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And He Himself gave some to be....evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ...
- Ephesians 4:11-12

THIS BLOG HAS MOVED TO www.timeintheword.org

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Location: The Hill Country of Texas

Pastor - Providence Reformed Baptist Church
Director - TIME in the Word Ministries

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Merely Speaking

Recently I was very encouraged as I read a series of posts on "The Mereness of Church" by Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile at his blog Pure Church. Topics covered included the Mereness of Church in the areas of Preaching, Mission, Singing, and Fellowship. The point driven home throughout these posts is the remarkably ordinary and simple things that make up the life of a growing church.

It reminded me of a message I preached from Isaiah 1:10-20 titled "Iniquity and the Sacred Meeting." In that message I stressed the simplicity of pure worship and concluded that church is not something we do, church is not somewhere we go, but church is what WE ARE, and we must never confuse the physical building for the spiritual body.

But what do we do when these mere things are not enough? Let's face it, many in the church today want to be entertained, excited, and energized by innovative and relevent programs and projects. The atmosphere in many local churches is such that Ravenhill stated that the Holy Spirit could leave and things would go on as usual for at least 6 months before anyone would notice. In our search for meaning and in our pursuit of spiritual self fulfillment we have learned to depend upon ourselves. We see spiritual gifts as a means to an end - namely, making each other feel good!

But what is the purpose of the Church? Why have gifts been given? Is our focus so humanistic that we see the universe swirling around us as we desire to be the center of God's desires? Do we see God as a Genie, there to grant us wishes, wealth, and well being? Have we forgotten Soli Deo Gloria? Have we neglected the power of God given to us through Christ? Have we quenched the Spirit of God as we strive to do things our way in our wisdom according to our will?

Merely speaking, the church is built and the Body grows as we continue "steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42). And yet just as so many rely on diet pills and suppliments instead of a healthy diet and exercise, so too in the church we chase short cuts and neglect the proven methods, the God ordained methods of being about the Father's business.

What do we do when sound, practical, expository preaching is not enough? What do we do when no one comes to the prayer meeting? What do we do when there is no body life, no fellowship? What do we do when we neglect fellowship, worship, and the ordinances of our Lord? We do what we do when sinners are not saved and saints are not sanctified - we see the local church die. When we hear and do not do, when we learn but do not live, when we know but do not obey, then we see that we are living in the land of make believe in stead of walking by faith. We make the simple complex. We run away from wisdom and into foolishness. We abandon the family of God and embrace the cheap substitute of worldliness. We desire things that have no place in the church and we accept false doctrine and unsound practices as if they were good and right before God. We pollute worship. We sully the blood bought Bride.

We have indeed adopted a new mereness when it comes to church. We are merely spectators. We are consumers. We come to get. And if we do not get what we want we leave. And churches hurt and are dying because people that God has called and gifted and joined to these local bodies neglect and forsake the church in order to pursue a religion of self help.

Let's move back to the simplicity of merely being what God has called us to be. As Pastor Anyabwile rightly concluded in his posts:

What Christian who has ever benefitted from the power of God's word, the intimacy of fellowship, the grace of breaking bread, and the delight of prayer would really want to exchange all of that for the newest denominational initiative and publication? Deep, refreshing, joyful, lasting, awe-inspiring, favor-inducing, thankful and ultimately evangelistically powerful corporate living is actually quite mere. What we need is devotion to it, a back to basics, Word-trusting approach.



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