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Faithfulness

Faithfulness

 

When you begin talking about faithfulness as it applies to Church you are likely to get a multitude of answers. Everything from; you should never miss except for sickness to the answer that Church attendance is optional. You even get my favorite which rationalizes that staff that are paid have more of an obligation to be faithful than anyone else in the Church. It seems that everyone has a different view of what faithfulness really is. It's seems however that Church is one of the only places though that the definition of faithfulness is so vague! For example, when you ask Christians about faithfulness in marriage they are adamant and very clear in their response; faithfulness is a 100% commitment to one other person without exception. When you ask people about faithfulness to their employer, they usually have a clear understanding of what is expected. They will say something like "I work from 9-5, Monday thru Friday, I get two weeks vacation and I have 7 sick days. We even understand faithfulness as it applies to our obligations. The loan calls for you to make payments each month on a certain date for a set period of time. So we are used to the idea or at least the primes of being faithful. Why then can't we have agreement about our faithfulness to the local body of believers that we voluntarily joined.

     I believe it is because most people have a distorted view of what is expected from each of us and that view is predicated upon opinions that have no basis in Scripture. Many times there is also a pattern that they are following that they have seen modeled in another person, a person whom they respect and consider to be above reproach. I would like to attempt to brake this down into bite size questions for your consideration.  

 

1. What is the function of the local Church?

 

     Before I attempt to answer this question let me define the word Church. Never should have really used the word Church in the scriptures, should have used congregation for the local body of believers. Actually this discussion should be about how faithful should we be to the local congregation but since the word Church is customarily used we will continue on. Understand though that this discussion is about faithfulness to the local congregation. Remember also that the local Church is part of the universal Church that is of all people of all times (Now thats a big congregation).

     Why do we have local congregations? Well, you may be thinking to yourself "duh, everyone knows that", but if everyone who professes Christ knew that then we most likely would have more faithfulness. Let me give you four truths about the local Church.

 

First. We see clearly in the New Testament that the local Church was the center of ministry. Matter of fact of the 27 books in the New Testament, 8 were written specifically to a local Church, 1 was written to a group of local Churches, 11 were written to or by a local Church leader and 1 was the history of the movement of stating local Churches. Sounds like the writers understood the importance pretty well of a local congregation.

 

Second. We see within these writings a multitude of material on how the people of the local Church are to live. We are taught about how to handle discipline of members, we are shown how to reconcile. We are told how to select the leaders and what their qualifications should be (Maybe a little forward of me but the qualifications of Deacon all require others to know their behavior and how could they if they were not faithful to a local Church). We are shown the importance of prayer, tithing, fasting, confession, worship, praise, adoration, we see how to handle money, marriage and sin, we see how to raise and discipline our children. We see in these writings the very foundation of how to live and it's all written to us in the context of the local Church.

 

Third. We see in these writings the work that Christians have been called to accomplish. As believers we look to no other book, source or person to understand our calling and as a New Testament Christian. I would suspect that the majority of that direction comes from these writings to the Church. How would we know the scope of our mission field without Acts 1:8? Where would we find a stronger indictment of our lostness if it weren't in Romans 3:23? Is there a greater explanation of how to be saved than Ephesians 2:8-9? The very heartbeat of the Christian experience is laid in the spiritual structure that is the local Church, Matthew 16:18.

 

Forth. The local Church is unparalleled in its importance. We love options don't we? Paper or plastic, beef or chicken, new or used? Many have thrown the Church into the option pool also. To attend or not to attend? To be faithful or to be open to other options. Well the Bible is fairly clear on this topic. Matter of fact it is so crystal clear that I can say that it's gives absolutely no other options to the local Church! Go ahead look, it never says there's another institution that God has recommended, there's never a hint that there will be a shift in thinking or that God has a "Plan B" just in case this whole Church thing doesn't work out. The future of all humanity rest on the work and ministry that happens through and by the local Church.

 

     So if the Church is that important then why do so many people see it as optional and many others don't understand the importance of faithfulness to their local Church. Well maybe we can see in the life of Christ how he felt about the local Church.

 

2. How did Christ view the Church?

 

     Well in a world looking for experts I present to you the greatest most qualified expert of all time. I present to you the King of Kings and Lord of Lords; Jesus my Savior.

     Jesus was a fan of the Church and it is impossible to separate His work and ministry from His opinion of the Church. Let me rattle off a list of scripture that can speak for itself.

 

     A. Matthew 16:18 tells us that Jesus is the founder and the very foundation by which the Church is built upon.

 

     B. Ephesians 1:22,23 let's us know that He is the head of the Church. This allows the clear picture of who is the real leader of every congregation.

 

     C. Ephesians 3:10 shows that the work of declaring Jesus to the world is the job of the Church. Now understand, I believe in para-church organizations but they can never take the place of the Church and those that participate in them should be firmly planted in a local Church.

 

     D. Our Savior also entrusted the evangelism of the entire world to a handful of uneducated, disrespected former fishermen and tax collectors. If there was any group that knew what He wanted it would have to be them. So what did they do, they started local Churches. I think they got it correct.

 

     E. Now I know that the Church in the New Testament and the Synagogue is Old Testament are different but Christ had a habit of attending Synagogue. He understood its importance. He worshiped there, he taught there and He even debated there. He was there as a twelve year old in the midst of the leaders quoting scripture. He even evicted a few people who had turned it into a house of thieves. Doesn't sound like someone who had a uncertain view of the Church.

 

     Well we now know what he Church is, we understand how Christ felt about the Church but what does the scriptures have to say about the Church and faithfulness.

 

 

3. Do the scriptures speak of faithfulness?

 

     It may not mean much to some, especially those that consider their opinion to be equal with God's Word, but I believe the Bible is full of information about why we are to be faithful and even better why we should be faithful to the local Church. Once again let me share with you the support that can be found in God's Word.

 

     A. The Bible tells us that a Church doesn't have to be a large number of attendees. Matthew 18:20 states that it only takes two or three in prayer for Christ to be in their midst and isn't that the best definition of what a Church is?

 

     B. Hebrews 10:25 gives a command to never forsake the assembling of ourselves together. This could be used to say that it doesn't matter what Church, just as long as you get to some Church, somewhere on each Sunday. Of course this would ignore the fact that to accomplish the work of the Church there must be an organized effort. It's hard to organize a wandering group of nomadic Christians.

 

     C. Acts 2:42 tells us that the Disciples continued steadfastly in the breaking of bread and the doctrine of the Church. They clearly saw the need to be consistent in their attendance. They had no ability to move from Church to Church. The local Church is vital to the future of the spread of Christianity.

 

     D. Once again the Old Testament is full of passages that speak of the need to attend worship together and the joy that comes from such attendance. This is a foundation for the New Testament Churches.

 

 

     In the end I can only draw one conclusion, the Bible and the very life and ministry of Jesus Christ support the importance of attendance at a local Church. The world is trying to disconnect the need for the local Church and being a follower of Jesus Christ. The world wants to destroy this relationship because the God of this world knows that if he can do that, then Christianity will wain and fewer people will come to Christ. The sad fact is that many Christian's are falling into this trap and they have already discounted their need for faithful local Church attendance.

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