The past couple of months I have been reading the book Christless Christianity by Michael Horton. It has been a fascinating and eye opening read. I knew that I had been taught a lot of bad theology when I was growing up, but I didn't know the extent of it till I read this book. Probably the most striking realization this book brought about for me is understanding what the Biblical role of the church is. I grew up being taught that the church was a place to serve. I was to have low expectations of the pastor and his messages since my spiritual growth was entirely my responsibility. If I felt disappointed with the church services and Bible studies, well that was because I came with the expecation to get when it should have been to give, not because the preaching or study was lacking in depth. Can anyone relate to this? It wasn't until a year ago or so, and now in reading Christless Christianity, that I became aware that this teaching was completely wrong. Below is an exert that I just read last night that demonstrates the difference between the church mentality I grew up with and a Biblical church mentality.
Imagine two scenarios of church life. In the first, God gathers his people together in a convenant event to judge and to justify, to kill and to make alive. The emphasis is on God's work for us - the Father's gracious plan, the Son's saving life, death, and resurrection, and the Spirit's work of bringing life to the valley of dry bones through the proclamation of Christ. The preaching focuses on God's work in the history of redemption from Genesis through Revelation, and sinners are swept into this unfolding drama. Trained and ordained to mine the riches of Scripture for the benefit of God's people, ministers try to push their own agendas, opinions, and personalities to the background so that God's Word will be clearly proclaimed. In this preaching, the people once again are simply receivers - recipients of grace. Similarly, in baptism, they do not baptize themselves; they are baptized. In the Lord's Supper, they do not prepare and cook the meal; they do not contribute to the fare; but they are guests, who simply enjoy the bread of heaven. As this gospel creates, deepens , and inflames faith, a profound sense of praise and thanksgiving fills hearts, leading to good works among the saints and in the world throughout the week. Having been served by God in the public assembly, the people are then servants of each other and their neighbors in the world. Pursuing their callings in the world with vigor and dedication, they win the respect of outsiders. Because they have been served well themselves - especially by pastors, teachers, elders, and deacons - they are able to share the Good news of Christ in well - informed and natural ways. And because they have been relieved of numerous burdens to spend all of their energy on church - related ministries thoughout the week, they have more time to serve their families, neighbors, and coworkers in the world.
In the second scenario, the church is its own subculture, an alternative community not only for weekly dying and rising in Christ but for one's entire circle of friends, electicians, and neighbors. In this scenario, the people assume that they come to church primarily to do something. The emphasis is on their work for God. The preaching concentrates on principles and steps to living a better life, with a constant stream of exhortations: Be more commited. Read your Bible more. Pray more. Witness more. Give more. Get involved in this cause or that movement to save the world. Their calling by God to secular vocations is made secondary to finding their ministry in the church. Often malnourished because of a minstry defined by personal charisma and motivational skills rahter than by knowledge and godliness, these same sheep are expected to be shepherds themselves. Always serving, they are rarely served. Ill-informed about the grand narrative of God's work in redemptive history, they do not really know what to say to a non-Christian except to talk about their own personal experiences and perhaps repeat some slogans or formulas that they might be hard-pressed to explain. Furthermore, because they are expected to be so heavily involved in church - related activities (often considered more important even than the public services on Sunday), they do not have the time, energy, or opportunity to develop significant relationships outside the church. And if they were to bring a friend to church, they could not be sure that he or she would hear the gospel. (Christless Christianity, 190-191)
I think this exert explains perfectly how the church should look and how it currently looks in today's society.Can you imagine the impact we would have as a church if we looked more like scenario one than two? That is the kind of church my husband and I long to be a part of, and hope to soon be a part of in Omaha. In the meantime we are praying for the churches in our town to have their eyes opened to what the Bible says is the church's roll. We pray that their leadership and congregation would long for the truth and to be equipped for everything pertaining to life and godliness (2Peter 1:3). One thing I want to point out is that the author (and myself) is not saying that you have no roll in your spiritual growth, but that the church's job is to aid in increasing it. We still must be in the Word and in prayer on our own as well.
How about you? Do you agree or disagree with this post? Does your church equip you to go into all the world and make disciples and to lead a godly life?