The Church As It's Supposed To Be: Intro

The Church As It

Aug 20, 2017

Passage:Hebrews 10:19-32

Preacher: Michael Gunn

Series: The Church As Its Supposed To Be

Category: Sermon


This is a series looking at the church as it was meant to be.


The Introduction

Over the years as a pastor, I have been asked the question, “Where in the bible does it tell us we have to go to Church?” or I’ve heard more recently, “My relationship is personal and with the Lord, and the Church is too hypocritical, and I am better off with a few friends and Jesus, and don’t need the Church.

Both of these types of comments are so misguided and proof that people are simply not being discipled to understand what the Church is, and what their place is in the Church.

I would say that the Church (Not you personally, but collectively) is absolutely vital to the mission and plans of God. He has always chosen a “People” group to execute His plans. We see this from Abram and subsequently Israel to be His ‘witness’ to who He is, to the early Church (Acts 1:8) to the Church in the 21st century.

While there are no verses that directly say “You need to be part of a Church!!’ There are a plethora of verses that assume it. There are also no direct verses that say “There is a God” either, but it is fair to say it is strongly assumed. Much of the New Testament is written to churches, not individuals, and most of the letters written to individuals (1+2 Timothy and Titus) are written to pastors explaining to them how to organize the church.

Some Misconceptions About Church

First, Church is not a place, or a building; the word translated ‘Church” in the bible is most often a derivative of the Greek word Eklesia (Literally ‘Called Out’) meaning to gather, or assemble. Thus Church is a family or assembly you take part in using your time, talent and treasure for His Glory, rather than being a consumer to see what you can get out of it!

Second, Church is not an institution, but also a living organic gathering of God’s people living out their faith of the Gospel in their context. Too often people are more connected to their denominational identity than their identity and mission in the body of Christ, the Church. In some ways, denominations have been a hindrance to God's unified plan for the church, and with that, like any other kind of institution, these denominations are best if they'd see themselves as ad hoc organizations would cease to exist when their contributions to the mission of the local church cease. All churches and organizations have a shelf life and then, like any other organism they end their usefulness and ought to die. Unfortunately we have many people stuck in tradition and sectarian factions instead of constantly planting new bodies that can engage new generations more effectively.

Third, Church is a place for hypocrites and every other kind of sinner! People that say that they don’t go to Church because there are hypocrites there, are themselves, hypocrites. Are there no hypocrites at baseball games, concerts, movies, etc.? Of course there is, because where people are there are hypocrites, and all kind of sinners, which the healthy Church says, welcome because we are sinners too. Broken people are all welcome to a healthy “Church!” I believe there are 2 reasons people feel this way about Church. One is because of the high standard they expect out of followers of Jesus and the fact is, we so often don’t measure up to what the world says is “Good,” or the Church simply allows a destructive worldliness that isn't any different than the world. Secondly, the Church often portrays an attitude of self-righteous judgmentalism without a relationship with the world in any constructive way. This is precisely why we ALL need Jesus, and that is always the focus of our gatherings for that very reason. We all fall short of His glory, and are in need of salvation from our sins, whether we are lawless haters of God, or religious zealots working our way into God's good graces, we need Jesus! 

Fourth, You and your four friends doing acts of goodwill are not the church! Jesus’ Church is diverse, and works through the gospel with one another, including Church Discipline (Matthew 18), use of the sacraments (Matthew 28: 19-20) and the Preaching of the word (2 Timothy 4:1-3). In spite of some teaching from the Emergent Church, there is clearly leadership in the Church as espoused in 1 + 2 Timothy, Titus and Ephesians 4:11.

Then What Is The Church?

As already noted, Church is a gathering of God’s people for the purpose of God’s mission in the world. While the gathering may have non-believers in attendance; even amongst the membership or leadership, the “Pure” Church is an assembly of God’s chosen people for His chosen mission. Jesus' Parable of the Weeds (Matthew 13:24-30) highlights the truth that there will always be non believers in the Church who see themselves as believers because of their religious activity, and cordial demeanor. A true biblical Church will faithfully preach the Bible as the true word of God, it will minister the sacraments of Baptism and Communion, it will practice Church discipline in a gracious manner, it will be led by qualified leaders, and its goal will be to see Christ’s name made famous through the preaching of the gospel, and mission locally and globally, resulting in many other churches planted.

Why Does The Church Exist?

I have heard some recent ministries say that they are followers of Jesus and don’t need to be part of a Church, since the Church concept was created by Paul, and then later by men who wanted power, and that Jesus never created a Church or expected anyone to do so. That can’t be any farther from the truth at all, and in Matthew 16:18 clearly says (Jesus Speaking), “And I tell you, you are Peter (Petros, Little Stone), and upon this rock (Petra, Rock), I will build MY Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Not only did Jesus plan on building His Church, but He promises that ultimately no matter how bleak it looks, His mission that started at His resurrection, and continues through the Church will not be thwarted by Satan's evil plan. The Church exists for two main reasons:

  1. The Church Exists To Demonstrate God’s Glorious Gospel Plan To the World

Ephesians 2:19-22 tells us that God took the Jew and gentile and brought them together as a “Dwelling place for God” which Paul metaphorically describes as a ‘Temple” that was built on “…the foundation of the apostles, prophets, Christ Jesus being the cornerstone.” Some may say that doesn’t constitute the “Church.” Then let’s keep reading through to Ephesians 3:10 which clearly indicates that not only is he speaking of the Jew/Gentile as The Church, but it’s that body (Plural – Together) that manifests the “Manifold wisdom of God,” which you can’t do as a homogenous unit of a few friends or via the Homogenous Unit Principle. The very heart of the mission of God is unity within the diversity that God is calling together, and yet, we have so many homogenous Churches, or Churches made up of our own friends and family, or ethnicity/race killing off the distinct and clear plan of God. The Church, like marriage, is meant to reflect the Triune nature of God who is "One" being, yet manifested in 3 distinct persons. God created diversity because it is good, and expects that in His Church made up of re-created new creation (See Revelation 5:9; 7:9).

There is no doubt tension in this plan, which is why Paul and other writers deal with the overt and covert racism, and other cultural issues that creep up when two diverse sections of people are called together, even if they are called and placed by the Spirit of God for the mission of God (Especially seen in letters to the Romans, Galatians and Ephesians). But in spite of this potential tension, we are ALL called to be part of this union in Christ, which is the body of Christ that functions together as one body glorifying God (See 1 Corinthians 12-14; Romans 12). This unity in diversity best shows off who God is, and what His Gospel is all about. Sin has marred His creation which was meant to be unified, and the world’s solution is the dissolution of difference, creating a boring and morbid sameness, whereas the Gospel of Jesus Christ promises to re-write all of the fall’s destructive consequences, and the Church is the assembly of people that God has called to model His “Already/Not Yet” Kingdom.

We see this after Paul explains the truth of the Gospel in the first 3 chapters of Ephesians; he goes on to explain why then we should live in unity, as one, for the mission of the Church. Ephesians 6 is so often seen as a personal effort, and while we all have a part in the effort, Paul is writing to the Church, and explains by using the metaphor of a Roman soldier’s armor that in order to grow, and to extinguish the attacks of Satan, we ALL need to do this together, not as individuals.

  1. The Church Exists For His People To Continue To Grow In Grace With One Another

This is also why the writer of Hebrews 10:23-25 tells us, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” We hold fast our confession (Especially under duress as the Hebrew Christians were), when we “Stir up one another to love and good deeds” because we aren’t “Neglecting to meet together.”

We need one another and continual fellowship in the Gospel to stir one another up to “Love and good works.” We bear one another’s burdens and hold one another up as we go through this world trying to walk worthy of the calling by which we are called. It’s ironic because most American Christians leave churches when they struggle with someone or a group within the church instead of “working out your own salvation” (Philippians 2:12) through hard relationships as Philippians teaches us. Instead we gossip, talk behind one’s back, and then leave churches because they aren’t “Feeding” us, in spite of the fact that the Church, as God has put it together is called to feed and serve one another.

Acts 2:42 reminds us that, "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." These type of verses can't be ignored. The Church was meant to be a family of churches loving one another as they met regularly, and hearing the teaching of the word and applying it within the body of Christ, the Church. The Bible doesn't teach that you grow by reading your bible by yourself. The Bible teaches that within a community of faith we“Stir up one another to love and good deeds.” This isn't based on personality, but of a command of God to stop forsaking the gathering, and continue to devote oneself to one another. Acts 2:46 shows that these meetings were daily, yet we look at church and any meetings as a burden to our busy schedule, versus a time of refreshment to be with the family that God put together for your growth, and ultimate joy in Christ.

Too often, we Americans are too busy to be together, so it is hard to actually know one another well enough to even accomplish the one another's. We blame it on a modern day schedule and family, but the believers in Jesus' time had larger families and had to work that much harder to survive. Our schedules are often excuses we make to hide our idols and self-centered preferences. We prioritize what's important to us, often shortcutting our spiritual growth, and failing to obey the clear commands of scripture to not forsake the gathering and perform the many one another's scripture call us to do. The American Church is often guilty of many sins of omission, while decrying the world's sins of commission.

What Kind of Community Should We Aim For?

We are aiming to become a family of diverse missionaries who love one another and together reveal the gospel by manifesting God's manifold wisdom to the unbelieving world thus glorifying Him resulting in newly planted churches and bringing joy to His creation. What does this mean and what does this look like?

Going back to that Ephesians 3:10 passage, we see God's plan for the church through the ages. That plan reveals God's glory, through a diverse church to the non believing world. While it's natural to want to be around people like ourselves, that isn't s s God's plan for His community. For instance we could have a group for single mom's which might be helpful at first but that group would be built on social demographics and not the supernatural gospel of Jesus. That type of group can be formed without God in it's midst. We often shape our church communities around preference, identity, life experience, causes, needs, socio-economic position, but not the Gospel blows this type of community away. Mark Devers in his very helpful book on community; "Compelling Community,” defines the 2 schools of thought as "Gospel. Plus" community, where community is built around preferences, identity etc and "Gospel Revealing" community, where community is formed solely around the gospel and is inclusive of all ethnicities, genders and socio-economic platforms and station of life (See Galatians 3:28).


Some Barriers To Biblical Community

(This is Adapted From Mark Dever’s Book, “Compelling Community”

  1. Over Staffing - Hiring People to Do the Work of the Ministry

While we don’t have this as an issue here at Anchor, we can fall into the trap of believing that hired people or the ‘Leaders’ should do the work of the ministry. Ephesians 4:11-13 continually reminds us that those that are gifted in certain areas are given to the Church to “Equip” the people to “Do the work of the ministry.

  1. Crowded Calendar - Filling the Calendar With Good Events That Don’t Accomplish the Mission. There are many ‘Good’ things to do, but quite often the events do not work on building unity and serve the mission of the church which is the Gospel to the nations.


  1. Music - Using Music That Is Unsingable or Performance Oriented. Devers cites music that is too hard to corporately sing (Not style, but sing-ability), music that doesn’t allow for the full breadth of human emotions including sadness and despair (Ala the Psalms) teaches people that these topics aren’t acceptable in our personal conversations either; and lastly, Music that is a show turning listeners into consumers rather than active participants


  1. Service Time - Rushed Service Times

Rushing through the service on a time restriction, and then clearing everyone out after is detrimental to ongoing relational connections with visitors and one another.

  1. Demographically Targeted Ministry - Reaching Some But Not Others. Reaching people that are like you destroys God’s plan (Ala Ephesians 3:10; Revelation 5:9; 7:9), as well as destroys a wider Christian community of people that aren’t like us. It also hurts our overall spiritual growth, since that takes place most often in the relationships within the church.

I’d Like to Add:

  1. Lack of Clarity Regarding the Mission - Without A Clear Mission, Church Is Just A Social Club. Quite often churches either have no clear vision, or they do not communicate this very well, and the church becomes a social club with many agenda’s to please, rather than all hands working together for the stated mission of the church.
  2. Disunity - Back-Biting and Gossip

When the mission is unclear, the atmosphere can turn inward in an unhealthy manner breeding discontent and ultimately gossip and backbiting, which kills the unity and community the church is aiming toward. This also causes people to disengage and not open up with one another.