I had dinner with a good friend a few weeks ago and as we were leaving she asked me a question that she said I should meditate on, a question that was presented to her at church that day. The question was this: “If [our] church were to close, would the community notice?”
As I tried to consider this, I was alarmed at what I felt to be the honest answer to the question. I have only been the pastor at Macedonia Primitive Baptist Church in Ackerman, Mississippi for a handful of months. I have been trying to bring messages to that flock regarding the body of Christ (the church) of which Jesus Christ alone is the head of the body (Col. 1:18), and how that body should look and operate. I’ve tried to emphasize the body of the church should be a “dynamic” body, continually growing and with its members (symbolically the hands, feet, etc) strengthening, exhorting, and mentoring other members of the same body. The body of Christ should never be “stagnant”, but always active in the world in which it resides, and even expanding to the extent of adding new members to our local church assembly. How “dynamic” are the bodies of our individual churches today, or rather are we “stagnant” (as many of the churches in Rev. 2-3 had become for various reasons)?
Do we limit shining our light to only the church meeting house on Sunday mornings? Are the four walls of the church house the “bushel” we place on the light of the world, and that’s the only place we let our light shine in the manner that others may see it and glorify God?
I have been convicted over the last several months about the “personal responsibility of the church”. You see, the church is made up of members, and the church as a collective unit/body cannot do anything if the individual members don’t do that function. For example:
- The church is supposed to be the “light of the world” (Matt. 5:16), the church cannot be the light of the world, if I personally do not let my light shine.
- The church is commanded to be the “pillar and ground of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:15), the church cannot be the pillar and ground of the truth, if I personally don’t contend for the truth and uphold it.
- Jesus Christ is supposed to have preeminence (literally to be treated and considered first, before and above anything else) in all things in the church (Col. 1:18), Jesus Christ cannot have preeminence in the church, if He does not have preeminence – if He is not first and foremost – in my life.
- Jesus cannot truly be the head of the body (the church) until he is the “head” of my life.
What I’m saying by all this is that the church is not some nebulous entity that we cannot grasp. No on the contrary – we have to accept that I AM THE CHURCH! If I think there’s a problem with the church, the first question I have to ask is: what is the problem with ME? (remember when Jesus talked about those motes and beams in our eyes in Matt. 7; we should not immediately ask what is the problem with all those other folks, but the first question I must always ask is: what is the problem with ME?)
So back to the original question, if our church closed its doors, would the community even notice at all? Do we have enough of a positive impact in our respective communities that our closing would leave a void? Going back to the question of personal responsibility, the question I have to ask myself is am I (as a member of the body of Christ) impacting my community in such a manner, that if I passed away today, would anyone if my community notice? So if the church doesn’t impact the community in the manner it should, that’s a personal condemnation. It’s because I personally am not impacting the community.
I believe it’s very healthy to constantly ask ourselves tough, honest, probing questions to see in what areas our discipleship is lacking, to constantly “examine ourselves whether ye be in the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5). Paul constantly admonished other elders to first “take heed to yourself”, and then to the flock (Acts 20:28). So as I’ve meditated on these questions, I’ve taken this as a personal charge that if I want to fix apathy in the church, I have to fix apathy in my life. If I want the church to be more zealous, I have to be more zealous. If I want the church to be a shining light and positively impact the community, then I myself have to let my light shine and make a concentrated effort to positively impact the community. Consider this my opportunity, by asking these difficult questions, to provoke you to good works as well.
Our personal devotion to Christ is where all church growth stems from. There was a group of men in the first century that “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) because they boldly lived out their faith in their communities and were committed to preaching the gospel. I believe the gospel still has the power to “turn the world upside down” if it’s preached in demonstration of the Spirit and power, and demonstrated in the lives of every believer.
It’s up to me – and it’s up to you as a child of the King – to make sure the church is serving Christ in the manner that it should, and to make sure I am serving Christ in the manner that I should. May God give us grace sufficient to serve Him acceptably here in this time and world.