A large part of the New Testament is letters written by Paul to the various churches he helped establish. Paul wrote 13 letters in all. In these letters we learn more about Paul’s faith journey, mission, encouragement for some groups, and many challenges to the churches. Some of the most common of these challenges were to grow in faith, grow in love, root out old sins that were creeping back in, and to cling to the teachings that he had given. No small task! As I see it, Paul was not going to take a standard lower than Christ’s.
I have been pondering Paul and his letters for a week or so now and am about to do something I was told never to do in seminary: ask a question that I am not prepared to answer. My question is this, if Paul wrote a letter to the churches in America in November 2017…what do you think he would say? My hunch is that most of Paul’s most scathing rebukes against the early church would be nothing compared to what would be coming our way…and that should worry us.
However, that may be too big a question. After all, we can’t even get denominations within America to agree with themselves, so we can’t be expected to answer for all of them. All we can speak for is ourselves. So how about we shrink our scope down and imagine Beck’s Baptist Church has just received a letter from the Apostle Paul and we are going to read it from the pulpit this Sunday. How do you think it is going to go? What are we doing right? What could we be doing better or more of? What are we doing wrong? What are we doing wrong, that we know is wrong, but we haven’t done anything about, because we haven’t felt like opening that particular can of worms?
Let me clarify, I write this with no targets in mind. However, the tendency for most churches is to compare themselves with other churches. “Well at least we aren’t like _______________, have you heard what they did?” And as long as we are doing better than someone else we become content to muddle through. But we are not called to compare ourselves with other churches and muddle through. We are asked to compare ourselves with Scripture. To build a kingdom built with the Bible as its foundation and following its stated mission. The goal should be that when Jesus returns He will walk in and says, “Yes! This is exactly what I intended the church to be!” If we can’t see Jesus expressing this, then our bar is too low. A few people have expressed to me that they feel our church is at a crossroads. For me it feels more like a 58 way intersection. There are a variety of directions that we can go from here. But it is only the narrow road that leads to Christ. The mission entrusted to the Church is too important to get wrong. So as we go forward, will you join me in prayer and action. We seek to build a place Paul would point to as an example and Jesus would be proud to call His own and nothing less.