A Church Alive Is Worth The Drive
A Church Alive Is Worth The Drive
What is in the name of a church? It is surprising what may be learned from the name of a church. Many churches, like Coggins Church, were named after a generous benefactor. Lots of churches were named in remembrance of a martyr or faithful preacher. From his selfless act of devotion to Christ, a local church was started. Many churches are named according to a New Testament apostle or a reformer of the church. Others, my personal favorite, are named according to profound doctrinal beliefs. Churches like Christ Fellowship Baptist Church of Mobile, Alabama, or Covenant Presbyterian Church or Trinity Chapel of Charlotte, North Carolina place an emphasis, by their name, on biblical truths that guide their congregation. To this group, we may add the more updated versions of this concept such as Journey, Cross, Pathway, etc. Some churches choose names according to the time they were founded. These are the First Churches, Second Churches, and so forth, that we see in our communities. There are also those churches named according to their location. The historic Sandy Creek Baptist Church of North Carolina is an example. I have served in three churches with location names, Lena Baptist Church, Lena, Illinois, Gainsville Baptist Church, Lincolnton, North Carolina, and Crabapple First Baptist Church, Milton, Georgia. Notice Crabapple First is actually in two these categories.
Think about the churches with location names for a moment. Why did the founders of such churches choose these names? We might guess that they chose to name their congregation according to their town, city, village, or intersection because the group of believers there needed a gathering place and wanted to connect with other believers in the area. This worked well, especially during the days when travel was hard. Believers couldn’t travel long distances often. They were forced to use horse-drawn carriages or to walk. Even after the introduction of the automobile, many weren’t able to afford such a convenience. Another factor that must be considered is that generally speaking, one could attend, with relative confidence, the local church of his denomination because most were still evangelical, Bible-believing congregations. Unfortunately, today that is often not the case. Many cannot, in good conscience and obedience to the Scriptures, simply attend the closest congregation to their home because it has forsaken the faith of Jesus. So this begs the question, What makes a church a living and vibrant congregation? A name is important. This is why churches should pray and choose their name carefully. Having acknowledged this, we must confess that the name of the church is not actually what brings it life.
What gives the church life? How can a church be sure to have the blessing and life of Christ working in it? What constitutes a church alive? Scripture is not silent about what Christ expects of His church. First, we must come to grips with the truth that the real church belongs to Jesus (Matt. 16:18). Jesus bought the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28) and He is building it until its completion at His return. Only as a congregation is true to its Head, Jesus Christ, can it be alive and well. How does Jesus build His church? We can testify to the proliferation of dead churches. What constitutes a living church? Let us consider three essential truths about how the Spirit of Christ works in true churches.
A church alive teaches the gospel. Jesus in Matthew 16:18 declares that He will build His church. In Acts 20:28 the Apostle Paul reminds the elders of the Ephesian church that the church was purchased with the blood of Jesus. In the first two chapters of the book of Ephesians, Paul explains how that the church is brought into existence by grace through faith in the substitutionary death and resurrection of Jesus. As the gospel of Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection on our behalf is taught, the power of God is present, people believe, are separated from the world, and the church is built. A living church is a gospel-centered community. In a living church, the message of the cross is faithfully shared according to the Bible’s narrative and is not “updated” or modernized. God does not bless our “improvements.” He blesses His plan.
Next, a church alive is consciously accountable to the authority of Scripture. Paul commands the young pastor Timothy (2 Tim. 3 & 4) to preach the Word of God even during days when apostasy and heresy are prevalent. He assures Timothy that Scripture is inspired (2 Tim. 3:16) has the authority of God. Paul writes to the church at Thessalonica (1 Thess. 1:6) that their belief and obedience to the Scriptures was a sign of the presence and work of God in their lives. A church alive is a Bible-centered community. In a living church the people hold themselves and each other accountable to Scripture. This is how they submit to Christ as their King and live according to His Kingdom in this world.
Lastly, a church alive exists for the glory of Christ. The church at Corinth was plagued with many problems. There were individuals who thought the church belonged to them (1 Cor. 1-3). Some were living in sexual sins (1 Cor. 5). Some were sinfully using the secular courts to settle disagreements (1 Cor. 6:1-11). These and other issues the Apostle Paul corrected by calling them to be accountable to the Word of God and to live lives worthy of the gospel. A church that is not striving to live holy lives for God’s glory will not enjoy the blessing and life of the Spirit. What was Paul’s answer to these issues? What is to be our overarching principle for the faith? The Corinthian congregation was called to do all things for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). The church doesn’t exist for anyone but Christ. It exists at His will and for His glory. A church alive is a worship-centered church. A living church is preoccupied with worshipping its sovereign Lord and guards against allowing anyone or anything getting in the way of its mission to be gospel-centered, Word-centered, and worship-centered. Every believer should make every effort to be a part of a living church that is being faithful to the gospel, the Word, and worship and that’s why a church alive is worth the drive.
Love In Christ,