I was raised in a Southern Baptist Church and have been on staff of only Southern Baptist Churches and, here is what I know: if I want to bring a tear and lead the average person to stand with reverence and awe, it is not the cross of Jesus I need to mention, it is not a great song saturated with Gospel that we need to sing...we only need someone to sing “God Bless the USA.” If I want a chorus of “amen” to ring across the church, it is not gossip, or the importance of men leading in their home I must preach on…but on the sin that is seldom committed by “religious” people but is common in Hollywood and on TV. In fact in many of our churches (not ours thank the Lord for His grace on us), we have forced not only the people, but the pulpits into silence. Just a few weeks ago I had a friend call me and he was sharing that his church had an issue of open adultery - the husband and ex-wife were still in the church and the husband had actually “asked out” some of the ladies in the church. After I spoke with this dear brother for a little while, I found out this clear line of open sin was in the fellowship because the church had refused to deal biblically with another adultery situation that had happened some years ago. I give this story in a general way to underscore the fact that if we do not handle sin inside the body in a biblical fashion, we totally lose our voice when speaking against it in a lost world.
It is tough to speak clearly with integrity when it comes to defining marriage when we allow adultery and divorces to take place within the church because we “don’t want to get involved.” The entire picture of the Church being a body or a family is a call to be interwoven in one another’s lives. I am to have such a concern for my brothers and sisters in Christ that I am willing to be “put out” or “uncomfortable” if it means that I am aiding them in their walk with Christ. I find it amazing and confusing when churches that seem to get so many things right, that are faithful when it comes to articulating truth, decide to become pragmatists when it comes to living out church. If church has become nothing more than a place that I go to sing a few songs and hear a sermon, then it makes perfect sense that the Barna Group states that of the adults that have a biblical worldview only 25% of them agree with the idea of the centrality of a local church is crucial to a persons spiritual growth. Church is no longer a place that I walk with other believers, that I am involved in discipleship and missions and getting my proverbial “hands dirty” by dealing with sinners saved by grace yet struggling in areas just like me. If we are not truly developing a family within the body, and all church has become is a large room that we conduct our personal “quiet times,” then church is not important. However, I am not called to live on some spiritual island of isolation: I am called to walk with people, to show grace to them by loving through tough times, rejoicing in good times and confronting during rebellious times. This is not easy, but church is not meant to be “easy” if it is done correctly. All of those wonderful verses in Matthew about being peacemakers and bearing with one another are also lived out in the community of the church. It hurts, it allows us to see some turn to Christ, some rejoice in truth and others walk away because truth is too tough. But the bottom line is, when a church is healthy it will not be a place where people can be happy in “neutral”, or becoming stagnant. It serves as a greenhouse where the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and people of God are used to mature the believer and enable him (and the entire body) to shine in such a way that when we speak truth mixed with grace, the world may not like it, but they can’t roll their eyes because they know we speak with integrity. May God give us the grace to live out what real church is!