The goal of the churches of Christ should always be to follow Jesus first, then to restore the church as we read about her in the first century. We should be a church whose head is Christ, and who seeks first and foremost of all, his glory and honor. Some in the world and in the church have made light of this goal, asking questions such as, “Which New Testament church will we strive to be like – Corinthians with its myriad problems from division to marriage and the resurrection? Or Thessalonians with its problems of understanding the Second Coming? Or Galatians with its problems of false teachers that divide the church and enslave the brethren by falsehoods?
We seek not to restore the problems with the church – we seek instead to see their problems, see what God said to solve their problems, and apply these principles to make sure the church is what GOD wants it to be.
As we look at the letters to the churches in the New Testament, we see that they had problems in doing God’s will—“God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10). We desire to imitate the new testament church in what was good, and we need to strive to imitate the first century church in steadfastness (faithfulness to God), in constant, daily, believing prayer, and daily personal evangelism. It is not just the work of elders or the leaders—it must be the work of every member of the church so that the church may be strong.
Paul often used the comparison of the church to that of a body, where all of its parts work together for the building up of the body (1 Corinthians 12). Not all can be an eye, or a hand, or even the heart; all parts of the body are needed to perform his/her function for the church to grow.
Perhaps this is why the early church worked so hard at fellowship. In Acts 2-4 we read of the church having all things in common, going from house to house, and proving its love to all the members. This demands that we look at our fellowship – do we have all things in common? If a brother or sister has needs that we have the ability to take care of, are we willing to do what we can to meet those needs? Are we willing to go from house to house, showing and giving hospitality, and helping encourage one another in the church? Do we show love to ALL the members, or just the ones that we like? How are we doing at this Bible command to fellowship?
The early church was willing to sacrifice everything for the good of the body. As we read of the church in the New Testament we see a spirit of sacrifice and commitment to see the church/body become what God designed the church to be. We see a willingness to sacrifice comforts and desires for the good of the whole. They understood the concept of the church being a family, and the need for each member to sacrifice what they could for the good of the whole. That is why they considered that they had all things in common (Acts 2:44-45). The members of the church wanted the church to flourish in every way – do we? The result was that the church grew by leaps and bounds, and changed the culture they were in.
Unfortunately, our culture today has changed the church, rather than the church changing the culture. We have placed more emphasis on getting Christians to come to church, rather than be the church.
Studies are now showing that the church must stop catering to the “felt needs” of members of the church and reach out to the lost as Jesus said we must (Mark 16:15-16; Matthew 28:19-20) if we will continue to live and thrive. When the church of the first century kept their focus on reaching the lost, they grew. When the church focused on developing and maturing Christians, so they could teach others, the church prospered. But when the church became inwardly focused; when they were not fighting the outward enemy of the world, they lost their purpose and died. The worst thing that ever happened to the church was it for it to be accepted by Rome and made the official religion of the empire.
Selfishness kills! This is why Jesus says his disciples must deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow him. (Mark 8:34)
Again, the success or failure of the church is dependent on what the members of the church are willing to do and sacrifice for the good of the church. “If every member of the church were just like me, what kind of church would this church be??” May we commit ourselves to the Lord first, then his church as never before, and commit ourselves to doing what God said we should do.
I write these things not to discourage; but to encourage. When we all dedicate ourselves to being more like Christ, maturing in the faith and growing in him, and teaching and encouraging others the gospel both in and out of the church, we will be the church God wants us to be. Encourage me as I strive to encourage you! Love, Tommy