There is a strange tension between the individual believer and the church as a community. Every Christian needs to be intimately connected with his or her local church. In this day of roving Christians, sadly influenced by consumer Christianity and its quest to find the newest thing, churches and members are both damaged because the mutual investment is lost as the believer wanders in the wilderness. What are these people looking for?
Gimmick marketing is the new strategy by churches to lure believers from their commitments. Pastors become sales agents for the newest trend in Christian nonsense. New slogans, new programs, new events, all promise a new experience into the deeper life. Preying on a Christian’s sense of significance and lust for relevance, this emerging form of Christianity promises to give succor to those on the journey.
A study through the book of Acts is our antidote for Christian fads. What did the early church demonstrate was significant and relevant? The Christians preached the Gospel to unbelievers. Some of those heard the message and believed. They were baptized and then joined the communion of saints in furthering the work of heralding the good news about Jesus Christ.
These new believers needed to become mature disciples of the Lord. Saul’s conversion brought him into fellowship with the church at Damascus. No doubt it was a bit awkward at the beginning. The persecutor of the brethren was now one of them. Saul demonstrated his new identity by promptly fulfilling his new function, “and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘This man is the Son of God (Acts 9:20).’”
Saul’s first venture to Jerusalem, after his conversion, also proved difficult. The church at Jerusalem hesitated because of Saul’s reputation, but there was an encourager there by the name of Barnabas (9:27). He became an advocate for Saul, and again, Saul lived out the authenticity of his conversion by preaching Christ crucified in the city (9:28). It took some time, but eventually, the church supported him. It even delivered him from the danger of those who would have killed him (9:30).
Individual Christians experience both resistance and support within the local church. In some cases, we could point to a love/hate relationship. Regardless of our personal evaluation of the local church, we must demonstrate our allegiance to Christ by sharing Him with others. Living by example will strengthen the church, even if we suffer for it. The church is a spiritual fortress in a hostile world. We can expect resistance from external sources and even wolves in our midst.
Our mission is to make Christ known and to make His name great in the midst of the nations. We do this by making more and more disciples who represent Christ as ambassadors in the world. The body of Christ bears a collective witness to the world through the empowering work of the Holy Spirit. Christ in us gives us significance, and hell makes our message relevant. Therefore, give yourself to the local church and fulfill your ministry; and if you leave your local church, make sure they have commissioned you for your ministry elsewhere. In this you will be a missionary rather than a mercenary.
Spokane Valley, Washington
June 15, 2021