And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: “The words of Him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. ‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.” Revelation 3:1-3
Greetings Friends! Today I want to write about something very near to my heart and, I believe, particularly relevant to the body of Christ today.
There is a disturbing trend these days. One that has actually been going on for some time now. And that’s the idea that Christians don’t really need to be part of a local body of believers to be true Christians. As a result, many are leaving their churches in droves. For varied reasons, to be sure. Some valid, some not.
Obviously. there is no prerequisite of this nature in order to become a born again believer in Christ… so in that sense, this statement is true. To that point then, I suppose the real question would depend upon what is meant by the terms Church and True Christian.
I would like to preface this post by saying, I am in no way writing this in order to talk people into going (or going back) to a church building. Many people, myself included, are not convinced that a good number of organized churches we see today are what Jesus had in mind when He established His Church.
So, before we discuss this trend any further, let’s take a look at what the Bible says about the Church that Jesus inaugurated; in terms of its existence, purpose, and significance in our lives.
A Cornerstone, Chosen and Precious
1 Peter 2:4-6 tells us,
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
Most of us who hear the term cornerstone usually and rightly think of it in terms of building a foundation for a home or some other structure. But did you know that the cornerstone has very little to do with the physical strength of a structural foundation? It’s true. Rather, its value and meaning is that it establishes the foundational purpose and direction of the structure.
For instance, when speaking of Architectural Cornerstones, NewStudioArchitecture.com tells us:
“In relation to architecture, a cornerstone is traditionally the first stone laid for a structure, with all other stones laid in reference. A cornerstone marks the geographical location by orienting a building in a specific direction.”
Britannica. com elaborates:
“[The] Cornerstone [is a] ceremonial building block, usually placed ritually in the outer wall of a building to commemorate its dedication. Sometimes the stone is solid, with date or other inscription. More typically, it is hollowed out to contain metal receptacles for newspapers, photographs, currency, books, or other documents reflecting current customs, with a view to their historical use when the building is remodeled or demolished.”
So, we see there is much significance assigned to the cornerstone of a building. Knowing this should help us more clearly grasp the deeper meaning of Jesus’ position as the Cornerstone of His body, the Church.
A House of Living Stones
We tend to look at the Church as a building. A place we go to worship, learn, put down roots. A place of fellowship and caring. And a church can be all these things and more. Some would also correctly point out that the Church isn’t a building at all, but the body of believers as a whole. But what do the scriptures say about the Church at its most basic core?
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:4-5
Peter tells us here that the Church is much more than a class of people who identify–or not–with each other. Rather, the Church is a spiritual house made up of living stones. Each stone, made without hands, is placed exactly where it has been predetermined from the beginning of time, according to its dimension and size, perfectly fit for its space and purpose.
The Church has a Higher Calling
But let’s not skim over this verse and miss the greater point here. The Church has a higher calling. It’s not just for personal spiritual growth and all that entails. Those things are part of it, to be sure. But the mission and purpose of the Church is this: “to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
What does this mean? Paul sums this up quite nicely in Ephesians 4:11-16,
He [Jesus] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Let’s Get Personal
Is the trend of leaving churches directly connected to the spiritual decline of individual Christians? Or is it the other way around? Which came first? It’s the chicken or the egg syndrome and perhaps we will never know. But the truth remains.. the organized church isn’t doing well. Nor is the Christian community at large.
For those of you who have left the organized church, I’m curious.. do the following statements define your mindset? “I don’t need to attend a physical church to… be a strong, true Christian who serves God, meet and fellowship with other Christians, and be part a Christian community.” I wholeheartedly agree. But, are you doing these things? That’s the question. And often, once one leaves the church the answer is, no.
How about this.. If you’re being honest with yourself, would you say the following statements are true in your walk with Christ?
- I have a strong, intimate, and prayerful relationship with God.
- I regularly spend time in the scriptures and strive to live my life according to its precepts and commands.
- I am effectively serving Him and others; both believers and non-believers.
- I fellowship and take part in a legitimate Christian community who loves God and teaches and obeys the truth of His word.
- I strive to maintain a strong witness to unbelievers of the love and forgiveness of Jesus as Savior and Messiah.
- I am thriving in the Kingdom of God.
As Christ followers, the answers to these questions are of the utmost importance in our lives; whether we choose to be part of an established church building environment–or–partake in a more personal home setting. And we should examine ourselves regularly to ensure that we are continuing in the faith.
As we enter into what appears to be the last days of our existence here on this planet, it becomes more crucial to be connected to one another. Instead, what we see is a fragmented and desperately ill church. Many have pulled away and are doing what is right in their own eyes, their spiritual lives balanced on the precipice of destruction.
Just as economic upheaval and recession result in a trimming of the fat, so to speak, and result in a ‘survival of the fittest’ scenario, so spiritual upheaval–suffering, trials, persecution–results in a falling away of those who lack root and faith in Christ. Those that remain are they who have put in the time and effort to grow, mature, and be rooted and established in Him against spiritual bankruptcy.
God’s mandate for growth, maturity, purpose, and protection is the spiritual house he has built, made out of living stones with Christ Himself as the Cornerstone.
Simply put, if you have isolated yourself from the body of Christ, in some form, you have removed yourself from God’s design. And outside of forced isolation (i.e. persecution, imprisonment, etc), God has made no other provision for you. Proverbs 18:1 is true of you: “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.”
There Will be a Remnant, Tried and True
The true Church, the Body of Christ, will continue to be strengthened and grow strong in these last days. The choice of the many who exclude themselves will not weaken what God has created, rather, it will refine and strengthen what remains. Just as in every spiritual decline and upheaval, there will be a Remnant who will be purified and stand strong and firm in Him, fulfilling the purpose for which the Church was created.
“Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
Cover Photo by form PxHere