As I mentioned in my last post, the church exists for three main reasons: to exalt God (upward), to edify the saints (inward), and to evangelize the world (outward). Today, let’s look at the second function—the edification of other believers.
The apostle Paul said that his goal was to both warn believers and teach them “with all the wisdom God has given us, for we want to present them to God, mature in their relationship to Christ” (Colossians 1:28). This is why we give such a prominent place to biblical teaching at Harvest.
As a pastor and teacher, I do not want to waste your time. My opinion is not any more valuable than any other persons’. I am not here to be a cheerleader or a “life coach” or a motivational speaker. I am not here to be your psychologist or your political pundit. I am here for one reason: to teach you the Word of God. All that matters is what the Bible says. “For the word of God is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires. It exposes us for what we really are” (Hebrews 4:12). Martin Luther said, “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.”
I was amazed when I first heard the Bible taught. It made sense; it applied to my life! And it’s not only strong preaching of the Word that counts, but also strong listening. The early church, the church in revival that changed the world, understood this. In Acts 2:42 we read, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” To “continue steadfastly” speaks of a real passion. They were living in a first-love relationship with Jesus and had burning hearts for Him. This was not a casual attitude, as one might have when joining a social club. There was a spiritual excitement in what they did. They applied themselves to what was being taught from the Word. I believe there is a need for anointed preaching today, but I also believe there is a need for anointed listening! Having an openness to receive God’s Word. Like newborn babies you should crave and earnestly desire spiritual milk that by it you may grow (see 1 Peter 2:2).
Let me say something that may seem controversial: We should be a part of one church. There is nothing wrong with visiting other churches here and there, or attending a midweek study at another church, especially if your church does not offer one. However, to go to multiple churches and not have one consistent place to fellowship is not good.
We are not all called to go to the same church, but we are all called to be a part of a church. Why? Because you need a consistent theology. Doctrine, or what we believe, affects everything we do. Paul said, in 1 Timothy 4:16, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” What you believe matters. That is why I have never understood how people will rate facilities, convenience, proximity, etc. as the criteria for choosing where they go to church. The top priority in looking for a church is that Gods’ Word is taught there.
But why should you have a home church? Because you need a place to be accountable. You need a pastor who can help and influence you. If there is something wrong, your pastor can tell you. If you are doing great, your pastor can commend and encourage you. You need a place to give faithfully and consistently of your finances. And you need a place to serve God with the gifts He has given you!
Sometimes people “church hop” because there is sin on their life. They break up with their spouse and initiate and unscriptural divorce, and then go to another church where no one knows them, with their new girlfriend or boyfriend. (Trust me, I have seen this and worse.)
A lot of people will treat the church like a movie theater—getting there late, leaving while the credits are rolling, checking texts and e-mails during the film, etc. Sometimes we bring that same consumer mentality to church. If we foster consumers instead of communers, we’ll end up with customers instead of disciples. It might fill up an auditorium, but it will never turn the world upside down for Christ.