Friday, November 09, 2007

Place this from Scripture to Your Church’s Heart

The first church was, “devoted to the apostles' teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, prayer; and everyone was filled with awe.” Acts 2...

A medical stethoscope is used to hear ones heart by a doctor. Acts chapter gives us the call of our Lord, some of His principles that we can use to see our heartbeats function. From your church devotion, teaching, fellowship, and breaking of bread, which means community and doing it all in love.
What does the stethoscope “hear” from your church? What is your church devoted to? What are your motives and plans? What and where are your awe and wonderment? These will be the questions, and if answered honestly, will be the measuring rod to the health of your church. This passage in Acts gives us the purpose, vision, and call of the Church, both as a whole and individually to each congregation. Not just a certain church down the street, but your church, and all churches together as one body. The healthy church looks like Acts 2! This means we look like we are devoted to Christ and His call because we are. We are teaching effectively, we are in fellowship and community with one another, we are forgiving and honoring of one another, and doing all we do in love. We also look like people who are focused on prayer and our growth in Him. It is not just what we look like¾it is because we are. And we do this, with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. The healthy church can be your church; perhaps it already is, or maybe it needs to be tweaked or totally reformed. So, strive to catch that AWE, that passion and devotion to our Lord and the reason for our being!

Most churches that are failing did not wake up one day and just decide, “Hey, let’s fail.” They did not start off with “me first” intentions, ignoring our Lord’s call. They probably did not choose a purposeful direction of being critical and condescending to one another, and especially not with non-Christians. They did not come together to see how they can better hurt one another, how to have better conflicts and refuse to forgive and repent. They did not write their mission statements with a “how to do the disdainful disposition,” or hold seminars on modeling attitudes of puffed-up pride. There was a process that led up to the point of decline and apathy from a starting point of new birth and excitement. There was a point where the first love became clouded, and other dispositions took over the role of the church. Just as the divorcing couples did not go into their wedding with the vision and plan for the divorce, or say in their vows, “say, in five years, let’s become so miserable that we will hate each other then we will divorce and live frustrated and disillusioned lives.” Here, too, was a process that went from the love and excitement of newlywed bliss to bitterness, criticism, patronizing, defensiveness, and withdrawal, and finally, the decision to end the relationship. It has been my observation that the causes of marriage failure are the same as with church failure. The two relationships have the same perimeters for what works and what destroys. The church is a community of relationships-with one another, with the world, and most importantly, with our Lord.

The process begins with love and excitement for the ministry, the new birth for the new Christian, or the new church start for the seasoned Christian. It can happen being in a healthy church, or being in a non-healthy church, never having experienced anything else. But, at some point, the committed Christian who has received the election of our Lord, trades in that first love for a “lemon” of sin. Somehow, the love and passion slowly dwindle away as other things creep their way into the place of that excitement. And these “things” are the diseases of apathy, gossip, pride, legalism, slander; the list can go on and on. These form the relationship killers of bitterness, criticism, condescending attitudes, defensiveness, and withdrawal that create that church of perfidy. These are the sins that take the joy away from others; it is, in fact, stealing from God Himself. These were not the precepts that the church was founded upon; these diseases were not in the vision of her planters, just as the divorce court was not on the wedding planner of the couple getting married. Yet, it happened, and it keeps happening.

What does God's Stethoscope say?


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