Updated: Feb 18, 2020
What are you assuming about church? In part 1 (see above link) I addressed two assumptions, namely that it’s unimportant because the Christian life is essentially personal, and that it’s unimportant because the church is universal and not particular. In this series I’m concerned about those who profess faith in Christ–what we are assuming about church. I don’t expect unbelievers to join a local church (though they’re certainly welcome to check us out!). I’m concerned about believers who prefer to sleep in on Sunday morning and not take part in worship services.
Assuming about church: growth comes from other venues.
Are you assuming that real growth in the Christian life comes primarily from sources other than a local church? Various Christian activities have replaced the local church in importance. To be clear, I’m not arguing that it’s wrong to attend a Christian conference. Things like home school groups are usually beneficial. The question is: should we expect our spiritual growth to come primarily from such structures? Has God made promises about those things? In truth, the primary structure Scripture commends for Christian growth is the local church. It’s within the structure of the church that He provides the gifts and offices He promises to use to build us up (e.g. Ephesians 4:1-16).
Similarly, the Holy Spirit uses the word of God over the messenger (1 Corinthians 1:10-17). Frankly, we don’t really believe that. Instead we assume that God is only able to use the celebrity speaker. We assume that He can only use the most talented, or the most highly gifted person. We doubt that God uses ordinary people in the church to help us grow. We don’t think that He can build us up through the ordinary preaching of His word week by week. Hence, church doesn’t seem all that important.
Along the same lines, participation in the latest conference, or even the neighborhood bible study, isn’t a participation in Christ. Participation in the bread and the cup, however, is a participation in Christ (1 Corinthians 10:14-17). That being the case, from which source does Scripture lead us to expect growth? Have we flipped them in our expectations? Do we expect more out of the small group than we do from the Lord’s Supper. If the Scripture is true, there’s far more going on in church that we often recognize.
Assuming about church: what is spiritual growth?
What we’re assuming about the nature of spiritual growth is also significant. There’s a difference between an emotional high and spiritual growth. There’s nothing inherently wrong with an emotional high. Emotion is an important aspect of the Christian life. We are emotional creatures. But don’t confuse emotion with spiritual growth. In Scripture, spiritual growth normally happens slowly over time. Jesus says that as we abide in Him we will bear much fruit (John 15:1-4). Even the word “abide” implies something that continues over a period.
Growth should continue throughout our lives, but it will normally be slow. Jesus will perfect us only in glory. The Bible often uses agricultural imagery to speak about spiritual growth. It isn’t merely a matter of the original audience’s life situation. Agricultural imagery captures something fundamental about spiritual growth. It is slow and steady over time. Like a plant, we won’t see it growing day-by-day. But as time passes growth will become clear. What are you assuming about church when it comes to spiritual growth?
This is part two in the series. Do you resonate with this objection to being a part of the church? Why or why not? What are you assuming about church that keeps you from being more connected?