Reading the book of Acts excites me about the Church or at least the True identity of the Church. Yet I feel like so many do not come close to understanding the real intention of the Church. I barely can grasp the true meaning. The theme that seems to show in the beginning of Acts is community, unity, and new believers being added to the Body. Anyone can just gather together. What set this group apart is that they were joined together and worshipped Jesus Christ knowing fully and believing in their hearts that he was [and is] their true Messiah. They believed fully in the Holy Spirit and its incredible and supernatural power. They believed and lived out the gifts of the Holy Spirit [1 Corinthians 12-14]- the Spirit promised by Jesus, being evident in their lives thus producing spiritual fruit [Galatians 5:23] in their own lives and their body of believers. It goes one step further. Their belief did not just stay in their fellowship during times they would be gathered together. It was lived out. The idea of the Church, in its core, is so vastly different than how we treat it. We treat Church as something to go to and not something to be. We treat it as something that remains stuck inside a wall, yet the moment one leaves the building they can be whoever they want. The Church of Acts, the beginnings of it all, was not a movement, not a building, not a catchy idea to go along with, but a group of individuals that were deeply changed by a God who loved them not because of anything they had or could ever do, but because of a deeper LOVE that had died for them. Because they were changed, and no longer stuck in their old ways- their sin, shameful, and mediocre lives- they were free to serve Jesus with their lives by bringing that LOVE to others, by living their lives with honor and purity and holiness, and believing that everyone, though completely undeserved, was loved by God greater than themselves.
I feel like today the Church is so set on tolerance that we have forgotten true holiness. We are so consumed with this world and not offending someone or causing disagreement, that so many Churches no longer pursue the Holy Spirit, Christians that are radically living out Godly lives in purity and honor, or a quickly growing body of new believers. We have forgotten what the Church really is because this world does not like the real meaning. It is different. It is radical. It is powerful. To embrace it means change. To embrace it means to live by something out of your own control. And more, it means accepting the TRUTH of Jesus Christ and everything he lived and died for…and rose for. Yes, I do believe there are churches and Christians that are living out this true Acts meaning of the Church without compromise. Yet I see so many Christians today compromising the Word for the World. People justify tolerance and thus compromise what being a believer really means. When we [ yes I include myself in this knowing full well that I am perfectly imperfect and will fail at this] compromise the standards of holiness, purity, and godliness for being accepted by this world…we are becoming acclimated to it and no longer to God’s Word for us. We then are not the Church. We are not living it out. We are not changing. We are not living by the Spirit but instead by ourselves as our own gods, whatever those gods make be in our lives.
Alas, there is hope. I believe, with great expectancy, that my generation, the era of the 20 somethings and younger, will be the ones that will be a catalyst for greater change. I have to believe, with some hope, that regardless of who compromises their lives in order to fit with the World, that God’s goodness and glory can still be found. We bear his image. We live in his creation. I have to believe that the Church will arise…and be. Not in a building. Not in a house. In the everyday, in the everywhere. Acts is the record of the Church forming. But I believe that its end is not here yet. We need His Spirit to move in our lives. We need His Love, purity, holiness, and goodness to be lived out in our lives. I hold to this and do not give up.
2 thoughts on “What is the Church really?”
The question of what makes the Church different from a country club is a great one to ask. Christ must be the center, enlivened by the Holy Spirit.
I like your statement: “We treat Church as something to go to and not something to be.” So true. Why do we keep going, then? To follow this line of logic…maybe we should stop for a while. Radical stuff, and I exaggerate for effect, but still a good question.
I would question some of the logic of your second point. The difficulty here is that so many have argued over this territory that it is easy to fall into familiar lines of argument without being precise. What specifically do we mean by tolerance? What is holiness? What does this have to do with downplaying the Holy Spirit? Are we talking about morals, actions, openness to the gifts of the Spirit, etc..
Regarding the Church of Acts, it is worth noting that they too had an interior debate about how much to compromise with the world…the result being that they compromised and let us Gentiles join them. This was done by divine leading, but I still imagine many “conservatives” of the day saw this as a risky maneuver.
Keep up the writing!
Thanks for your comment Josh! I really enjoyed reading you input on this. I agree with your last statement first that the Church of Acts most assuredly had their fair share of issues, conflicts, and disagreements of compromise, issues of morality and cultural influences. I have no doubt that it was anything but easy to deal with, however, as you noted, they did as the Lord led. I believe conservatives of their day thought their changes were “risky maneuvers”. But there is a line between “risky maneuvers” to bring in new believers and compromising purity and holiness for tolerance- avoiding offense and debate.
I am glad you question my second point because I am certain it required more elaboration. Let me explain myself. My argument with tolerance is that when Christians-the Church- get to a point of compromising what God’s word says in order to not offend someone, it thus becomes wrong. I believe its not an issue of loving the sinner hating the sin, but instead loving the sinner, and helping them through their sin with God’s grace working in us and them. Its naive for churches to expect an immediate change, restoration, and change of behaviors- at least in most cases. Holiness, as I believe God’s word states, is living lives to glorify him having the fruit of the Spirit evident in our lives, worshipping him with our lives, living out pure and blameless lives in order that we can live above reproach. Holiness, as I understand, is seeing God as perfect and us striving to live lives as such. It has nothing to do with downplaying the Holy Spirit as it does not rely on us at all. I do believe that the fullness and entirety of the Holy Spirit working in our lives is limited by our own resistance to it. Instead by the Church [Christians] living out Godly lives, reflecting the Spirit in our lives and affecting how we actually live- morals, actions, openness to the gifts of the Spirit, etc.. Tolerance can be okay to an extent, however it cannot compromise what God’s Word says for our lives.
As I am extremely tired I should end my comment tonight before ramble on. I hope what I have said makes sense. Thanks for the encouraging words as well as the challenge to my logic. I take any advice or opinion that you have on this subject- or anything else- with much openness.