Who’s church do you worship in? The answer to that question may hold more weight than you realize.
As Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, starts describing the church in Corinth, as he begins his first preserved letter to them, we would believe it was an ideal church. But we have the rest of the letters that tell us that was only one aspect of who they were. By the 11th verse, we realize they are a flawed people and then reality sets in.
All churches have a redemptive identity (that identity God sees in them full of hope and promise) and a fallen identity (that identity we often see of broken people struggling to get it right.)
In Revelation, we see seven churches all with different character, innate promise and varying weaknesses. Each of them has a “candlestick” lit by the “eternal flame” of God. They then are entrusted as stewards of that flame and are held accountable for what happens to the good news in their area.
Often people get frustrated with a church, but they give up on God. That makes some sense if you understand that the church is God’s plan to give the world hope, but is it really realistic to expect the church in this century to be the very first perfect church ever in the history of…. well, history?
When God chose to use the church as an instrument of his grace on earth, he didn’t do it because he had some delusion that the church would be perfect, but that the church would be a model of how God would bless a people struggling to live into a faithful life.
Even when churches have major problems… and we do… God doesn’t give up on the church as his plan to be the best and only hope for the world. If we listen to the cautions to the churches in Revelation, we understand that this blessing comes with a responsibility. We are stewards of the flame that will either be protected and fanned into power and hope for the world, or snuffed out depending on our stewardship and obedience.
So, what is our responsibility? Looking back at the church in Corinth, we find at least four things we are responsible to assure in our churches. First, we are never to put anyone or anything in the place of Jesus. A church without Jesus is impotent in changing the world.
Second, we are to use the gifts God gave us to benefit the church and the world. Each of us has a gift and when we fail to use it in the Body of Christ (the church) the church is hindered in carrying out its mission. It’s like expecting a manufacturing plant to turn out the same number of widgets with only 20 percent of the workforce showing up for work.
Third, we are to walk through this life as faithfully as God grants us the ability. While no church is perfect, that is not a license for Christians to sin. Paul talks about that when he says if grace abounds all the more where sin exists, should we then go on sinning? His response to the rhetorical question was absolutely not! That would presume on God’s grace, harm our own souls and not edify the church or the world.
Finally, we are to treat each other well, both inside and outside the church walls.
Interestingly, Paul doesn’t end his list of promising character traits of the church with a judgment on how they fail to meet up to the hope, but challenges them to remember who’s church it is. If it is my church, then I am responsible for the change in the world God calls the church to be. If it is your church, you decide, pick your preferences and do as seems right to you. Then you become responsible for the change in the world God calls the church to be. But if it is God’s church, he is responsible, he directs, he instructs, and he gets to have the final say on preferences. We just follow the plan.
Who’s church will you worship in this weekend?