Part 1.
The Church

Chapter 1.
God's Glorious Church

Someone said it well, "Only one life, 'twill soon be past, only what's done for Christ will last." Let me say it a bit differently: "Only one ministry, 'twill soon be past, only what's done through Christ's church will last." Before the world was formed, God planned the church to be his instrument of redemption in the world. The word church is the Greek word ecclesia, meaning "the called out ones." The idea is a town hall meeting where persons are called-out for discussion and leadership. Jesus referenced himself when he said in Matthew 16:18, "Upon this rock I will build my church." Jesus is saying the church is "My called out-ones; My town hall meeting," and it is the only thing he ever established on this earth.

The word church in the New Testament is used two different ways. The first is the universal or invisible church. When you become a Christian, the Holy Spirit baptizes you into oneness not only with Jesus but also with all other believers everywhere. It is a church that exists beyond buildings, denominational lines, and international borders. It is the body of Christ, the family of God on earth. Ninety percent of the time, however, the New Testament use of the word church means a visible, locally assembled body of baptized believers worshiping together, ministering to one another, honoring him, and winning the lost.

The church is less than perfect. There have always been the charlatans and the naysayers—those who like Simon the sorcerer would buy the power of the Holy Spirit and those who today use the church for their own selfish ends and financial purposes. Let them be accursed. But perhaps it is a just commentary on the failure of some of us within the church that so many extracurricular and "parachurch" organizations have developed in the world. Most call themselves extensions of the church or arms of the church, and I am grateful for each. But the fact is that far too often, parachurch organizations give only lip service to their commitment to the local church.

When Christ came, he died for the church. He established the church. He loved the church. Today, he continues to indwell the church, and one day he will come to receive his church. She is his bride, and he is her groom. The old spiritual says:

There's a woman in the church,

and she talks too much.

Tell me, what we gonna do?

Let the church roll on.

There's a singer in the church,

and he won't sing right.

Tell me, what we gonna do?

Let the church roll on.

There's a deacon in the church,

and he won't "deac" right.

Tell me, what we gonna do?

Let the church roll on.

God's church has endured and will do so until Jesus comes to take her to heaven. Let the church roll on.

Throughout your ministry you will be confronted with many opportunities of service. Some of them might indeed be God's perfect purpose for your life. You will seek his heart, hear his voice, and do his will. But consider this: That which is not truly birthed of the church, emanates therein, extends therefrom, and culminates therein is doomed to make little lasting impression for God and good in this world. Well over a century ago, the YMCA was born as a soul-winning organization to bring young boys to Jesus and train them in the Word of God. Is that the purpose of the YMCA today?

Devote yourself to the church. Christ loved the church and gave himself for her. She is flawed, imperfect, wrinkled, and blemished, but the end is not here yet. He is her unfailing strength, and you will do well to commit your life to her service.

—Letters to Timothy