What is a true church?
If it is not just a building, but a community of faith, a body of followers of Christ–what is necessary for a gathering of a few/many Christians until it can be considered a true “church”??? What are the defining marks of a church?John Calvin said in his Institutes of Christian Religion (Book IV, Chapter 1, 9) that a church in order to be a church must
- engage in the regular exposition of the Word of God,
- the proclamation of sound doctrine,
- and the application of that doctrine & the Word of God in church discipline and the sacrements.??
Apart from these, there is no church.Yes, indeed, where two or three of us are gathered in the name of Jesus, He is there??among us (Matthew 18:20).However, as I write this, my heart is heavy and saddened.?? This morning’s English worship service at my church, Toronto Jaffray Chinese Alliance Church, consisted of musical worship through song and prayer, but it lacked the preaching of the Word of God.?? Today, about 4 members of our congregation who went on the short-term mission trip to Longlac simply shared their experience with us, starting off with a 4-5 minute photo slideshow.?? The only Scripture used specifically during service this morning was the “call to worship” from Psalm 19, the first 4 verses I believe, which our lead worshipper shared at the beginning of the service/musical worship time.?? Other than that no other Scriptures were read nor directly spoken of–no Scripture reading, no testimony, nor exposition of God’s reviving and sanctifying Word from the Holy Bible was shared with us.And because of this, I am disheartened at what circumstances has lead up to this happening–that the Word of God was not preached.?? (We had our once-a-month Holy Communion in the 1st Sunday of July at a joint service with the Chinese congregation.)You could say that doctrine was proclaimed by the lead worshipper between songs; though the lack of even just one song specifically speaking of the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus Christ the??Son of God was also something I noticed and is giving me a heavy heart (I should double-check, but I??think this is the 2nd time in the past couple months that such has happened.?? I gotta look back on the worship sets I’ve lead at church to see if I have neglected the message of salvation in leading musical worship–God I hope I haven’t; I know I’ve tried to be attentive to select songs of redemption.)Maybe I am just taking “church” too seriously, but I thonestly hink I have this burden because of the Spirit’s enlightenment, coming from a heart of love and devotion to my church which God has??graciously blessed me since 1988.I know that in churches within the Christian & Missionary Alliance (denomination), missionaries after their mission trip come back to their home church (as well as other local Alliance churches) to share their experience.?? Usually this only takes the form of a testimonial sharing that encompases at most 1/4 of the service time, but today, it took the entire time of when a sermon is usually preached by our pastor.?? Unfortunately, there is no pastoral staff present–all are away overseas.?? While all 3 of our Pastors were at a big Chinese Christian conference in Macau this past week, our Senior Pastor is currently on sabbatical (til the end of August?), my English Pastor is on vacation and our Pastor of Christian Eduaction should be back this week from the conference (he however only takes care of preaching & a Sunday School class??for??the Chinese congregation).?? Thus we are left with 2 interns; one of them preached last week, and the other was on the 2-week mission trip which ended last Sunday–he did part of the sharing this morning.However, despite our denominational tradition of missions sharing, I am wondering about the purpose of it–and specifically this morning’s sharing: what is the reason for it taking up ~50% of the service time??? How is the congregation challenged and urged to glorify God through hearing the mission team’s sharing of events that took place on their trip???How are any of the new comers / seekers / unbelievers supposed to be saved without hearing the Word of God preached?, and how are they to find comfort for their broken lives and forgiveness of sin and salvation without hearing the message of the Gospel???
As Paul says in Romans 10,“How are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard??? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”Does Scripture not say that we are “born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter)?
For the majority of the congregation, how are we to be challenged to live godly lives of obedience to God’s law without sound doctrine preached to us regularly??? I know we all are exhorted and encouraged in hearing missions sharing, but such cannot & should not??replace the proclamation of God’s truth in His Word the Holy Bible, can it?!??? (insert the obvious answer of, of course not!)Something was missing from today Sunday worship service, and it was an essential piece of what a true church should be.?? Such lengthy missions sharing is not ideal for a Sabbath Worship Service, is it!?!?? I’m sure we can move this to an evening program & invite the congregation to attend…Teaching Sunday School right after the service on the sufficiency of Scripture did not help in calming my fears.?? I faciliated a lesson on the priority and importance of “preaching the Word”, as a people who are His chosen ones, a royal priesthood… After a week of intensive study of Psalm 19 and??2 Timothy 4:1-8 and just embracing the truth that God’s special revelation to us by His Holy Bible is supposed to be all we need in life in order to live & to know God, I am stunned at what church was this morning, in spite of the lack of Biblical expository preaching.When I consider the 9 marks of a healthy church, I am humbled at how much we still need God to work in our church in order to be vibrant and spiritually growing:
- Expository preaching
- Biblical theology
- Biblical understanding of the Good News
- Biblical understanding of conversion
- Biblical understanding of evangelism
- Biblical understanding of membership
- Biblical church discipline
- Promotion of Christian discipleship and growth
- Biblical understanding of leadership
Just to think upon the 1st mark is enough to??bow my??knee to see the forgiveness of the Soveriegn for what we neglected this morning.??
Holy Lord Almighty,??I hope You are pleased with our worship to You on this day that You have made, on this day of Sabbath rest.Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.
I plan on emailing my church’s English Ministry Elder in the morning… I must seek God’s heart on how I should share this concern with my church’s leadership.?? I feel so concerned mostly because I love the church–the church which Christ first loved and shed His own blood & gave Himself up for.