Focus On The Church
Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.
"When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Matthew 16:13-18
Many of you here in this new auditorium will remember the groundbreaking service we had October 22, 2000. In the past 13 months, many prayers, and hundreds of hours of work by many hands have brought us to this day. I praise the Lord that we are gathered together in His name to sing His praises and preach his word on this second day of December 2001. In fact, if I remember correctly, this is the 22nd anniversary of the first sermon I preached at First Baptist Church as your pastor. I should also mention that this is the third auditorium I have preached in at First Baptist. The first auditorium that I preached in was built in 1961. Then, someone broke into the Church on Christmas Eve 1982 and set the building on fire. The auditorium was so badly damaged that it had to be torn down. We rebuilt on the same slab and foundation in 1983. During the time of rebuilding, we met each week at the Oak Creek Junior High School. Those were difficult days, but the Lord sustained us!
Today as we gather together in this new 475 seat auditorium, may we be sure to thank Almighty God for His blessing and power that have enabled us build this facility.
As I prayed and pondered what our Lord Jesus Christ would have me preach as we turn to a new chapter in this churches history, I was prompted to preach on the New Testament Church. So, that is exactly what I am going to do! Letís begin by answering the questionÖ
The word church occurs 115 times in the KJV New Testament. Many people mistakenly think the church is a building erected for the worship of God. While that is certainly the common usage, biblically that is an incorrect definition. The Greek word translated church is ekklhsia ekklesia (ek-klay-see'-ah; 1577) and it refers to a group of people who acknowledge Jesus Christ as their Savior and who gather together to worship Him, study His Word and carry out His commands. So you can see, the proper question is not what is the church, but who is the church?
We can get a little clearer of who the church is by reading Dr. Lukeís challenge to the pastors of local churches; "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood." Acts 20:28
Do you see it? The church is a group (flock) of blood bought believers who gather together to be fed the Word of God. Clearly, the church is NOT a building. As nice as this new auditorium is, it is not the church. It is merely a gathering place for the church, that is, blood bought believers united for the cause of Christ!
Another misconception concerning the church has to do with who is the head of the church. Many people would say the pastor is the head of the Church. In some cases, there are those who would say the deacons. Neither is correct! For the answer turn to Ephesians 1:22-23 "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him [Christ] to be the head over all things to the church, 23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." (see Eph. 5:23; Col. 1:18). Christ is the head of the Church. Pastors are Christís overseers, managers, and superintendents. That is what the word bishop episkopos, means, overseer or superintendent (1 Tim. 3:1-7). The word elder(s) presbuteros, is a synonym for the same office (Acts 20:17) and means an ambassador. Pastors are under shepherds and their job is to implement the plan of the Chief Shepard (1 Pet. 5:4). They are Christís ambassadors, sharing the messages and directives of King Jesus with the people. Any way you slice it, Christ is the head of the Church, not the pastor.
The Church (that is every believer) has a three-fold purpose. First, it is to be the pillar and ground of the truth. We read this in 1 Timothy 3:15 "But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." That means, a true church supports, maintains, and proclaims the truth of Godís Word in the church and in the world! The true church is the conscience of its culture. It is the herald of holiness. As Paul told Timothy, "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine." 2 Timothy 4:2
Secondly, the church is a place where believers are trained to do the work of the ministry and then minister. Paul spoke of this in Ephesians 4:11-12 "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:" The teaching or training ministry is spoken of again in 2 Timothy 2:2 "And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." And, I should note that women have a ministry are to be taught and teach other women as well according to Titus 2:3-5 "The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; 4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed."
Last, but not least, the church (that is believers), are to spread the Gospel! We are to tell people how to be saved! In Mark 16:15 we read "And he (Christ) said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."
I issue a challenge to everyone who is a member or attends
this local church. We need to move forward with increased effort in fulfilling
our God ordained purpose. We, as the church, need to fulfill our responsibility
to support, maintain, and proclaim the truth of Godís Word
in the church and in the world. We, as the church, need to train others to
minister and be busy ministering. And, all of us, as the church, need to be busy
spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Why? Because, there is no eternal
security for local churches. While Christ promised that the Gates of Hell
(Satan and his demons) would not be able to prevail or over power the universal
church in this world, if a local church does not fulfill itís purpose, they can
expect Christ "will remove thy candlestick out of his place." They will to fade
away, just as the churches of Asia Minor did (see Revelation 2 & 3). Not one of
those original churches exists today! Therefore, we must be busy doing the
Lordís business or God will remove His hand of blessing and the power of His
Holy Spirit from our midst.