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Re-Thinking Church
Part 2

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

Whoís in Charge Here?

I have a policy about officiating marriages. I wonít marry anyone unless the couple goes thru Biblical pre-marital counseling. I often ask the couple questions like these:

  • How do you know how to be married?
  • How do you know how to be a husband or wife?
  • How do know what your role is?
  • By the way, I would ask these same questions to the men in jail when I was a Chaplain:
  • If you have children, how do you know how to be a Father or a Mother?

The answers I get range from, "It just comes natural," to, "Watching my parents," or "watching TV," or, "Reading books by experts." By the way, watching your parents is not always good, nor is watching TV or reading books. It doesnít just come natural. The divorce rate and numbers of absentee parents demonstrates that.

So, here is another question. How do you know how to do Church? (Pause and think about this) I am not trying to be silly, but how do you know? Think of some possible answers.

  • This is the way it has always been done. As long as I can remember, we have done things this way. Itís kind of like the story I read about years ago, about a woman that was baking a ham and as she placed it in a roasting pan, she cut the end of it off. Her young daughter asked her why she did that. Her response was she had always done that because her mother always did that. So, they asked her, "Why did you always cut the end of the ham off before you baked it?" Her response was that her mother always did that. Great Grandmother was still alive so they asked her, "Why did you always cut the end of the ham off before you baked it?" She said, "I did that because I never had a pan large enough to bake a whole ham."
  • This is what our denomination does. We do a liturgical service, that is, there is form we always follow. Perhaps it is reciting certain creeds, or reciting certain prayers, or includes certain readings. Or perhaps it is always free-style. Perhaps, it is solemn in the sanctuary, forgive me, but like in a funeral home. Perhaps it is loud at times like at a wedding reception. Regardless, this is the way our denomination does church. We baptize by immersion, 1 time back. The Brethren baptize by immersion, 3 times forward. Others baptize by sprinkling. Some baptize babies, or confirm children. Some take communion by approaching and kneeling at the alter, while some take it in their seats as we will do next week. Still others take communion by having a priest dip the bread in wine and placing in the mouth of the worshiper.
  • Perhaps, it is what your culture, or ethnic group does. Sometimes different cultures (same denomination), does things differently. I have worshiped in churches that were primarily African American, and some Hispanic churches and they do things differently than we do. I have worshiped in Russia and Belarus where the church services were over 3 hours long. Each had 3 speakers and people stood in lines to get in.
  • Sometimes it is just tradition. An awful lot of what we do in our conservative churches has been born out of tradition. It worked 2 centuries ago, and became part of the way we do things, like Sunday evening or Wednesday evening church, or Sunday school, or New Yearís Eve. Watch night service. Ever wonder why churches have pews, or why many people dress in their best clothing to attend church, or why many churches just have piano or organ music? The answer is, "Tradition."

As we begin a new church here in Emmitsburg, we need to pause and Re-Think this thing called, "Church," that we are doing, and ask ourselves what are we supposed to do? Letís strip away, some of the culture and tradition and get the owners manual out and see what God intended when He came up with this thing called Church.

Last week we noticed three things Church is not:

  • Not organized religion
  • Not a denomination
  • Not a building or place we go to, to perform a religious obligation

Church is, "A special unique group of people, bonded together by the Holy Spirit, for the purpose of ministering as Jesus Christ in this world." In the next two weeks we are going to look at what should the church be doing? Today, I simply want us to consider what should be obvious, but believe me, it isnít, as we consider, "Whoís Church Is It, or Whoís in Charge Here?"

Turn in your Bibles to Colossians 1:12-19, please. Would you stand as we read this aloud? In the course of reminding the Christians at Colosse how he prays for them, the Apostle Paul thanks God for us all because He has done for us what we could not do ourselves. Notice with me:

  • He qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. We who were deserving of His wrath were enabled to become Godís heirs. That is awesome!
  • He delivered us from the power of darkness where we all lived (Eph. 2:1-5). We are free of Satanís authority over us.
  • He conveyed us into the Kingdom of the Son of His Love. We are now part of a kingdom of a good and gracious and loving King.
  • This King is the reason we are free. He redeemed or purchased our freedom. He paid the ransom and adoption fees.
  • He has purchased our forgiveness. God the Father will never bring our sins up against us again, because Jesus paid it all.

Verses 15-18 remind us that Jesus, the Christ has been given the place of highest rank in the entire universe. He is the supreme head over the entire seen and unseen world. He is above, in authority, all the good and bad angels. By the way, this means that even the bad guys canít move without His permission. I know that brings up a whole lot of questions but it is true and scripture says this in several places like Ephesians 1, 2, and 5; Philippians 2. Our Lord Jesus also said it in Matthew 28:18, "All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth." When Peter was preaching on the Pentecost morning, he said in Acts 2:36, "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this same Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ."

Notice, Paul says here in Col. 1:18, "He is the Head of the Church."

There are several metaphors used in the Bible to illustrate our relationship with Jesus. For example,

  • He is the Vine, we are the branches
  • He is the Shepherd, we are the sheep
  • He is the Foundation or chief cornerstone, we are the building
  • He is the Bridegroom, we are the bride
  • There are others, but perhaps the most prominent one is that He is the Head and we are the body. Think of some of the implications of that.
  • He is the source of Love and nurture (Ephesians 5:25-32)
  • He is the source of Light in a dark world. How does light enter the body, through the eyes in the head (John 8:12, "I Am the Light of the World" cp. Matt. 6:22).
  • He is the source of Life. Our nourishment and breath comes from our head (John 6:35, "I Am the Bread of Life"). He is our Life.
  • He is the source of Leadership, He is the Lord (Luke 6:46; Eph. 5:22-24). The Greek word for Lord is, "Kurios," and it simply means, "The Boss, the Authority, the Master, the Principle, the Chairman of the Board, the President, the Decision maker, the Commander in Chief." As Head of the Church and Lord of All, He is the one who sets the direction tells us what we should do. Itís that simple.
  • Now, how does He do that? He does that by the instructions that He has given us, and the example that He demonstrated for us and recorded for all time in this book. Look at 3 verses of scripture:
  1. Luke 6:46 Ė speaking of the things He has just spoken in this chapter
  2. John 8:31-32 Ė A mark of genuine discipleship
  3. Matt. 28:18-20 Ė Make disciples teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you remembering that I am always with you. This is why everything we do, in our meetings, our worship time, our ministries, everything should be based on the teachings of the Bible, whether it is by principle, precept, precedent or purpose. What did Jesus say about this?

Being the Church, His body, means that in everything we do at home, at work, at play, and when we gather to worship, our objective is to do what our Lord wants us to and to be what our Lord wants us to be, in the manner He instructed us or by His example.

Now this should be very simple, right? Well, it isnít. There are some things that we will look at the next few weeks that we are told what but not how to do. In just a few years after Jesus died and rose again, the churches that were planted in various cities were off cue. Most of the letters written by Paul, Peter, James, John, and others were written to address some problems that the churches were dealing with. All it takes is some suggestion that we should live by our own logic or what we think or what we want and the body becomes unhealthy or sick. This is why the Epistles were written in the N.T.

In fact, only Ephesians and 1 Peter do not address some problem in the church. Within 70 years after our Lord ascended into heaven He had John write the Revelation, which includes ch. 2-3 which are personal letters to 7 churches in Asia Minor. Five of those seven letters contain reprimands from Jesus. In essence, He says to them, "You guys are messing this up, donít you know that I am here walking among you? If you keep messing up, Iím going to close the doors. So, turn it around and look for the rewards."

So, how do we do Church, or, How are we to be the Church in this world? We are going to look at 9-10 specific things over the next two weeks as we look close at Acts 2, but for today, we must remember, That in everything we do privately or corporately, we consult with the Boss. We ask the question that Paul asked on that Damascus road when He saw the light, "What would you have me to do, Lord?"

Let me close this teaching lesson by reminding of you of some stuff you already know.

  1. It Begins with Personal and Corporate Surrender. I willingly place myself under His Lordship. He is the Boss of me. Itís no longer my life. He sought me and bought me and I am His. Like Thomas we bow down and say, "My Lord and My God." Likewise, we confess, that this is His Church, not ours, It is your directions that we seek and will do, not what we think or even human logic might dictate. I surrender my will and my wants and my logic to trust and obey Him.
  2. It Continues with a Desire to Know Him and His Will. We do this by searching the scriptures. Listening to Him, watching Him as we learn from Him and the those He commissioned to write this Book (John 8:31-32)
  3. It is Rooted in Complete Obedience (Luke 6:46; John 13:17)
  4. It Rests in Trusting Him no Matter What (Prov. 3:5-6) Cp. feeding 5000, walking on water, wash your eyes, etc.
  5. It Seeks His Will in Prayer (Matthew 6:10; John 14:12) Seeking wisdom guidance, as well as actively seeking to do His will, as His representatives
  6. By not Allowing Traditions or Culture to Trump His Commands (Matt. 15:3-9).

There you have it. Is that what you want? Letís tell Him so right now.

"Jesus, You are Lord and today, I surrender my life to you."

  1. I want to be your follower. I want you to forgive me and save me and be my Lord from now on.
  2. I have been a Christian for a long time. Today, I want to surrender to you as the Lord, the Boss of me in everything I do.
  3. This is your Church, not ours, and we will seek your will, and your word for everything we do.

Read Part 3

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman