There are a lot of questions surrounding evangelical efforts, the Church, and its involvement in certain issues. Issues ranging from politics, social issues, race relations, and international affairs to gun violence, community outreach, and the list goes on. If you’ve been on social media, you’ve probably encountered those who pass out assignments for the Church from their computers or phones. People demand action from the Church, and they vehemently vocalize what the church should and should not be doing.
You know people who point fingers at the Church. Or those who want to find fault in how the Church operates or conducts its business. You know those who want to assign blame to the Church for most things that are wrong in the world. The Church gets blamed for homelessness, violence, hate or hunger. If something happens that could’ve been prevented, the Church “didn’t do its part.” But before we assign blame and point fingers, I think we need to ascertain who, exactly, we are pointing at. We need to know where our anger or disconcertment should be aimed.
The Church or the Church?
To express disappointment in the church, as it deals with certain issues, would be valid. Celebrity idolatry, sexual deviances, exalting money and status, and other behaviors that are not of God should invoke disappointment. But which church are we talking about when we address these things?
When tackling the topic of the duties of the Church, the terms used to make the arguments matter. There should be a distinguishable denoting of who the universal Church is and what the local church is. This will help those who want to assign human derived tasks or blame assign them with Biblical truth.
Who is the Church?
First, let’s discuss the Church, and let’s do this by going to Scripture. Ephesians 5:23 says, “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, His body, and is Himself its Savior.” Flipping back a few pages, 1 Corinthians 12:27 says, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” So, this would mean that the Church is the body of Christ with Christ as its head. The word church referenced in Ephesians, in Greek, is “ekklésia” or “a called-out assembly.” This church is the body of Christ.
This is the Church that is in the world but not of the world (John 15:19; John 17:15-16). The Church that is not conformed to this world but transformed by the renewing of its mind (Romans 12:2). This is the Church that handles God’s business. This is because it would be impossible for it not to seeing who its Head is. Those a part of this Church do what they are called to do, individually and collectively. And this Church will make sure that God is always pleased.
Does this mean that the members of this body don’t error? No. What it means is that when they do, they make every effort to right their wrongs and correct error. But even in this, this is the Church that is often confused with the local, visible church.
What is the Local Church?
The local church is characterized by buildings and people who frequent these buildings. It is a geographical point of location where those who profess Christ as Lord and Savior assemble. We gather at the local church for various reasons, but the motivation for our gathering should be Christ. However, assembling at the church does not equate to being a part of the Church, although it should. And this is why the direction of finger pointing needs to be accurate.
Yes, the Church handles God’s business well, but those a part of the local church may not. There are those who have attached themselves to a sanctuary but are not sanctified. Therefore, they may not be good representatives of the ekklésia. These would be the subject of those accusatory fingers. These individual persons would be where we direct our disappointment.
Who Are You to Judge?
Although we are aware of those who do not represent the Kingdom of God well, is it justified for those who don’t have proper knowledge of church operations to call into question a church’s duty? Are those who don’t have church affiliations adept enough to solicit advice? Do they have authority to divvy out tasks to those who are in the Church? What basis do they have to even ask anything of the Church?
Finding Fault to Avoid Fault?
In offering an argument to refute the unsolicited opinions of those on the outside of the Church, we can approach it from a couple of perspectives. Something that I think we have ignored for too long is how some people will make others wrong because they are. Or they point fingers of deflection because they don’t want to address their own faults. When we think about those who seem to always find fault in the Church, we most of the time observe those who may not have an established relationship with the Lord. Because they haven’t been enlightened on how to view the things of the Church and they don’t have the inward conviction to do what’s right, it’s easy to make others wrong because of the state of their own lives.
But what about those who do have church affiliations but always seem to find fault in the Church? These are those who are a part of the local church but do not truly understand the inner conviction of the Holy Spirit. Neither do they want to yield themselves to the inner conviction of the Holy Spirit. This would lend to those being in the local church but not the body of Christ. Which is essentially the same as being outside of the Church.
Setting a Good Example
While it is somewhat unprecedented for those who are outside of the Church to give directives, it should also be acknowledged that there is an expectation of those who belong to both churches. After all, Paul did say, “We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry” (2 Corinthians 6:3). Paul knew that the misconduct of one could bring reproach upon all. So, he lived with the state and health of the ministry [of Christ] as the guardrail for his reputation. And just like Paul knew this, those who are a part of the body of Christ know this as well.
Those who are members of a local assembly are looked upon as those who are representing the universal body. They are expected to conduct themselves in a way that will cause others to see the light of Christ and be drawn to that light. Although those outside of the Church may not know the inner workings of the Church, they are critically observing those who are supposed to know. And in that observation, what they do not expect to see is the same character and behavior that they exhibit themselves.
Following the Right Footsteps
Those who are in the Church follow in the footsteps of Paul by following Christ. This is why accusatory remarks and vile insults hurt those who are working day and night to bring others into the body of Christ. But how the Church works to bring in those who are lost isn’t as readily understood when one isn’t informed of the proper way to do this. Those in the Church know this, but those who either aren’t a part of the Church or are only nominally attached to the local assemble are unaware.
Gimmicks or Jesus?
I’ve observed that a healthy amount of people believe that giving people tangible things, getting involved in local affairs, and doing good deeds will somehow make people love Jesus. Commodification of the Gospel and over-extended involvement in worldly missions seem to be, to some, the most suitable ways to win souls. But when we use our earthly minds to think and explain God, we fall short of knowing what it takes for people to come to Christ and know God. Since we, as humans, use good deeds to win people over, we somehow believe that salvation can be achieved the same way.
We believe that if we perform enough works, we can change enough hearts. However, we think less of Christ to think that it is Thanksgiving meals, school supply drives, protests, or orphanages that draw people to Him. Although these things are practiced by those who love Him, the heart of the lost soul is drawn to Christ through His sacrifice for them, His love aimed towards them, and the glory of the Father radiating from Him.