in your sin! Don’t tell me I got it all wrong!”
I’m curious. Does anyone else have this “problem”? You are studying a biblical issue in order to prepare to teach or understand it more deeply and, as you study, the Lord begins to funnel everything in your life towards you living it versus just knowing it? Sound familiar? Mind you, I am not complaining, but I stand amazed at the faithfulness of my God to do His transforming work in my life. He simply does not leave me alone. And I am ok with that.
P4C this year
As many of you may know, the P4C Summit this year is focusing on the issue of the church – the scriptural basis for it and the implications it has for our lives. Always, when we (V4L) decide on a theme for a conference, I begin my regular mode of operation – spending significant time in the word studying the topic. I also couple this with reading what other biblical scholars have to say. However, something begins to take place in my life as I do. The Spirit, quite methodically and with great precision, begins to shape everything in my life around what I am learning. I suddenly realize, “Wow, God is really doing a work in my life in this area. How cool is that?”
Living it versus just knowing it
Upon reflection, God has been working in my heart in a concentrated way regarding the church for the last couple of years. I have always believed the local church was foundationally biblical and of upmost importance. However, knowing it is one thing, living it is a completely different thing altogether. Over the last couple of years, I have come to realize that in order to apply the biblical implications of the local church, you have to take the initiative. Though fellowship with believers should be an organic process, it will not happen by osmoses. It takes time. You have to initiate relationships and, once initiated, they have to be cultivated like you would cultivate a garden. When they flourish, they will bring forth fruit.
Invest in the local body
True fellowship needs to be communal. Do not be constantly looking for fellowship somewhere outside of your community. Sure, you may have friends around the globe; however, these friends will not be able to engage with you on a daily or weekly basis. Sometimes you may go years and never see friends who are elsewhere. But those in your local body, if the relationships are intentionally cultivated, will know you. They will know your weaknesses and your strengths. They will be able to encourage or rebuke you, if necessary.
By God’s grace
By God’s grace, this is what I have done and continue to do in my own local body of believers. I can testify that it has been life changing. It has taken investment of time and vulnerability on my part, but the fellowship that I have gained is invaluable. I am being built up in my relationship with Christ. I am not the same person I was when I started. I have brothers who hold me accountable and pastors who preach the word. I know good churches are hard to find, but make sure that your preconceived ideas of what the church should be are not getting in the way. I urge you to pursue it. If you are in a good church where the word is preached but the fellowship is lacking, you be the one who starts the Bible study. You be the one who takes people out to coffee and spends time getting to know them. You be the one who decides I am going to just do it! You will not be sorry you did.
Last week, we began to talk about how we “do church”. It is a big subject when you are trying to dissect it biblically and then apply it daily. There are the “marks” that should characterize and define each local assembly. However, when you are grounded in the biblical “marks”, there must be an outworking daily in the life of a congregation, flowing from a heart that loves Christ. It is paramount that you have biblically sound preaching and life-to-life discipleship must be woven deeply in the fabric of your congregation. But, if these things are true, what is the glue that holds all these “marks” together? Sure, it may be a direct or indirect result of sound preaching or effective discipleship. The gospel must be central. But without this characteristic it surely spells lifelessness in a body. It is none other than pure, biblical, New Testament flavored fellowship of the believers.
Biblical fellowship has been destroyed in our churches today. Ask the average person what “fellowship” is to them and you will receive a variety of answers and concepts. They will most often tell you something that has no remote resemblance to biblical New Testament fellowship.
Let’s just say this: You have not had “fellowship” nor are you having a “fellowship” when there is a social gathering. Within the context of our culture, social media does not classify as fellowship. Fellowship of believers is not even common social interests that we have among one another. Nor is it common unities around a particular “don’t” that certain Christians may or may not have. The implications of biblical fellowship are far deeper within the context of the local church than most of us have ever experienced before.
We have to turn to the book of Acts to purify the definition that has tarnished the prevalent understanding of fellowship. Acts opens up with the believers receiving the promised Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The New Testament believers were then empowered to live as a redeemed people. At the end of Acts 2, we see that the natural outworking of the Spirit is genuine fellowship. Verse 42 [ESV] tells us, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” If you read the remaining verses of chapter two you will notice the New Testament believers were marked by selflessness. Everything was done with the local body in mind [people of God]. The local church was not just another social activity to be worked into their life; the local church was their life. The people of God were the main concern. They were ready to meet every need – physical or spiritual. If we take a look at the word devoted in verse 42, it reveals the intensity and depth of fellowship. The word meant to be intently engaged, to constantly attend to no matter the cost. Does this sound like any fellowship you know?
Fellowship Starts with You
If you want true fellowship in your local church, you are going to have to devote yourself to it [Acts 2:42-47] . True fellowship shares life with others. It requires transparency and vulnerability – a heart and hand that is opened not closed. In order to have true fellowship as the people of God, it will require you to give emotionally, spiritually, and physically. If we are to have true, intentional, New Testament fellowship in our churches, the initiative will have to begin with you. Fellowship demands you to be intentional. You may have to step out of your comfort zone. You will have to become vulnerable. If you do not desire intentional fellowship with the people of God, then you need to do some soul searching. Fellowship is pursuing relationship even when it hurts or is inconvenient. Fellowship is when believers are united together on the same side of the struggle. Jerry Bridges says this about Acts 2: “Those first Christians of Acts 2 were not devoting themselves to social activities but to relationships.”
How will the world know that we are authentic if we do not have love for one another? Jesus said to His disciples, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another [John 13:35 ESV].”
When viewed biblically, there is no room for lone ranger Christianity in the economy of God. WE must pursue fellowship with the people of God.
Our culture is in no way conducive for ‘doing church’. It is very easy and comfortable to hold a strong and biblical theological position on the church without ever actually applying it in our everyday lives. However, theology that never reaches to the heart and works its way out into application is dead religion. There is really no reason for believing it. Belief produces conviction and conviction gives way to living that bears evidence of the grace of God.
When we hear words like ‘fellowship’ or phrases like ‘bear one another’s burdens’ [Gal. 6:2] within the context of the local church in scripture, they have meaning. They are not cultural studies of some ancient people gone by. It is speaking to us today and holds implications for how we structure and live our lives as Christians within the context of the local church.
But what does it mean to actually ‘do church’? This is a massive issue and one that is very difficult to deal with in one post. There is almost two parts. There is the element of daily or weekly church life that must be true, but then there are the ‘marks’ that make up a healthy church and should be guiding factors if we are looking for a local body to join.
This week I am just going to deal with the latter half of this issue. To deal with it, I am brining in some support from 9Marks Ministries [you should check out this ministry]. They have produced two-minute videos dealing with 9 biblical marks that should be evident in a church. Obviously many churches are in various stages of these biblical marks, but they are the pillars that should make up our thinking and that we should strive to cultivate and pray for…always remembering that we strive in the humility of Christ and His Spirit.
2. Biblical Theology
3. The Gospel
Make sure to check out the following pilot episode in the series ‘Is Church Important?’ Building up to P4C13, we want to develop the concept of the importance of the local church from a personal level – interviews with real people from a real local church. Why? Because this year’s theme is ‘The Body: God’s Plan for the Local Church’.
This pilot episode is an interview with Jeff Knight – elder at Westwood Church, home church of the Cavanaugh family.
Be sure to stay tuned in the coming months for additional videos!
We are so excited to welcome on board Michelle Bracey. She is the newest member of the Vision4Living team. She will be taking on the responsibilities of Finance Secretary which will relieve myself of a lot of responsibility thus freeing me up to do more development and writing. We are so grateful to God for this provision and answer to prayer. Vision4Living is growing and as we grow it is important that we maintain accuracy and accountability in our finances to the glory of God. Glad to have you on board Michelle!
P4C has been incredibly blessed over the years with the caliber of speakers it has had to expound the word of God faithfully to us. This year is no exception. I am so excited to announce…
Ryan Fullerton will be joining us for P4C13. Ryan is the lead pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Louisville, KY and a faithful expositor. Ryan and I have had the privilege to discuss this years theme on “The Body: God’s Plan for the Church” and he is excited about P4C and equally passionate to teach about this topic. Ryan is married and has four children and is looking forward to meeting each and every one of you who will be coming.
P4C would not be complete without the regulars. Dewey Novotny, Charles Cavanaugh, Pam Cavanaugh, Micah Cavanaugh, and I will be returning to round out the speaker lineup. We are so pumped about this years theme. We know the issue of Christ’s bride is not only important in the picture of God’s glory but pivotal for our sanctification and the proclamation of the gospel. The next generation has lost its biblical understanding of the urgent necessity of the church. We want to recover this biblical necessity. We want to see why the church is not only a gift to his people but a means to showing the world the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. So consider this your personal invitation. See you there!
…For more on the speakers visit the P4C13 page
Header photo courtesy of Photography by Britton
We are placed to report that after some delay, Charles and Pam arrived in Ecuador on July 20th!
The work continues to march on and the Lord is working in powerful ways. Pam reports: “today as we were leaving a school, we realized some of the team was not on our bus….they stayed behind because two young men ask them ‘How can we be saved?’ Praise the Lord… Yes, Lord, you are the author of salvation and we praise your name for using us, clay pots in your hands!!”
Please praise the Lord with them and continue to pray that His name is lifted up as they labor for the Kingdom.
Let’s take a look at what go looks like for a college student!
Now that you know what Go looks like for Brandon, What Will Go Look Like for You?
[you can also view this video at Vimeo]
Brandon is an alumni of P4C and highly recommends you attend! He will be there this year.
Passion4Chrsit 2012 | October 24-28 | Perrysville, Ohio
Registration open! Register now!