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.

VIDEO Top Cuban-American Priest: Catholics Have a Role to Play Against Communism

A Catholic faithful prays at Jovellanos' Church, Matanzas province, Cuba on August 9, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / YAMIL LAGE (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP via Getty Images)

FRANCES MARTEL 7 Dec 2020

Cuban-American clergy must stand united with the growing chorus of Catholic voices on the island condemning communist oppression, Father Fernando Hería, who heads the Cuban exile community’s most important Marian shrine, told Breitbart News this week in an exclusive interview.

Hería noted that, after decades of Catholic leaders in the country struggling not to “lose the little they have achieved” after the mass firing squad killings of Catholics that defined the early days of the Cuban Revolution, Catholic voices are rising to condemn the anti-Christian practices of the Castro regime, often risking their lives. Now, more than ever, he asserted, they need unity from those on the other side of the Straits of Florida.

Father Hería, who arrived in America himself as a refugee from the island, currently serves as the rector of Our Lady of Charity National Shrine in Miami, commonly known in Spanish as the Ermita de la Caridad. Our Lady of Charity is the patroness saint of Cuba and her shrine is widely seen as the most important religious and cultural site for Cuban-American Catholics in the country. Father Hería also serves as an adviser to the Global Liberty Alliance, which offers legal and advocacy aid to victims of human rights abuses around the world.

As the head of the Ermita, Father Hería has written multiple public letters in support of priests and human rights activists in Cuba seeking an end to communism. Given social distancing requirements in place to fight the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, the Ermita has begun to broadcast Catholic Mass online through the U.S.-funded Radio and TV Martí, which makes Father Hería’s Mass accessible to Cubans on the island.

He first published a statement in early November in response to remarks published online by Father Alberto Reyes Pías of central Camagüey province, who wrote on the platform, “I’ve always wanted to say this: communism is a great lie. It’s all a lie.”

Public challenges to communism on the island are illegal, typically punished as vaguely defined crimes like “disrespect.”

“Dictatorships, whether on the left or the right, have never respected the dignity of the being or his or her existential freedom – there is no such thing as a ‘benevolent’ dictatorship,” Father Hería wrote, urging the Catholic leadership on the island to support Reyes.

“For years in ever Ad Limina visit with the Pope, they are always asked, ‘why do so many Cuban priests leave their country and serve in the diaspora?’ To which Cuban bishops have always responded, unjustly, ‘because they are attracted to money,” Father Hería wrote. “Enough already with this farce! Cuban priests who stay abroad do so because they are tired of living under two types of dictatorships: the ecclesiastical and the governmental, and that is the truth!”

Father Hería has adopted basta ya, “enough already,” as a rallying cry, and Cuban dissidents on the island have begun to use it as a hashtag on social media.

The top of the hierarchy has not taken up the cause of Cuban freedom with much gusto in Rome. Pope Francis himself has demurred when asked about human rights abuses on the island, instead using the opportunity to condemn Europe for alleged religious rights abuses. The pope also claimed to have “no news regarding detentions” in Cuba during his 2015 visit, when reporters filmed Cuban police beating and arresting a dissident, Zaqueo Báez, in front of Pope Francis’s vehicle.

The father explained to Breitbart News that, despite his harsh criticism in his letters of Cuban bishops and clergy who do not support the people on the island, the Church has endeavored to help the repressed in ways that are not “obvious” and a growing number of Catholic leaders on the island are losing their fear.

“For example, in Cuba right now there are 70-something food pantries for aid to the elderly and children throughout the island. Caritas International in Cuba and the Order of Malta maintain these from abroad,” he noted, referred to two Catholic entities. “There are many, diverse ways that the Church helps the people.”

As for those who try to work to help the Cuban people on the island without being vocally antagonistic to the regime, “I understand,” he said. “I’m on the outside. I’m outside. Am I hurt? Yes. Why? Because not a single priest in the diaspora has called me to say ‘I’m with you.’”

“You can quote that,” he continued, “because they’re afraid to get committed [to the cause of freedom] because many go with religious visas to Cuba for whatever reasons. We can’t keep going like this. We have to be one because basta ya, basta ya with so much abuse against a people who are noble, who push forward.”

“We have put that into evidence here [in America],” Father Hería said of the Cuban people. “I came here at age 11 to this country. I brought three outfits, which is what they let us bring. … We are a persevering people, a people who always seek unity, peace.”

The resistance, he emphasized, was not promoting violence to overthrow the regime.

“We are not talking about violence. We’re talking about demanding rights and that the rest of the world support us because unfortunately, Cuba does business with the entire world. With every country in the world. And at whose expense? The people. They live in poverty, no medicine, no food. But they export abroad,” he explained. “It is a lot of pain, a lot of pain.”

Spiritually, Father Hería told Breitbart News, the Church has to role to play with the youngest members of the anti-communist resistance.

“These young people are hungry. These young people have no identification with the revolutionaries that fought the Batista dictatorship in the 1950s that got to power in 1959. There’s no identification there. … they were born from the mid-1970s to the 1980s,” Father Hería noted, adding that many subscribed to the uniquely Cuban syncretic faith of santería – “they are baptized in our Church but they practice their African roots, just like they did during the time of independence.” Santeros honor both Jesus Christ and the orishas, the gods of the Nigerian Lukumí faith.

The week of this interview began with an unprecedented protest of Cuban artists – an estimated 300 of them – surrounding the doors of the Cuban Ministry of Culture, which prohibits artists from creating any art without a special permit they must receive beforehand. Under “Decree 349,” anything from a rap song to a screenplay requires prior Communist Party consent before being created.

The protest followed the violent raid of a home where members of the San Isidro Movement, an anti-communist art collective, were engaging in a hunger strike to demand the release of one of their members. allegedly because the dissidents were risking spreading Chinese coronavirus, Rapper Denis Solís was convicted and sentenced to eight months in prison for “disrespect” after not allowing a police officer to illegally enter his home, then filming the encounter as proof of the officer’s crime.

Over 200 clergy and laymen Catholics in Cuba signed an open letter in late November demanding the communist regime act to protect dissident artists and find a peaceful resolution to the San Isidro hunger strikes that included reforms.

The San Isidro Movement, led by performance artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, was established in part as a response to Decree 349, though Otero had engaged in anti-communist activism for years before it passed in 2018. The group’s hunger strikes, though since concluded, have fortified a movement for true democracy on the island enjoying increased momentum and international attention.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

https://www.breitbart.com/latin-america/2020/12/07/exclusive-top-cuban-american-priest-catholics-have-a-role-to-play-against-communism/

Trump Admin Leads 32 Nations in U.N. Rebuke: No International ‘Right’ to Abortion

Dr Susan Berry

The Trump administration led a 32-nation signing ceremony of a declaration that affirms there is no international right to abortion.

On Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Health & Human Services Alex Azar co-hosted the virtual signing of the Geneva Consensus Declaration along with the governments of Brazil, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, and Uganda.

The declaration serves as a rebuke to the pro-abortion rights U.N. and World Health Organization (W.H.O.).

It states the nations join to promote women’s health as well as the “strength of the family and of a successful and flourishing society.” The governments also affirm “the essential priority of protecting the right to life.”

The nations that signed onto the declaration, which represent 1.6 billion people, also “reaffirm ‘all are equal before the law,’” and that “human rights of women are an inalienable, integral, and indivisible part of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

The governments declare “the inherent ‘dignity and worth of the human person,’ that ‘every human being has the inherent right to life,’ and the commitment ‘to enable women to go safely through pregnancy and childbirth and provide couples with the best chance of having a healthy infant.’”

The declaration emphasizes that “in no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning,” and that “the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”

The governments also assert that “women and girls must enjoy equal access to quality education, economic resources, and political participation,” as well as equal access to employment and decision-making.

“This is the first time these nations have committed to working together – despite cultural and religious differences – to ensure that human rights are extended to every member of the human family,” Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, observed in a statement.

Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser praised the commitment of the Trump administration to the right to life:

Abortion is not health care. Sovereign nations have the right to protect their most vulnerable citizens, including the unborn, and to be free from bullying and coercive efforts to expand abortion on demand. From day one, President Trump and his administration have worked to stop the exportation of abortion, making respect for life the official policy of the United States in our international relations. We join our friends around the world in celebrating this landmark declaration, which builds on the Trump administration’s commitment to promote authentic human rights and dignity at every turn.

Additionally, seven member nations of the Organization of American States (OAS) signed a joint statement that affirms “every human being has the right to life, liberty and the security of his person,” and that it is the sovereign right of nations to make their own laws protecting life from the moment of conception.

“President Trump is standing for the defense of life in the Americas like no other president in history,” Alfonso Aguilar, president of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, said, and added:

At a time when the Inter-American Commission and Court of Human Rights, which ironically are supposed to promote and defend human rights in the region, are actively seeking to undermine the fundamental human rights of the unborn, the United States, acting in unison with eight other OAS member states, is raising its voice to say in no uncertain terms that the Organization of American States and its affiliate bodies must respect the sovereignty of the counties of the Western Hemisphere to enact legislation that protects life from the moment of conception.

In August 2019, Pompeo and Azar sent a joint letter inviting other world leaders to stand with the United States in defending life against the efforts within the U.N. to create an international right to abortion on demand.

In their letter, Pompeo and Azar asked other governments to join with the U.S. “in ensuring that every sovereign state has the ability to determine the best way to protect the unborn and defend the family as the foundational unit of society vital to children thriving and leading healthy lives.”

“[P]lease encourage other countries in your region to join this growing coalition to push back against harmful efforts to interpret long-standing international instruments as requiring anti-family and pro-abortion policies,” Pompeo and Azar wrote to the other world leaders, “and to promote proactively positions that will protect families and strengthen the health of all people.”

https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2020/10/23/trump-admin-leads-32-nations-in-u-n-rebuke-no-international-right-to-abortion/