In part 2 of our series on the church, Michael helped us understand the identity and role of the local church, helping us to see that though the church isn't limited to local groups of believers, those local groups are integral to God's Kingdom.
What is Highland Baptist Church?
Highland Baptist Church is not primarily a business, a building, or a social club. It's more than just a gathering of believers. So what is it? And what is the local church in general? The church is a group of people connected by the shared experience of Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Its primary goal is to bring glory to God by proclaiming who He is and by worshiping Him. Specific churches are called to make these proclamations in specific places. Acts 2:42-47 describes the early church after Pentecost and gives us some principles to apply to our own churches. Following their example, we see that the church is called to Worship, Instruction, Fellowship, and Expression (which forms the convenient acronym, WIFE -- as in, "Bride of Christ.")
Worship is proclaiming the greatness and glory of something (in this case, of God.) Worship includes things like singing and reading scripture, but it also includes the visual, physical, symbolic components of a worship service, such as baptism and the Lord's Supper, which dramatize God's work every time they are enacted. As a body, we are called to worship in spirit and in truth. Our minds and our emotions should both be involved. As individual church members, we also take worship into public through our actions and words.
Instruction is characterized by devotion to scripture and teaching. Our instruction comes primarily from God's word, and we are all in need of instruction. Proverbs talks about three types of people who need instruction: the simple person (who is ignorant), the fool (who knows truth, but does not live it), and the mocker (who knows truth, but throws it back in the face of the teacher.) At some point in our lives we've probably been all three. The church must continue to teach those who need to know truth, regardless of their place on that spectrum, and as members of the church, we must ensure that we remain open to instruction.
In Acts 2, fellowship involves eating and doing things together. Today, fellowship is often no different. But fellowship involves more than casserole and banana pudding. Fellowship requires unity and love. Fellowship seeks peace, encouragement, confession, prayer, and hospitality. Its focus is on Christ, who first loved us and laid down his life for us, setting the example for how we ought to love one another.
We express the gospel by taking it to the world. Expression includes missions and evangelism, not just around the world, but, importantly, in the community in which God has placed us as a church and within our individual realms of influence.
Questions to consider:
- How can I proclaim God's greatness and glory both within the church building and beyond?
- In what ways is the collective church's worship a unique witness to the world?
- Am I the simple, the fool, or the mocker? Is my heart open to instruction?,
- Have I devoted myself to fellowship with other believers?
- What realms of influence has God given me in which to take his gospel to the world?