It’s fashionable these days in many quarters to knock the Church. It is easy also to find grounds to do so. After all, the Church often looks like a cosy little ghetto of self-satisfied people, either maintaining their status quo or building their own little kingdoms.
Moral lapses among pastors, publicised failures of integrity with money, eccentric religious practises carried out by some pastors, and the Church’s inability very often to make its voice heard in society all contribute to the Church being written off in the minds of many.
Even as Christians within the Church we often lambaste ourselves for socio-political irrelevance and for our inability to effectively evangelise our country, or speak prophetically to leadership. This can set up a spiral of self-flagellation, negativism and even despair.
The Church is God’s chosen instrument
One would not want to deny all this. But my main point in this article is to stress that even in its weakness the Church carries the responsibility and mandate from Christ to be salt which prevents societal decay and light which dispels darkness. The Church is the Lord’s chosen instrument for this. So we dare not allow ourselves to become disillusioned with the Church.
If we come back to the Apostle Paul we see for example that even with the Corinthian Church which was full of naughty boys and girls, full of excesses, full of dubious practices and in many ways a bit of a disaster, nevertheless the apostle did not give up on them. Yes, he rebuked them for where they were getting it wrong, he profoundly encouraged them when they were getting it right, and he powerfully exhorted them to rise to greater things.
Thus he could say at 1 Corinthians 14:12: Since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the Church.
Our call is to build
That is what he wanted from all the believers in Corinth and that is still what the Lord wants from us. Every one of us needs to have a deep commitment to building up the Body of Christ where we can in the locale where we are. Anyone can tear down. That’s easy. But that is not our calling. Our call is to build. We are to be specialists in construction, not destruction.
I remember hearing an amusing little apocryphal tale of a man who arrived in heaven. He was quite upset to find out that all he was given was a little shack while other believers had fancy houses or even mansions. He asked St Peter why he just had a little shack and not a nice mansion. Peter supposedly replied: “I’m afraid that’s all the building material you sent up!” So, folks, what building material are we sending up?
One of our problems is that what we really want is the perfect Church. But there isn’t one. And if there was one, it would cease to be perfect after you or I joined it!
Building up the Church
So how then do we build up the Church?
How to build up the Church:
- We seek to be diligent and examplary members ourselves.
- We are prayerful about our own pastors and Church leaders.
- We seek to bring our giftings and skills into the Lord’s service.
- We try to be faithful and active witnesses to Jesus wherever we are.
- We seek to build up unity in the Body of Christ.
First of all, we seek to be diligent and exemplary members ourselves because each one of us in our daily movements and actions is either a good or a bad exhibit of the Church. People will judge the Church by what they see or don’t see in you and me.
Secondly, we need to be prayerful about our own pastors and Church leaders. Their task is enormously difficult and stressful. And often lonely and discouraging. So they need our support and prayers.
Thirdly, we seek to bring our giftings and skills into the Lord’s service so that every congregation is slowly moving towards every member involvement with no members as passengers. Even in a local Church, everyone doing their bit adds up to something very powerful.
Fourthly, we need to try and be faithful and active witnesses to our Lord Jesus Christ wherever we are. And if or where we lead anyone to Christ, we need diligently to try and get them incorporated into the Church and properly discipled.
It is important too that we be willing to participate in compassionate action, as well as prophetic utterance when the society around us morally rejects the ways of our Lord.
Finally, it is of the greatest importance that we seek to build up unity in the Body of Christ and not break it down by alienation from other Christians or other denominations.
A panting world is waiting for a living and vigorous word from the Church of Jesus Christ. For this to happen we must strive to excel in building the Church (1 Corinthians 14:12).