Contrary to popular belief, the church is not sinking like the Titanic.
Why do people say such things? Maybe it’s because of things like Barna’s slightly skewed statistics that say people are fleeing the church as if it were a mutant-possum. Maybe they are alarmed at the rampant hypocrisy of many clergymen or are perturbed at the wishy-washiness of many pulpits. Or maybe they see the state of America today and assume that’s how the church is doing too—since, you know, everyone in America is a Christian, right?
The critics believe the reason why the church is so messed up is because we have drifted away from the New Testament church model. They say—the first Christians had less of this and more of that.
- They met in homes.
- They didn’t care about money.
- They were more missional.
- They wrote less books.
- They did more social justice.
- They didn’t focus on doctrine.
- They gave all their possessions away.
- They didn’t really have pastors.
- They spoke in tongues more.
- They loved people more.
- They preached less.
- They drank more.
- They were more like Jesus.
YOU MAY KISS THE BRIDE
The doomsayers do have one thing correct: the church is full of sin. But you know what?—it always has been. Even, (gasp!) during the New Testament and the first century church.
The church has always be made up of humans, and humans are sinful. Therefore, as long as the church is full of sinners it is going to be full of sin. It doesn’t justify the sin, but it will be a reality.
Yes, the church is the bride of Christ, but she can be very ugly at times.
NEW TESTAMENT REMIX
The problem is that we forget the sin nature of the first Christians and end up idolizing the NT church. The reality is that the NT church was not as full of baby angels and bejeweled bunnies. Almost every epistle was written to address a problem or conflict in the New Testament church.
Romans– written to address racial and theological tensions between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians.
1 Corinthians– written to address a church that was more full of sin than a Las Vegas casino and to quiet those who were trying to rebel against Paul’s God-given apostolic authority.
2 Corinthians– written to address more turmoil in the churches at Corinth and once again reassert Paul’s God-given authority (slow learners those Corinthians).
Galatians– written to stop a rising cult, named the Judaizers, who were ravaging the churches in Galatia.
Colossians– written to correct certain heresies that were infiltrating the church and causing many to engage in ascetic practices—thinking that would earn favor with God.
1 Thessalonians– written to correct an incorrect mindset of the after-life and Christ’s Second Coming that caused depression and hopeless grieving in the church.
2 Thessalonians– written to correct another incorrect understanding of Christ’s Second Coming. This time they thought Jesus had already come back.
1 Timothy– written to encourage Timothy, pastor of the church in Ephesus, to confront the false teachers who had infiltrated his church.
Titus– written to encourage Titus, pastor of the church in Crete, to confront the false teachers who had infiltrated his church.
James– written to Jewish Christians who had fallen into living a worldly lifestyle, resorted to infighting, and split into many factions.
2 Peter– written to combat false teachers who were teaching that sexual sin was a legitimate Christian lifestyle.
1 John– written to respond to an early form of Gnosticism, another early church heresy.
Jude– written to defend the truth against false teachers who taught a false gospel and gave license to debauchery.
So the early church was no more holy than any other period of church history. Does this mean we throw out all the epistles say about the church? By no means!
We must use what the early church did wrong as an example of what not to do. Use the good things they did as examples to follow. Obey the commands given by God through the apostles. Where the Bible is silent (example: style of worship music), do not create your own commands to fill in the blanks.
And always remember that it is Christ who will build His church, not us. As one pastor said, Jesus has been hitting straight licks with crooked sticks for a long time. We just need to be faithful to sow the seed.