My question is this: Is the word "church" a bad word? Have the modern church growth experts determined for us that in the 21st century the word "church" is so loaded with baggage that it must be replaced in order for people to desire to become a part of it. Is "church" too old, out-dated, and moldy where it must be relegated to a place of non-importance, just like that dust-covered old organ that hasn't been played in the last 5 years?
Is "church" just a replaceable synonym for any community, or a civic club, or gathering of people? I think not. The very word which we translate "church" is ekklesia which means to be "called out," from the world, and other social, political, civic entanglements, priorities, and loyalties. People can (and often are) devoted to the Moose Club, the Lions Club, the Elks, Eagles, Knights of Columbus, and the list goes on, but these are not replacements for the Church regardless of any good civic work they may do. The "church" is not just a group of like-minded individuals such as a civic club or political party. It is much more than that! It is the "church" which is identified as the body of Christ, not the Improved Order of Aardvarks!
Perhaps if Churches actually were less like the world they would be more attractive to people who are already entangled in the mindset and sin of the world. Too many cutting edge, visionary church planters have "dumbed down" (to borrow a phrase) what being a part of the Church is all about. They've forgotten "Who" the Church really belongs to as well. This also raises the question, "Why do today's church planters still call themselves "church planters" when they avoid the use of the word "church" in the groups they establish? Answer: To get money from established churches! Or to ask another question, why do Christian Universities still give lip-service to training a faithful ministry when it's obvious they no longer have that as their first priority? Answer: To get money from the churches! (But that's an upcoming blog!)
The "Church" is precious because it was established by Jesus. Matthew quotes Jesus as saying, "upon this rock I will build My church..." (Mt. 16:18). The Church belongs to Jesus! He didn't come to establish a civic-club no matter how well intentioned. He didn't come to start another non-profit organization. He did come to call people out of the world and to be made a part of His body, the Church! This is not something to avoid or minimize. This is something worth shouting about! The "Church" is precious to God because it cost Him something very valuable. Paul said that the "church" was purchased with "His own blood" (Acts 20:28). Show me one place where the local Kiwani's club or Rotary club was purchased with the very blood of the Son of God! The Church is no doubt precious to God, and should be to us as well! It is a name not to be forgotten or re-defined to be more culturally palatable to the masses. By definition it seeks those who will leave the world's way and be identified with Jesus who founded the church. We should take note that Paul also had a high regard for the concept contained in "church" when he said, "All the churches of Christ greet you" (Rom. 16:16).
Being all things to all people to win some is a great idea (see 1 Cor. 9:19-22). Yet it does us well to remember the lines of a great little poem: "Methods are many, principles are few. Methods always change, principles never do." Selling out the "church" is selling out the body for which Jesus died, and the lifestyle He calls us to join. I believe it's time to be excited about the possibilities of the "church," not throw it out! We are told that the Church still has a mission. Look at Ephesians 3:10-12 and then tell me we can do without the church! Paul writes in verse 10, "in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places."
Be excited for the church! Be involved in the church. Don't cast the church aside!
C'mon, Murphy, let's go outside!