What’s the purpose of the church?

Exclusive: Joseph Farah unpacks the lessons for today from the 1st century

By Joseph Farah April 13, 2021

Have you ever considered the purpose of church?

I’ve been thinking about this subject, because we have a model. Our model is the first century church, which witnessed the biggest explosion not just in numbers of believers, but in power.

One thing we learn from that experience is that the church grows in numbers and effectiveness – not to mention to the glory of God – in times of persecution. Like these.

But let’s start at the beginning. What did Jesus teach His church to do?

I think it’s worth noting that His first instruction to His disciples, who numbered no more than a few hundred or thousand, was not to do anything except keep it together, be a comfort to each other and teach others.

They were ready to go restore the Kingdom to Israel. In Acts 1, He told them to forget that for a while. That would have to wait for Him to come back.

What was the first instruction from Jesus?

He commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father in the form of the Holy Spirit.

It wouldn’t take long. Jesus evidently knew that – because once the power fell upon them, this was their next and only assignment: “And ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

They would have to figure the rest out for themselves, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and all Jesus taught them.

It wasn’t the only time Jesus had given them this instruction. He also did so in Matthew 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”

It would seem to me we already learned two important lessons about the role of the church:

  • Make sure you are working under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
  • Then, as Frank Sinatra would say, start spreading the news – the Good News, that is.

There are all kinds of debates going on in the American church today about “church planting,” “church growth strategies” and “how we must seek a new approach today with Christianity in decline.”

But I wonder if we’re going about this in an entirely wrong way.

For starters, if the goal is to reach the uttermost parts of the earth – not to mention our own neighborhoods – are we really waiting on the Holy Spirit? And are we really focused on evangelism?

I’ve heard that American-style “evangelism” largely consists of attracting people away from other churches. Here the American church is like one big revolving door. Some churches grow, others do not. Some wither away, others grow stronger and bigger. Yet neither of those ends has much bearing on what Jesus commanded us to do.

So, what did the first century church do?

Exactly what Jesus said to do.

They waited, got empowered and they turned the world upside down. Was that just for then?

I wonder. What I do know is that their church didn’t look like ours.

They met together. They prayed together. They ate together. They worshiped together. They comforted each other. They discipled. They edified. They fellowshipped. They glorified God. And they recited or read the Scriptures.

In the American church, we’re watching the clock. People can’t wait to get out of there.

I recently read that one large mega-church built a multi-lane overpass to ensure that they could get everyone out of the 35,000-attendee parking lot within 30 minutes of the close of service.

In how many churches have you experienced evangelism training or expeditions?

Isn’t that the urgent mission of the church? Why don’t we do it? Do you know I was 21 years old before anyone ever evangelized me – in America? Am I that unusual? What are we waiting for? Who are we going to recruit to do it, if not us?

That’s why the light is going out in America – because the Christian culture, which was healthy and vibrant in America when it was founded, has been ceded over to the world.

Meanwhile, what about elsewhere? Where is the church exploding? Where it is persecuted. You know that. That’s where the Holy Spirit is. That’s where miracles are taking place today – in China, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America.

There have been some notable revivals in the U.S. over the years – but not one for some time.

Another thing we learn from the first century church is that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17).

Does that still work?

I know it does for me. That doesn’t mean it works for everyone. Unless you believe everyone is going to be saved, nothing is going to work for everyone.

But I find it deeply disturbing that some pastors believe we should stop emphasizing the Word. Some say we should drop the Old Testament pretty much altogether. They say we should tell stories and attribute them to people rather than the Word of God.

Do we no longer believe in the Word of God? Are we ashamed of it? Are we ashamed of doing exactly what Jesus told us to do?

I don’t have all the answers, but I do have one.

Do you think there is a more important book than the Bible anywhere on earth?

Do you think getting people to crack it open would generally bring them closer to the Lord – maybe even get them saved?

Do you think God has changed His mind about the way He spoke the world into existence and revealed His plan to His children?

Is there really anything new under the sun?

Or, is it time for the church to start following instructions? Has the salt lost its savor? Or are we ready to be the salt and the light in the world again?

By the way, that’s one of the things the church is supposed to be.

Matthew 5:13-16: “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

That’s right. The church is supposed to glorify our Father in heaven.

We’re supposed to be Jesus’ heavenly bride. We’re His children if we are doing His will – yes, even in this age of grace. We all fall short of the mark, but the mark goes beyond salvation, does it not? Does He not take pleasure in us when we are obedient to His call, holy and surrender all to Him?

I don’t consider myself an expert on the church. But I do know how I came to know and love Jesus – and love Him more every day.

I would like everyone to understand that – not wishing that anyone would perish.

And that’s why I took several years to research and write “The Gospel in Every Book of the Old Testament.” I wanted people to see what I see when I look at the Bible – the most miraculous book in the whole world, one that has stayed the test of time, one that is fully integrated, singular in purpose, abounding in wisdom, cohesive and without contradictions, one supernatural message of repentance, revival, redemption and restoration from Genesis to Revelation.

It’s all about the Word. It will always be about the Word – whether its written on our hearts, etched in our minds or seared in our souls.

Jesus told us all to be evangelists. And that’s what I am doing right now.

I want to share “The Gospel in Every Book of the Old Testament” with you because I think it might open up the Scriptures to you, with the anointing of the Holy Spirit, bringing you not only the keys of everlasting life, but a place of honor in His Kingdom.

Amen? Amen.

Note: “The Gospel in Every Book of the Old Testament” by Joseph Farah is available in both hardcover and e-book versions.

Hungarian Govt: Christians, Christian Culture Attacked Across Europe, World

christians

 

JACK MONTGOMERY

 

The Hungarian government has warned that Christians and Christianity are increasingly being driven out of public life in Europe, as well as being persecuted around the world more viciously than any other religious minority.

“Some years ago, at the Brussels City Hall, it was decided not to set a Christmas tree, and in Santa Monica, California, a ban on nativity screening was made on the grounds of world neutrality,” said Tristan Azbej, the Hungarian state secretary with particular responsibility for the Hungary Helps programme which extends aid to Christian minorities globally, in comments reported by the Hungarian press.

“Meanwhile, in Germany, Christian songbooks have been burned, and in France, churches have been attacked every year, and Christian symbols and religious objects have been damaged, such as the crucifixion,” he added.

“Christianity is the most persecuted religion, with about a quarter of a billion Christians worldwide being persecuted or discriminated against, and thousands of people were killed last year because of their Christian beliefs,” the minister continued.

“The Hungarian government, on the other hand, is committed to the protection of Christian culture and strengthens it in the world by, inter alia, combating migration. They hope that over time, Europe will realize the importance of this, ” he said.

The Hungary Helps programme is not, as Azbej indicates, primarily concerned with helping Christian minorities in the Middle East and elsewhere to migrate to the West — a process which has seen the Christian populations of countries like Syria and Iraq collapse at an astonishing rate — but to help them where they are, in order to preserve their ancient communities and way of life for posterity.

Hungary Helps has “supported so far Christian communities by more than 35 million USD, provided scholarships, [and] helped 70,000 refugees to return to their ancestral homes”, according to Katalin Bogyay, Hungary’s ambassador to the United Nations.

https://www.breitbart.com/europe/2019/12/24/hungarian-govt-christians-christian-culture-attacked-across-europe-world/

Hills and Valleys

Psalm 22:1- My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?

It seems to me that our Christian culture has made it a sin to despair, to question God, to be just downright sad. However, the Bible is filled with mighty men of God who struggled with God, who questioned God, sought their own way, or just had down days. I don’t feel like Christianity should promote despair, but I also don’t think that it should try to make it seem like everything is awesome, every day of the week. This is an unrealistic goal which can cause us to be frustrated when we cannot achieve it, or to ignore these thoughts and push them away without dealing with them directly.

Now before we continue, I am not talking in this post about clinical depression that needs treatment from a licensed clinical psychiatrist, which I am not. Depression is a real struggle for many and I will not claim to have all the answers to it.

Let’s look in the Bible where men of God questioned God and their circumstances:

• John the Baptist was in prison and questioned if Jesus was the Messiah even after proclaiming it at Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 11:2-3)

• Habakkuk 1:2- O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?

• Moses was frustrated with God and the Israelites many times. In Numbers 11:11 he said to the Lord, “Why are you treating me, your servant, so harshly? Have mercy on me! What did I do to deserve the burden of all these people?

• Many of David’s psalms were filled with sadness and discouragement including Psalm 22

• In Psalms 73, Asaph questioned God about the prosperity of the wicked

• After the defeat of the prophets of Baal, Elijah suffered from despair, even wishing to die. In 1 Kings 19:4 he said “I have had enough Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”

• Jonah rebelled against God, but after the successful saving of Nineveh, Jonah became bitter telling God “Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” Jonah 4:3

Now it’s easy as Christians to quote the Bible where it says “the joy of the Lord is our strength” and “rejoice in the Lord always”. I’m not saying that these are not good goals, but as fallible humans we need to understand that we will have good and bad days, we will have strong faith mixed with weak faith, we will question God and we will be without any doubt. There are high and low points in our “climb up the mountain” as Christians. Just read Pilgrim’s Progress…

Martin Luther, the great reformer, struggled with doubt. It’s one of the key drivers of him questioning the church at the time to lead the reformation. At one point his doubt led to such great a depression that he wrote, “For more than a week I was close to the gates of death and hell. I trembled in all my members. Christ was wholly lost. I was shaken by desperation and blasphemy of God.”

What is our end goal when we despair? If we question God or have sadness what do we do? We do not live in that state, we use it to propel us forward and out of it. We seek help, read the Bible, pray to God, and ultimately stand firm in our faith in who God is. It is important to not go through this alone, we need to find fellow believers we can be accountable with and who we can call up when we are struggling.

Feel free to read my previous post on “Wrestling with God.” God is a big God and He can handle our doubts, worries, anxieties, fears, and sadness. If we give them over to God, He can handle them where we, in our own strength, cannot. Once we rest in God’s sovereignty, we can realize that we do not have all the answers, and that is ok.

Back to Psalm 73, it is my favorite Psalm. The first half is the authors frustration’s with the wicked, but by the end it brings him to a place of confidence in God and His ultimate plan. How he may not understand everything fully, but his ultimate trust is in God.

23  Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
24  You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
25  Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26  My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
27  Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
28  But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.

May the same be said of us, that we can use our dark times to help illuminate God and His power, that we can rest in the fact that He has everything under control. Our doubts and fears are not sinful in and of themselves, we should not feel unworthy for having them. But after we push through, get everything out in the open, and fall back on God’s sovereignty, we can get back to pursuing God. We can then truly claim that “The Joy of the Lord is my Strength” (Nehemiah 8:10)

Discerning Reflection: What do I do when I am sad, when I question God? Do I pray and turn to Him or do I turn away from Him? Do I feel shame for having those thoughts? How can I quickly turn around from these thoughts and who do I need to be accountable with to help me?

Prayer: Lord help me seek after you in the good and the bad times, help me understand that I will have high and low points and to not despair but to trust that you have everything under control.

Hills and Valleys