Monday, February 28, 2011

What Does the Church Look Like?

The answer to the above question may elicit many different responses. One person may say that the Church is a building where people gather every week to worship God according to their traditions. Someone else may reply that the Church is not a building at all but just the people gathering and worshipping God. The point is that every individual may have their own opinion as to the definition of a church. Which one is correct? I suppose one could say that each opinion is an aspect of what the Church looks like and should look like. But there is one opinion that has to be considered above all other opinions. And that opinion is not even an opinion at all but rather God's will for how He has designed the Church. To go against God's will at any time is to go against God!

So let us ask ourselves, what is God's vision for the Church? The answer to this question can be found in Scripture. The Acts of the Apostles provides a picture, a vision, for the Church. One will notice that buildings are not mentioned as being necessary for being the Church. Unless, of course, you include the prisons where the apostles found themselves in. And even there they sang songs of praise, miracles occurred and people came to believe Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior! St. Luke, the author of Acts describes in detail the early church. It is our manual for how our church should look today. Today we can make the mistake of looking to churches on television as examples of what the church should look like. Such popular churches are indeed successful. Successful in the eyes of the world that is! And that is a problem. God will never use worldly standards to judge the success of the Church. In fact, each individual is called to renounce all aspects of the world when becoming a Christian. St. John writes, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15) St. Paul also states, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Rom. 12:2)

Is it wrong, then, not to desire a large Church? No, as long as the true Gospel is preached whereby we hear the Word of Faith, repenting of our sins and our worldly self and becoming a new creation in Jesus . A godly Church is a place where Jesus is the Good Shepherd calling the lost back to Himself, regenerating our hearts. The problem with many large American churches is that people attend for the celebrity status of the preacher, the feel of the sports stadium or it is like a rock concert. In other words, they are attending for their feelings. They are not really leaving the world. The success of the Church will always be judged not by the world, but by God our Father who is looking not at numbers but at our hearts! A successful church is a church where hearts are changed and souls are saved!