We have come a long way on our journey to better understand the church. So far we have focused on mostly the spiritual Church. We have addressed:
- The Trail of Blood – The history of the church from Acts 2 until today, the martyrs gave their lives to the cause of Christ, and the persecution of Baptists under different names.
- The Body – The Church are members of Christ’s body, and members also make up systems in the local church.
- The Bride – Marriage is a “type” of our relationship with Christ, and applying Proverbs 31 to the local church.
- The Batallion – We are the army of God, we are to wear the whole armor of God, and in the end, victory will be ours.
- The Churches of Revelation – Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Perhaps there is a Tribulation Church as well? We should desire to be in a Philadelphian church.
After looking at the broad types, themes, and concepts that correspond with the spiritual Church, we should bring it closer to home and discuss the local church.
The Local Church
The “head” of the local church is Jesus Christ (Col 1:18; Eph. 5:23-24), and there are two “officers” – Pastor (Bishops; 1 Timothy 3:1-7) and Deacons (1 Timothy 3:8-13).
The local church as an assembly, which is exactly why it MUST be local – Christians cannot “assemble” online. It must also be visible. Look around when you are at church. We see the building and other people. We are a visible church. The local church is a physical church comprised of visible people inside a visible building. This is not the same as the invisible Church, which is spiritual.
An assembly must be organized, or it becomes an unruly mob. Local churches have a hierarchy with pastor, deacons, ushers, song leaders, security, sound guys, cleaning staff, Sunday school teachers, Sunday school superintendents, etc., but it is not a Nicolaitan hierarchy that was discussed last week.
A local church also has a constitution, or agreed upon statement of beliefs, that usually focuses on The Bible (KJV), The Godhead/Trinity (and each member), salvation, ordinances, membership, discipline, and other internal policies.
The independence of a church is Biblical. Jesus Christ is the head of the local church, not a Nicolaitan hierarchy or a centralized body like the Roman Catholic Church or even the Southern Baptist Convention. This separation from centralization allows for greater autonomy. Each individual church can be unique in an independent system.
Independence also means separation from government interference – especially here in the United States where we are supposed to have First Amendment protections and the separation of church and State. Other churches in dangerous areas also thrive from independence because they are free to operate within the areas in which they are situated, rather than remain beholden to a central church whose standards and policies they might not be able to sustain.
A local church must have a plan for church finance in the areas of tithing and stewardship. Members and regular attenders shoulder the responsibility of tithing (also known as “gifts” or “offerings”). The responsibility of the local church is stewardship of the finances coming in through giving.
Other Policies and Programs
This varies greatly from church to church. The constitution is one document in which to find official policies, but there are often internal policies as well. Some examples are the attire for those on the platform, attendance and/or membership requirements for those who serve in the church, and standards for music used during the service – instrumentation, song style, etc.
Many churches provide several programs and/or ministries in which to serve. These might include Sunday school, media (sound, lighting, livestream, etc.), teen ministry, nursery, soul winning, bus ministry, music ministry, food pantry, prison ministry, and many more.
Most churches have additional social functions designed to reach the local community. Cook-outs, revival meetings, conferences (usually men, women, and missions), Vacation Bible School, and church sports leagues, just to name a few. The possibilities are endless.
Churches should be a hub for the community to come together to worship the Lord with as many activities as possible. Outreach is the name of the game, and the best means of outreach is through ministry.
Of course, not every program or ministry is able to be implemented as desired. There will always be issues like scheduling, especially on weeknights. A friend just this past Sunday made this comment, “going to every event at church is a full-time job,” and this is quite true.
Another issue is a lack of finances. This can be extra cash if you want to take the teenagers to an amusement park or a ballgame, expenses for food, paying for the extra electricity, or even the cost of gas money.
One of the biggest roadblocks is a lack of bodies. This is especially a problem in smaller churches. Sometimes there are not enough leaders for the various ministries. You cannot have a prison ministry without someone to run it. Likewise, you cannot have a sports night if no one is going to show up and play. There is no bus ministry without a driver.
This creates a classic Catch-22, because outreach needs people in order to go out to hopefully add more people to the local church, but you are limited in that outreach due to a lack of people. The best thing to do in these cases is to work with what you have. If you only have four singers, maybe a choir is not necessary. If you only have two people in a Sunday school class, perhaps they need combined. It might not be ideal, but it is good stewardship of resources.
Be a Philadelphian church in the Laodicean Age
Despite these impediments, your church can be a Philadelphian church – and if your church is unwilling to be Philadelphian, you might want to find one that is.
Find a church that is a light in the darkness. Your church should stand out from the world, not be a replica of the culture around us. Your church should be a cure for the lukewarm Laodicean disease. Your church should emphasis spiritual growth over numerical growth, but hopefully it is growing in both areas.
Most importantly, find a Gospel spreading, soul winning, missions minded, LIVING local church.
What is the grand takeaway?
If you are not part of a Bible believing local church, find one. If you are a “regular attender,” take the step to join a church. Be a member who participates and produces fruit through service and soul winning, not just a freeloader who consumes without putting forth effort.
Love your church – love the people, love your pastor, and enjoy the activities and ministries there.
Support your church through financial giving, service, and inviting people as often as possible.
Finally, value your church. Treat it like the Proverbs 31 woman, because a good church is more valuable than gold and precious jewels, especially these days.
I hope you have found this series beneficial. I hope I have challenged you to find a good, solid, Bible believing local church, because church is essential in the life of a Christian for both fellowship and doctrine.
We should be members of the Christian Church and the local church. Be a part of both as soon as possible.