OceanSide church of Christ
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Victor M. Eskew
Church buildings are not the church. The building is a cold, lifeless structure without people. It is only wood, brick, mortar, carpet, shingles, and paint. The church is the people. The people provide the life, the animation, and the activity. It is possible, however, for a church to appear to be living, yet be dead. To the church in Sardis, Jesus said: “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead” (Rev. 3:1). There are several things that a church needs in order to be alive and vibrant. Let’s look at some of these in this article.
First, the church needs effective leadership. The divinely preferred leadership within the church involves an eldership overseeing the local congregation (I Pet. 5:1-23). The eldership is a plurality of men (Acts 14:23) who meet the qualifications to serve as bishops (I Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9). They rule (I Tim. 5:17) and oversee the affairs of the local church (Acts 20:28; I Pet. 5:1-3). Note that we stated that a living church needs an “effective” eldership. The word “effective” means “adequate to accomplish a purpose, producing the expected result; and actually in operation or in force” (dictionary.com). No organization ever rises above its leadership. They set the goals. They make the decisions. They set the limits. They put the systems in place. They influence others to follow. They motivate and encourage. They build the team. Living churches always have effective leaders.
Second, a church with life needs powerful preaching. Paul’s charge to Timothy was: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” Powerful preaching involves the proclamation and application of the Word of God. Stories, jokes, contemporary events, and the opinions of men do not provide life for a church. Jesus said: “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). A living church must have the Word of God proclaimed in its simplicity and in its power.
Third, for a church to truly be alive, there must be congregational involvement. Preachers and elders cannot do all the work of the church. Every member of the church must find his/her place and diligently labor to accomplish the work of the church. Throughout the New Testament members of the church are exhorted to abound in good works (I Cor. 15:58), be not weary in well doing (Gal. 6:9), be fruitful in every good work (Col. 1:10, labor (Heb. 4:11), and maintain good works (Tit. 3:8). Each Christian is a member of the living body of Christ. All work together to carry out the desires of the head, Jesus Christ. “From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in that measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Eph. 4:16).
Fourth, there must be generous giving for a church really be alive and well. Most transactions in our society work through a medium of exchange called money. Since the church is in the world, it must operate using money as the exchange for goods and services. Preachers and missionaries are to be supported (I Cor. 9:4-14; Gal. 6:6). The building needed for a place of assembly (Heb. 10:25) must be kept operational. Television and radio spots and newspaper articles must be paid for. Supplies for the various works of the church must be purchased. The list of needs is long. It takes money to provide these things. Thus, the church must give, and give liberally. Paul, therefore, exhorts us with these words: “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (II Cor. 9:6-7).
Fifth, in order for a church to be a living entity, it must engage in true worship. True worship according to Jesus involves both spirit and truth. “God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Spirit involves the attitudes of the worshipper. Truth involves how worship is to be regulated and carried out in accordance with the Word of God. Active churches meet upon the first day of the week (Acts 20:7) and engage in the five acts of worship (singing, praying, teaching, giving, and the Lord’s Supper). They do so with joy and thanksgiving. They realize that their worship is a sacrifice of praise to the majestic, powerful, living, loving God of heaven (Heb. 13:15; I Pet. 2:5, 9).
Sixth, living churches must abound in love one for another (I Thess. 3:12). Paul called the practice of charity “a more excellent way” (I Cor. 12:31). He also said that without love, we are nothing (I Cor. 13:1-3). Love provides an atmosphere wherein one can grow, make mistakes, find peace, and find acceptance. Forbearance, longsuffering, and forgiveness fill a loving church. In Colossians 3:12-14, Paul told this Gentile church to put on numerous things. He concluded his list with these words: “And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” Love is truly the tie that binds.
Every member of the church fits into one or more of the above categories. Let each of us determine that we will faithfully do our part. Let’s make this congregation a living body that thrives on accomplishing the Lord’s will on earth!