Basic Training, Church

Throwback Thursday ~ Basic Training: 7 Reasons Church is Not Optional and Non-Negotiable for Christians

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

It’s a disturbing trend that’s spreading like the plague, especially among women who claim to be believers:

“I’m a Christian but I refuse to attend church.”

These aren’t women who can’t attend church due to health reasons, caring for an ill or disabled loved one, who have no other choice but to work on Sundays, or who live in an area with no reasonably doctrinally sound church to attend. They’re women who could get plugged in to a decent local church, but intentionally shun the body of Christ.

Usually, the decision to opt out of church boils down to one of two scenarios: a) a believer who was hurt by a previous church and yet isn’t ready to risk being hurt again or b) someone (often a false convert) who doesn’t grasp the concept that being joyfully joined to a local body of believers is part of what defines someone as a Christian.

I can tell some of y’all have already fired up your e-mail programs or mentally formulated a corrective comment. Hang on, and please read what I’m about to say so we’re all on the same page here. I am not saying, have never said, and will never say that attending church, joining a church, serving at a church, or being baptized into a church is what saves a person, even in part. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian. Everybody with me? Scripture is clear that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, and that good works, such as church attendance, play zero part in a person’s salvation.

What I am saying is that one of the signs, or fruits, that someone is already saved is that she has a heartfelt love and affection for the things of God, which includes the gathering of the saints for fellowship, worship, encouragement, and edification. For a believer, love for the bride of Christ is a natural extension of loving Christ, Himself. She doesn’t have to be talked into attending church; there’s no place on earth she’d rather be.

We’ve all been in difficult situations with difficult people at church that can hurt, sometimes deeply – believe me, I’ve been there – and can leave us in need of taking a few Sundays off to recover, or possibly the need to change to a healthier church. But if you’ve harbored antipathy toward the church, as a whole, for years, have never taken joy in fellowshipping and worshiping with fellow believers, don’t see any particular need for gathering with the Body, or are generally apathetic in your attitude toward church, you’re in a very dangerous place, spiritually, and you need to question your salvation. Those are symptoms of being lost, not fruit of being saved.

For Christians, being joined to a local church is not optional and non-negotiable. Why?

1. God Says So

Just in case the entirety of the Bible isn’t clear enough that God wants His people meeting together for fellowship, worship, and the Word, He says so very bluntly in Hebrews 10:24-25:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

The HCSB puts it this way: “not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do,” and NASB says: “not forsaking our own assembling together.” God says we are not to neglect, stay away from, or forsake, the meeting of the church body. For anyone who claims to be a Christian, that reason alone ought to be good enough. When God tells us to do something, we do it. Period.

2. The Church is God’s Plan for Christians

God doesn’t need or want your help devising the best methodology for your life and growth as a Christian. He already has a plan. He already established that plan. That plan is the church. There’s no plan B or any cafeteria-style options. If you’re a Christian, God’s plan for you is to be a faithful part of a local body of believers. The Bible never suggests that it’s OK for you to be a “Lone Ranger Christian.” There are no explicit statements to this effect, nor even one example of a New Testament Christian who lived life apart from the church. The New Testament assumes Christians will be part of a church. If not, the majority of Matthew through Revelation would be moot. If you reject the church, you’re rejecting God’s word and His way in favor of your own way.

3. Jesus Values the Church

You claim to love and follow Jesus, right? Well, Jesus founded the church. Jesus is the head of the church. Jesus loves the church. Jesus died for the church. Jesus is the Savior of the church. Jesus nourishes, cherishes, and sanctifies the church. How could anyone claim to love and follow Jesus and yet cavalierly toss aside something He values so much that He laid His life down for it? If you really love Jesus, you’ll value the things He values, and, clearly, He values the church.

4. Being Joined to the Church Is an Indicator of Salvation

First John 2:18-19 makes no bones about it. Forsaking the church is an indicator that you’re not saved:

…now many antichrists have come…They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

Want to make it plain that you’re not of Christ? Step one is to leave the church.

5. The Church is the Dispensary for the Word and the Ordinances

The preaching and teaching of God’s Word. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In order to preserve their purity and sanctity, God established a hierarchical structure of ecclesiastical authority and placed the responsibility for administering Scripture and the ordinances with the church, not isolated individuals. Do we have women’s Bible studies and Sunday School classes? Of course. But only under the oversight of our pastors and elders, as an outflow of, and in keeping with, the preaching and teaching ministry of the church. Do we share the gospel with the lost we encounter during the week? You bet! Our churches enable us to do so by training us in the Word, and we bring new believers back to our churches so that they may be discipled.

6. The “One Anothers”

Love one another. Comfort one another. Forgive one another. Serve one another. Bear one another’s burdens. Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another. Have you ever stopped to think which people “one another” is referring to? It’s easy to see when you look at these verses in context. It’s our brothers and sisters in Christ. All of the New Testament “one anothers” are written to the church. You need brothers and sisters to minister the “one anothers” to you, and your brothers and sisters need you to minister the “one anothers” to them. We cannot properly carry out the “one anothers” outside the church because they were meant to be practiced first and foremost within the church.

7. Sheep Need Shepherds

The Bible often uses sheep as a metaphor for God’s people. And since we know that God is the author of Scripture, we know God handpicked that metaphor to describe us. Ever notice that God never describes a sheep wandering off on its own as though that were a good thing?

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way;
Isaiah 53:6a

I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant,
Psalm 119:176a

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Matthew 9:36

What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?
Matthew 18:12

Sheep who leave the flock to make their own way in the world are in danger from wolves, the pitfalls of sin, and any number of other perils, especially the trials and tragedies of life. I can’t tell you how many e-mails I’ve received from distraught Christian women in dire personal circumstances who desperately need pastoral counsel. Sadly, when I tell them I’m not equipped to help them with such a complicated problem from so far away and that they need to make an appointment with their pastor for one on one, face to face counseling, the response is often, “I haven’t been going to church. I don’t have a pastor.”

We need the protection of the sheep pen, the brotherhood of the flock, and the leadership of our shepherds, our pastors, to help guide us. God knew we needed those things. That is one reason He established the church and created the position of pastor. Christ is our Good Shepherd, but until He returns, He has appointed godly men to watch over and protect the flock in His absence:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
John 21:15-17

And he gave…the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
Ephesians 4:11-12

So I exhort the elders among you…shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
1 Peter 5:1-4

You can’t shepherd yourself. That internet pastor you listen to – even the most doctrinally sound one – can’t shepherd you. You need to be part of a flock led by a shepherd who knows you and cares for your soul.

Do you take joy in gathering regularly with your brothers and sisters in Christ for worship, the Word, the ordinances, building one another up, and serving one another? If not, the solution is not to leave the church altogether. The solution is to examine your heart against Scripture to discover whether or not you’re truly saved, and then to find a healthy church you can pour yourself into. Christ has given believers the local church as a blessing and a benefit, not a burden and a bore. Love and embrace this precious gift He has lavished on you.


Additional Resources

Six Ways Not to Forsake the Assembly 

7 reasons worshipers need the church at The Cripplegate

Mailbag #49: Home Groups Over Church at 9Marks

My Jesus, I Love You; Your Bride I Despise! at Reformation21

Why You May Be Tempted To Neglect Your Church by Tim Challies

Five Essential Reasons for Christians to Gather in Public Worship at Ligonier

Prioritize Your Church by Tim Challies

Is a “Churchless Christian” an Oxymoron? at Ligonier

The Plight of Churchless Christians at The Cripplegate

40 reasons to be part of a local church at The Cripplegate

Church, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ Is It Really All Our Fault?

Originally published July 15, 2016all our fault

“If the church would just _________,
the world would flock to us.”

“The world is in the state it’s in because
the church has fallen down on the job.”

Over the past few years, I’ve been hearing and reading statements like these more and more frequently. But are they true? Is the world really in such sad shape as a result of the failings of the church?

Yes!…and…no.

It is absolutely true that the visible church – everything that wears the label “church” or “Christian,” whether or not it’s biblical Christianity – has a lot to be ashamed of. Westboro. TBN. Homosexual church leaders and members. Pastors caught in adultery. Child molestation scandals. Female “pastors.” All manner of demonic behavior masquerading as “worship,” blasphemously attributed to the “Holy Spirit.”

Even churches with an orthodox statement of faith – which, to onlookers, seem to be doing fine, biblically – water down the gospel in the name of being seeker sensitive, use materials produced by false teachers, invite false teachers to speak at their conferences, fail to evangelize, place women in unbiblical positions of leadership, have pastors and teachers whose main form of teaching is eisegesis and pandering to felt needs, fail to provide for the needs of their members and their surrounding community, focus on fun and silliness in their youth and children’s ministries instead of Scripture and holiness, allow members to gossip, backbite, and exercise selfishness, fail to practice church discipline, make their worship services into irreverent entertainment-fests, have “pastors” who are little more than stand up comedians, and have largely biblically ignorant congregations.

Some churches are spiritually healthier than others, but nobody’s getting out of this one with clean hands. Even the healthiest church is doing something wrong in some little nook or cranny. And as Christ’s bride, it is incumbent upon us, whenever we discover those nooks and crannies, to repent, set things right, and do things biblically as we move forward.

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:25b-27

That’s Christ’s vision of the church. A vision all churches fall woefully short of. And when the church fails in any area, it does contribute to the downhill slide of the world, because it is not being the city on the hill Christ wants it to be, and it is producing individual Christians (or false converts) who aren’t being the salt and light Christ wants them to be.

But is it fair to lay all the world’s woes and sinfulness at the doorstep of the church? Is it really true that if we would just clean up our act in this area or on that issue that we’d magically see an influx of pagans begging, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

No, it isn’t.

The world isn’t steeped in sin because of the failings of the church. The world is steeped in sin because of the Fall.

Look back over history. The world was vicious and depraved long before the church ever came on the scene. And, for that matter, long before God set apart and established Israel as His chosen people. (Hello? The ante-diluvian world? Sodom and Gomorrah? Ancient Egypt? Baal and Molech worship?)

Examine any era in the last two millenia when you think the church was doing a better job than it is now and take a look at the society that church was situated in. The New Testament church? It was surrounded by a world of war, oppression, torture, debauchery, sexual deviance, slavery, misogyny, poverty, famine, and child abuse.

The head of the church, Jesus Christ, spent over thirty years physically present on this earth. We know He conducted His ministry perfectly. Not once did He fail to preach the gospel or provide for people’s needs or fall short in any other way. He even went so far as to lay His life down for the sin of the world. And what impact did that have on His immediate society? Did all the Pharisees repent and temple worship was restored to godliness? No. Did Rome stop ruling the world with an iron fist? No. Did acts of sedition and perversion and persecution suddenly disappear? No. In fact, some of those things actually got worse during and after Jesus’ time.

Just like He prophesied.

You see, Jesus didn’t say, “Be more like Me and the world will come running,” or “The church can solve the ills of the world.” He said:

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15:19

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2 Timothy 3:12-13

The more the church and individual Christians look and act like Christ, the more world will hate, persecute, and ostracize us.

The church is not going to fix all the evils of society. And it’s not fair to lay that burden of responsibility – one that even Jesus’ earthly ministry didn’t accomplish – on believers who genuinely love their Savior and want to serve Him. Holding out the stick and carrot of a utopian world to the church – if only we’ll get our act together – does nothing but breed hopelessness, despair, and futility in the pews.

Does the church have a lot of repenting to do? Yes. Are there right hands we need to chop off and right eyes we need to gouge out in order to facilitate obedience to Christ? You bet. Should we be exponentially more proactive and passionate about preaching the gospel and meeting the needs of a lost and dying world? Absolutely.

But we do not do those things because we’re failing the world. We do those things out of love for and faithfulness to Christ. Christ is our goal, not a changed world. Christ is the prize we’re to fix our eyes on, not a society that behaves itself. Christ is the finish line we press toward, not domestic tranquility and morality.

Christ.

Because if it’s the church’s job to set the world right, we’re doomed. The world sins because the world is made up of sinners. And the world will continue to sin – even if every church on the planet suddenly becomes perfect – because the world is made up of sinners. But if the church’s highest attainment is love for Christ, faithfulness to Christ, and obedience to Christ, then we are successful in God’s eyes regardless of what the world around us looks like.

Let’s be faithful and trust God to handle changing the world.

Basic Training, Church

Basic Training: 7 Reasons Church is Not Optional and Non-Negotiable for Christians

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

It’s a disturbing trend that’s spreading like the plague, especially among women who claim to be believers:

“I’m a Christian but I refuse to attend church.”

These aren’t women who can’t attend church due to health reasons, caring for an ill or disabled loved one, who have no other choice but to work on Sundays, or who live in an area with no reasonably doctrinally sound church to attend. They’re women who could get plugged in to a decent local church, but intentionally shun the body of Christ.

Usually, the decision to opt out of church boils down to one of two scenarios: a) a believer who was hurt by a previous church and yet isn’t ready to risk being hurt again or b) someone (often a false convert) who doesn’t grasp the concept that being joyfully joined to a local body of believers is part of what defines someone as a Christian.

I can tell some of y’all have already fired up your e-mail programs or mentally formulated a corrective comment. Hang on, and please read what I’m about to say so we’re all on the same page here. I am not saying, have never said, and will never say that attending church, joining a church, serving at a church, or being baptized into a church is what saves a person, even in part. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian. Everybody with me? Scripture is clear that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, and that good works, such as church attendance, play zero part in a person’s salvation.

What I am saying is that one of the signs, or fruits, that someone is already saved is that she has a heartfelt love and affection for the things of God, which includes the gathering of the saints for fellowship, worship, encouragement, and edification. For a believer, love for the bride of Christ is a natural extension of loving Christ, Himself. She doesn’t have to be talked into attending church; there’s no place on earth she’d rather be.

We’ve all been in difficult situations with difficult people at church that can hurt, sometimes deeply – believe me, I’ve been there – and can leave us in need of taking a few Sundays off to recover, or possibly the need to change to a healthier church. But if you’ve harbored antipathy toward the church, as a whole, for years, have never taken joy in fellowshipping and worshiping with fellow believers, don’t see any particular need for gathering with the Body, or are generally apathetic in your attitude toward church, you’re in a very dangerous place, spiritually, and you need to question your salvation. Those are symptoms of being lost, not fruit of being saved.

For Christians, being joined to a local church is not optional and non-negotiable. Why?

1. God Says So

Just in case the entirety of the Bible isn’t clear enough that God wants His people meeting together for fellowship, worship, and the Word, He says so very bluntly in Hebrews 10:24-25:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

The HCSB puts it this way: “not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do,” and NASB says: “not forsaking our own assembling together.” God says we are not to neglect, stay away from, or forsake, the meeting of the church body. For anyone who claims to be a Christian, that reason alone ought to be good enough. When God tells us to do something, we do it. Period.

2. The Church is God’s Plan for Christians

God doesn’t need or want your help devising the best methodology for your life and growth as a Christian. He already has a plan. He already established that plan. That plan is the church. There’s no plan B or any cafeteria-style options. If you’re a Christian, God’s plan for you is to be a faithful part of a local body of believers. The Bible never suggests that it’s OK for you to be a “Lone Ranger Christian.” There are no explicit statements to this effect, nor even one example of a New Testament Christian who lived life apart from the church. The New Testament assumes Christians will be part of a church. If not, the majority of Matthew through Revelation would be moot. If you reject the church, you’re rejecting God’s word and His way in favor of your own way.

3. Jesus Values the Church

You claim to love and follow Jesus, right? Well, Jesus founded the church. Jesus is the head of the church. Jesus loves the church. Jesus died for the church. Jesus is the Savior of the church. Jesus nourishes, cherishes, and sanctifies the church. How could anyone claim to love and follow Jesus and yet cavalierly toss aside something He values so much that He laid His life down for it? If you really love Jesus, you’ll value the things He values, and, clearly, He values the church.

4. Being Joined to the Church Is an Indicator of Salvation

First John 2:18-19 makes no bones about it. Forsaking the church is an indicator that you’re not saved:

…now many antichrists have come…They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

Want to make it plain that you’re not of Christ? Step one is to leave the church.

5. The Church is the Dispensary for the Word and the Ordinances

The preaching and teaching of God’s Word. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In order to preserve their purity and sanctity, God established a hierarchical structure of ecclesiastical authority and placed the responsibility for administering Scripture and the ordinances with the church, not isolated individuals. Do we have women’s Bible studies and Sunday School classes? Of course. But only under the oversight of our pastors and elders, as an outflow of, and in keeping with, the preaching and teaching ministry of the church. Do we share the gospel with the lost we encounter during the week? You bet! Our churches enable us to do so by training us in the Word, and we bring new believers back to our churches so that they may be discipled.

6. The “One Anothers”

Love one another. Comfort one another. Forgive one another. Serve one another. Bear one another’s burdens. Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another. Have you ever stopped to think which people “one another” is referring to? It’s easy to see when you look at these verses in context. It’s our brothers and sisters in Christ. All of the New Testament “one anothers” are written to the church. You need brothers and sisters to minister the “one anothers” to you, and your brothers and sisters need you to minister the “one anothers” to them. We cannot properly carry out the “one anothers” outside the church because they were meant to be practiced first and foremost within the church.

7. Sheep Need Shepherds

The Bible often uses sheep as a metaphor for God’s people. And since we know that God is the author of Scripture, we know God handpicked that metaphor to describe us. Ever notice that God never describes a sheep wandering off on its own as though that were a good thing?

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way;
Isaiah 53:6a

I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant,
Psalm 119:176a

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Matthew 9:36

What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?
Matthew 18:12

Sheep who leave the flock to make their own way in the world are in danger from wolves, the pitfalls of sin, and any number of other perils, especially the trials and tragedies of life. I can’t tell you how many e-mails I’ve received from distraught Christian women in dire personal circumstances who desperately need pastoral counsel. Sadly, when I tell them I’m not equipped to help them with such a complicated problem from so far away and that they need to make an appointment with their pastor for one on one, face to face counseling, the response is often, “I haven’t been going to church. I don’t have a pastor.”

We need the protection of the sheep pen, the brotherhood of the flock, and the leadership of our shepherds, our pastors, to help guide us. God knew we needed those things. That is one reason He established the church and created the position of pastor. Christ is our Good Shepherd, but until He returns, He has appointed godly men to watch over and protect the flock in His absence:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
John 21:15-17

And he gave…the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
Ephesians 4:11-12

So I exhort the elders among you…shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
1 Peter 5:1-4

You can’t shepherd yourself. That internet pastor you listen to – even the most doctrinally sound one – can’t shepherd you. You need to be part of a flock led by a shepherd who knows you and cares for your soul.

Do you take joy in gathering regularly with your brothers and sisters in Christ for worship, the Word, the ordinances, building one another up, and serving one another? If not, the solution is not to leave the church altogether. The solution is to examine your heart against Scripture to discover whether or not you’re truly saved, and then to find a healthy church you can pour yourself into. Christ has given believers the local church as a blessing and a benefit, not a burden and a bore. Love and embrace this precious gift He has lavished on you.


Additional Resources

Six Ways Not to Forsake the Assembly 

7 reasons worshipers need the church at The Cripplegate

Mailbag #49: Home Groups Over Church at 9Marks

My Jesus, I Love You; Your Bride I Despise! at Reformation21

Why You May Be Tempted To Neglect Your Church by Tim Challies

Five Essential Reasons for Christians to Gather in Public Worship at Ligonier

Prioritize Your Church by Tim Challies

Is a “Churchless Christian” an Oxymoron? at Ligonier

The Plight of Churchless Christians at The Cripplegate

40 reasons to be part of a local church at The Cripplegate

Church

Is It Really All Our Fault?

all our fault

“If the church would just _________,
the world would flock to us.”

“The world is in the state it’s in because
the church has fallen down on the job.”

Over the past few years, I’ve been hearing and reading statements like these more and more frequently. But are they true? Is the world really in such sad shape as a result of the failings of the church?

Yes!…and…no.

It is absolutely true that the visible church – everything that wears the label “church” or “Christian,” whether or not it’s biblical Christianity – has a lot to be ashamed of. Westboro. TBN. Homosexual church leaders and members. Pastors caught in adultery. Child molestation scandals. Female “pastors.” All manner of demonic behavior masquerading as “worship,” blasphemously attributed to the “Holy Spirit.”

Even churches with an orthodox statement of faith – which, to onlookers, seem to be doing fine, biblically – water down the gospel in the name of being seeker sensitive, use materials produced by false teachers, invite false teachers to speak at their conferences, fail to evangelize, place women in unbiblical positions of leadership, have pastors and teachers whose main form of teaching is eisegesis and pandering to felt needs, fail to provide for the needs of their members and their surrounding community, focus on fun and silliness in their youth and children’s ministries instead of Scripture and holiness, allow members to gossip, backbite, and exercise selfishness, fail to practice church discipline, make their worship services into irreverent entertainment-fests, have “pastors” who are little more than stand up comedians, and have largely biblically ignorant congregations.

Some churches are spiritually healthier than others, but nobody’s getting out of this one with clean hands. Even the healthiest church is doing something wrong in some little nook or cranny. And as Christ’s bride, it is incumbent upon us, whenever we discover those nooks and crannies, to repent, set things right, and do things biblically as we move forward.

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:25b-27

That’s Christ’s vision of the church. A vision all churches fall woefully short of. And when the church fails in any area, it does contribute to the downhill slide of the world, because it is not being the city on the hill Christ wants it to be, and it is producing individual Christians (or false converts) who aren’t being the salt and light Christ wants them to be.

But is it fair to lay all the world’s woes and sinfulness at the doorstep of the church? Is it really true that if we would just clean up our act in this area or on that issue that we’d magically see an influx of pagans begging, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

No, it isn’t.

The world isn’t steeped in sin because of the failings of the church. The world is steeped in sin because of the Fall.

Look back over history. The world was vicious and depraved long before the church ever came on the scene. And, for that matter, long before God set apart and established Israel as His chosen people. (Hello? The ante-diluvian world? Sodom and Gomorrah? Ancient Egypt? Baal and Molech worship?)

Examine any era in the last two millenia when you think the church was doing a better job than it is now and take a look at the society that church was situated in. The New Testament church? It was surrounded by a world of war, oppression, torture, debauchery, sexual deviance, slavery, misogyny, poverty, famine, and child abuse.

The head of the church, Jesus Christ, spent over thirty years physically present on this earth. We know He conducted His ministry perfectly. Not once did He fail to preach the gospel or provide for people’s needs or fall short in any other way. He even went so far as to lay His life down for the sin of the world. And what impact did that have on His immediate society? Did all the Pharisees repent and temple worship was restored to godliness? No. Did Rome stop ruling the world with an iron fist? No. Did acts of sedition and perversion and persecution suddenly disappear? No. In fact, some of those things actually got worse during and after Jesus’ time.

Just like He prophesied.

You see, Jesus didn’t say, “Be more like Me and the world will come running,” or “The church can solve the ills of the world.” He said:

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15:19

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2 Timothy 3:12-13

The more the church and individual Christians look and act like Christ, the more world will hate, persecute, and ostracize us.

The church is not going to fix all the evils of society. And it’s not fair to lay that burden of responsibility – one that even Jesus’ earthly ministry didn’t accomplish – on believers who genuinely love their Savior and want to serve Him. Holding out the stick and carrot of a utopian world to the church – if only we’ll get our act together – does nothing but breed hopelessness, despair, and futility in the pews.

Does the church have a lot of repenting to do? Yes. Are there right hands we need to chop off and right eyes we need to gouge out in order to facilitate obedience to Christ? You bet. Should we be exponentially more proactive and passionate about preaching the gospel and meeting the needs of a lost and dying world? Absolutely.

But we do not do those things because we’re failing the world. We do those things out of love for and faithfulness to Christ. Christ is our goal, not a changed world. Christ is the prize we’re to fix our eyes on, not a society that behaves itself. Christ is the finish line we press toward, not domestic tranquility and morality.

Christ.

Because if it’s the church’s job to set the world right, we’re doomed. The world sins because the world is made up of sinners. And the world will continue to sin – even if every church on the planet suddenly becomes perfect – because the world is made up of sinners. But if the church’s highest attainment is love for Christ, faithfulness to Christ, and obedience to Christ, then we are successful in God’s eyes regardless of what the world around us looks like.

Let’s be faithful and trust God to handle changing the world.