How a Church Can Lose Its Way
Lesson One from an Adult Bible Study Series on 1 Corinthians by Dr. Mike Holloway
A Modern Day Problem
One of the saddest sights to behold in recent times, is the continual disappearance of once good churches.
Why is this disappearance happening? Quite simply, churches have lost sight of some of the most basic and fundamental truths that were a part of their spiritual make up. As a result, they have gradually drifted away from where they had once been, and in the process of change, they have lost their way.
This is the issue found at the heart of Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth. This church had been planted in Greece, which meant that it was surrounded by idolatry and intellectuals. It was not an easy field in which to thrive, yet it was a place of the Lord’s choosing.
A Biblical Solution
As Paul learned of the problems beginning to strangle this church, he quickly got down to the business of trying to call them back to where they had once been. How? He tried to get them to focus on the basic things they had once known, but for whatever reasons had lost sight of and forgotten.
The church needs to recognize … GOD’S AUTHORITY OVER THE CHURCH.
“Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,”1 Corinthians 1:1
It is significant that the first thing Paul did in trying to help this church was to remind them of the fact that he was not just the founding pastor but was an apostle of Jesus Christ. Before he could help them fix their problems, he first had to establish that he was filling a divine office and appointment by none other than the Lord Himself. In other words, he was demanding their respect, not for himself personally, but for the office he held.
What was His point?
He was reminding them of what churches everywhere tend to forget. This church is the Lord’s church not our church.
Charter members like to think of themselves as the pillars of the church because they have been there the longest. The big givers like to think of themselves as holding the keys to the kingdom because in their minds, the church would go out of business were it not for them. The workers like to think of themselves as the backbone of the church because they assume that nothing would be accomplished without them, and the church would crumble. The deacons or their wives too often think of themselves as the overseers of the pastor and that they are needed to help steer the church in the direction of their own choosing.
For these reasons, the Lord established His own chain of command for every local church.
Jesus Christ is the head of the church. He is the only voice of authority that truly counts which is why the Bible, His Word, is of paramount importance.
Since Christ is the Shepherd of the church, the pastor is to be viewed as the under-shepherd. He should not act in his own authority, but should rather seek and determine God’s will and direction for the church.
Staff members, whether paid or volunteers, are to be seen as extensions of the pastor. They are to strive to become like-minded with the pastor and to view themselves as being co-laborers with the pastor.
Deacons fill a divine office; and therefore, they must meet spiritual qualifications just as the pastor does. Their position requires them to be willing to do two things. They are first and foremost servants to the pastor in relation to the church. In Acts chapter six, the pastors were too busy to become involved in distributing food to the hungry. Therefore, God created the office of the deacon to assist the pastors. Their second purpose is to provide leadership for the church in the absence of a pastor. If a pastor dies, resigns, or becomes spiritually disqualified, the deacons are to assist the church in finding a new pastor they can then help by assisting him in the pastorate.
In order to drive his point home, Paul pointed out specifically Who really owned the church.
“Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:”1 Corinthians 1:2
Every local church belongs to God, and as His property, it is to function in accordance with His will.
This is a forgotten truth, for if the pastor and people truly believed and acted as if the church was not theirs but the Lord’s, would not every local church be more similar to one another instead of being as different as night and day? Some churches baptize; some do not. Some churches have traditional music while others have rock bands and contemporary christian music.
Why are there so many differences?
Churches have seemingly come to look upon themselves as the owners instead of the Lord.
The church needs to recognize … THEIR POTENTIAL.
“I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; 5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; 6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: 7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:”1 Corinthians 1:4-7
The mega-church movement of recent years has truly created a church mentality that emphasizes what it does or does not have to offer its people. They have deliberately created the self-contained concept of being everything to all people. They have coffee shops, aerobics classes, a wide variety of music, traditional services for the older crowd, contemporary services for the younger crowd, video games for the teens, drama presentations for the bored, etc.
How can a smaller church compete with that? They cannot. In their attempts to accommodate, these smaller churches are shifting their focus from what God has called them to do to starting coffee shops and drama clubs.
When the Lord started His first church, He did something for that church and everyone who would follow.
He enriched His church with everything they would need. He gave them His Bible and His indwelling Holy Spirit. With those two things, every church has the potential to take care of God’s business to its fullest extent.
What is the primary function of the church? Its primary function is to make disciples.
Mark 16:15‑16a – “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved…”
We are to go into the world, witness to the lost, baptize our converts, and then teach them to go, witness, and repeat the same process. When that process has gone full circle, and a new convert has become a soul winner, the church has just witnessed the making of a disciple.
The church needs to recognize … THEIR RESPONSIBILITY.
“Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”1 Corinthians 1:8
Everything given by the Lord comes with strings attached. In verse five, we are told that we have been enriched by God in everything. He has chosen to bless us immeasurably through His church.
Paul then shared with us what our obligation is for these blessings.
Because we have been blessed, God expects us to be blameless. Being blameless is just another name for personal holiness. God desires that His people live in such a way that the world cannot accurately or honestly point a finger at us and condemn us for what we are supposedly against.
Since the Bible teaches that we are to be honest, we should not give an occasion for anyone to accuse us of being dishonest.
Since the Bible teaches that we are to be separated from the world, we should not give an occasion where we are guilty of following worldly behavior or fads even though they may not be sinful.
Since the Bible teaches that we are to be faithful to church, then we should not be seen skipping church services. Why? The world is not stupid and can easily spot this sort of hypocritical behavior.
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