The church! It’s a place to seek and find God and the comfort of the people who love Him! God’s people should never attempt to harm the reputations of other of God’s people! Childish behaviors and stunts like lying, manipulating, controlling and leading others to believe falsehoods is always dishonorable and sinful in the sight of God.
Disrupting worship services, conducting secret meetings or trying to “steal sheep” away from their church home is a disgraceful ploy of the wicked anytime. To purposely harm the church can only back-fire and have devilish repercussions!
DO YOU KNOW WHAT A CHURCH REALLY IS AND DOES?
Many people today understand the church as a building. This is not a biblical understanding of the church. The word “church” is a translation of the Greek word ekklesia, which is defined as “an assembly” or “called-out ones.” The root meaning of church is not that of a building, but of people. It is ironic that when you ask people what church they attend, they usually identify a building. Romans 16:5 says, “Greet the church that is in their house.” Paul refers to the church in their house—not a church building, but a body of believers.
The church is the body of Christ, of which He is the head. Ephesians 1:22–23 says, “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” The body of Christ is made up of all believers in Jesus Christ from the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) until Christ’s return. Biblically, we may regard the church in two ways, as the universal church or as the local church.
The universal church consists of everyone, everywhere, who has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:13). This verse says that anyone who believes is part of the body of Christ and has received the Spirit of Christ as evidence. All those who have received salvation through faith in Jesus Christ comprise the universal church.
The local church is described in Galatians 1:1–2: “Paul, an apostle . . . and all the brothers with me, to the churches in Galatia.” Here we see that in the province of Galatia there were many churches—they had a localized ministry and were scattered throughout the province. They were local churches. A Baptist church, a Lutheran church, an E-Free church, etc., is not the church, as in the universal church; rather, it is a local church, a local body of believers. The universal church is comprised of everyone who belongs to Christ. Members of the universal church should seek fellowship and edification in a local church.
In summary, the church is not a building or a denomination. According to the Bible, the church is the body of Christ—all those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation (John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 12:13). Local churches are gatherings of people who claim the name of Christ. Members of a local church may or may not be members of the universal church, depending on the genuineness of their faith. The local church is where believers can fully apply the “body” principles of 1 Corinthians chapter 12—encouraging, teaching, and building one another up in the knowledge and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
HOW SHOULD THE CHURCH DEAL WITH GOSSIP, LIES AND OTHER VERBAL ABUSE OF THE “WAGS” WHO CREATE IT?
Gossip is repeating information that should not be repeated, even if it is true. Often, the person who repeats gossip that turns out to be true does it before the truth is substantiated or permission is given to share. What makes news gossip, even if true, is its repetition by or to someone who does not need to know. Gossip might be shared information that was gained in confidence, but it might be information that one has simply “heard” or “overheard.”
The appeal of gossip is that people like to find out secrets and people like to share secrets, especially if the secret is only shared with people who can be “trusted” to keep it. Additionally, when a secret is shared, it may make another person look bad and thus improve the self-image of the gossiper and his audience.
In addition to the many passages in Scripture that warn about the misuse of words and the tongue are passages that warn against gossip specifically:
Proverbs 11:13, “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.”
Proverbs 20:19, “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much.”
Proverbs 26:20, “Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.”
In the New Testament, the condemnation of gossip is harsh. In Romans 1:28–30, gossip is one of the sins that signifies mankind’s deepest depravity: “Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents” (emphasis added).
Paul lists gossip as one of the sins he fears that he will find in the church in Corinth: “I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder” (2 Corinthians 12:20, emphasis added).
Gossip causes division within the church, and it should be addressed.
In Matthew 18:15–17, Jesus explains how sin should be dealt with in the church: “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
When a person gossips, he or she needs to be confronted according to the pattern Jesus laid down.
Sometimes it may be difficult to recognize gossip, or it may be couched in such a way as to hide its true nature. It may appear to be motivated by genuine concern: “I heard that Frank and his wife are about to split up. I am really concerned. Have you heard anything about that?” It could be couched as a prayer request: “Please pray for Frank and his wife. I hear they are really having problems.” In these cases, the gossip is spreading information that he or she does not have Frank’s permission to share, even if it is true.
In these cases, the one who hears the gossip must respond properly. It would be helpful if the church had specific teaching from the pulpit on these scenarios.
When a church member hears something like the above illustration, he or she should first refuse to listen and direct the gossip back to the source. For instance, when the gossip says, “Have you heard that Frank and his wife having trouble?” the other party might respond, “No, I haven’t, and I don’t want to hear it. You should not be repeating things about Frank that may or may not be true. If you have genuine concern about Frank’s marriage, you need to go talk to him and see if he needs help.” If there really is concern for Frank and his wife, then the “concerned person” will follow up with Frank, and if the only motivation was gossip, perhaps this response will nip it. If the person persists in gossip, the steps in Matthew 18:15–17 should be followed.
When we hear a potentially gossipy prayer request, it would be appropriate to ask some questions: “Did Frank tell you this?” “No—then how do know it is true?” “Yes—then did he tell you to let other people know and ask them to pray for him?”
The point is to challenge the gossip, refuse to engage the story, and to redirect the gossip’s concern into more productive activity. Before anyone talks about Frank, he or she should speak with him directly to determine the facts, what assistance he might need, and whether it is appropriate to tell others.
The person who hears the gossip cannot—must not—repeat it. That person has only two options in response to the information that was communicated. The first is to simply let it go, and the second is to go to the source (Frank in this case) and try to ascertain the facts (assuming that this person has a relationship with Frank and that such an approach would be warranted.)
There may be occasions when a person is genuinely concerned and goes to a pastor or mature Christian to get help in formulating a proper response to something he or she has seen or heard. In this case, it might not be gossip, but it could easily turn into it. “Pastor, I am concerned about Frank’s marriage. I have heard some things, and I fear they may be true. What should I do?” Here the pastor or mature believer should certainly caution against gossip, impress the fact that this information should not be repeated again, and then encourage the “concerned” party to talk to Frank. If there is not an adequate relationship with Frank, then perhaps it would be appropriate for the pastor or mature Christian to “take over” and go to Frank himself.
When it comes to gossip (or potential gossip), the appropriate response is to confront the one repeating gossip, refuse to listen, and, if it is too late for that, refuse to repeat it. If some action seems to be warranted, then the information must be confirmed with a person in a position to know and give permission to share it. If these steps were followed in every case, much that should not be repeated would be kept quiet, and a person who really does need help would likely receive it.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE CHURCH?
Acts 2:42 could be considered a purpose statement for the church: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” According to this verse, the purposes/activities of the church should be 1) teaching biblical doctrine, 2) providing a place of fellowship for believers, 3) observing the Lord’s supper, and 4) praying.
The church is to teach biblical doctrine so we can be grounded in our faith. Ephesians 4:14 tells us, “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.” The church is to be a place of fellowship, where Christians can be devoted to one another and honor one another (Romans 12:10), instruct one another (Romans 15:14), be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32), encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11), and most importantly, love one another (1 John 3:11).
The church is to be a place where believers can observe the Lord’s Supper, remembering Christ’s death and shed blood on our behalf (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). The concept of “breaking bread” (Acts 2:42) also carries the idea of having meals together. This is another example of the church promoting fellowship. The final purpose of the church according to Acts 2:42 is prayer. The church is to be a place that promotes prayer, teaches prayer, and practices prayer. Philippians 4:6-7 encourages us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Another commission given to the church is proclaiming the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). The church is called to be faithful in sharing the gospel through word and deed. The church is to be a “lighthouse” in the community, pointing people toward our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The church is to both promote the gospel and prepare its members to proclaim the gospel (1 Peter 3:15).
Some final purposes of the church are given in James 1:27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” The church is to be about the business of ministering to those in need. This includes not only sharing the gospel, but also providing for physical needs (food, clothing, shelter) as necessary and appropriate. The church is also to equip believers in Christ with the tools they need to overcome sin and remain free from the pollution of the world. This is done by biblical teaching and Christian fellowship.
So, what is the purpose of the church? Paul gave an excellent illustration to the believers in Corinth. The church is God’s hands, mouth, and feet in this world—the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). We are to be doing the things that Jesus Christ would do if He were here physically on the earth. The church is to be “Christian,” “Christ-like,” and Christ-following.
WHAT SHOULD I BE LOOKING FOR IN THE CHURCH I ATTEND?
In order to know what to look for in a local church, we must first understand God’s purpose for the church—the body of Christ—in general. There are two outstanding truths about the church. First, “the church of the living God [is] the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). Second, Christ alone is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22; 4:15; Colossians 1:18).
In regard to the truth, the local church is a place where the Bible (God’s only Truth) has complete authority. The Bible is the only infallible rule of faith and practice (2 Timothy 3:15-17). Therefore, when seeking a church to attend, we should find one where, according to biblical standards, the gospel is preached, sin is condemned, worship is from the heart, the teaching is biblical, and opportunities to minister to others exist. Consider the model of the early church found in Acts 2:42-47, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
In regard to the second truth about the church, Christians should attend a local fellowship that declares Christ’s headship in all matters of doctrine and practice. No man, whether pastor, priest, or pope, is the head of the church. All men die. How can the living church of the living God have a dead head? It cannot. Christ is the church’s one supreme authority, and all church leadership, gifts, order, discipline, and worship are appointed through His sovereignty, as found in the Scriptures.
Once these two fundamental truths are set, the rest of the factors (buildings, worship styles, activities, programs, location, etc.) are merely a matter of personal preference. Before attending a church, some research is necessary. Doctrinal statements, purpose statements, mission statements, or anything that will give insight into what a church believes should be carefully examined. Many churches have websites where one can determine what they believe regarding the Bible, God, the Trinity, Jesus Christ, sin, and salvation.
Next should be visits to the churches that seem to have the fundamentals in place. Attendance at two or three services at each church will be helpful. Any literature they have for visitors should be scrutinized, paying close attention to belief statements. Church evaluation should be based on the principles outlined above. Is the Bible held as the only authority? Is Christ exalted as head of the church? Does the church focus on discipleship? Were you led to worship God? What types of ministries does the church involve itself in? Was the message biblical and evangelical? How was the fellowship? You also need to feel comfortable. Were you made to feel welcome? Is the congregation comprised of true worshipers?
Finally, remember that no church is perfect. At best, it is still filled with saved sinners whose flesh and spirits are continually at war. Also, do not forget the importance of prayer. Praying about the church God would have you attend is crucial throughout the decision-making process.
- Do you have a home church?
- Do you have questions about the church you are presently attending?
- Are you currently without a church or place of stable spiritual and/or Biblical counsel?
- Do you need some friends you can talk and fellowship with, real friends to care and pray for you?
- Do you have questions about God, The Bible and Church that you have really never talked about but you would like to?
RUSS HOBBS MINISTRIES
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