Some food for thought;
How to look for a home church fellowship, part 2
"But the truth of the matter is, people connect to us long before they connect to God. They connect to the people in the community before they connect to Christ. This has always been true and continues to be true."
In my previous column about searching for a church, I referenced a web link someone e-mailed to me. While I am in no way passing judgment on David Foster, I must reiterate I biblically disagree with the criteria he set forth. Apparently he received a lot of response about it, some good and some bad. It was enough to prompt him to post his counter-response. The previous quote sums up David Foster's reason for being so subjective and man centered in his outlook on searching for a good home church.
We would both agree that the church is an organic expression of Jesus. It's not contained inside four walls on Sunday mornings. It is not a system. It is what we call, what the bible calls, and what the world doesn't know to call the assembly of those who have put full trust in Jesus as the only way to God. We would both agree the church in the biblical sense cannot contain unbelievers, while by secular definition it can. I assume we would both agree that indwelling of the Spirit of God is what gives us membership in God's family, instead of by vote, creedal assent, or governmental policy. In the context of these ideas, both he and I would agree we are talking about the latter definition of a church, and his criteria refer to the type of institution instead of the spiritual building fit together by God, using man as the building materials. Due the misunderstanding of the latter definition, and the impact it has had on the world around us for the last almost 1800 years, confusion about what a "church" looks like and how it is formed can stir both healthy and unhealthy discussion and debate.
Here are my personal considerations. It's the institution of church which many seek to package nicely for those who don't know Jesus in order to draw them into the building to be ministered to. Often, discussions center on the methods and approaches to this type ministry. The real question should be are we already too far beyond the realm of the bible at that point? This is one of the underlying issues which doesn't get debated in any forum I've come across; should the assembly of the believers be the place where evangelism takes place? It is redundant to say there is always a connection, more appropriately a point of contact, with Christians before there is a connection with God. Who will believe unless they hear, and who will hear unless someone preaches? I don't have all of the answers, but all of the immediate passages referring to church function during the meeting of the brethren center around things which non-Christians can't take part in. Take communion for example, if you aren't Christ's, you can't partake of it! How about teachings and psalms and songs to edify the church? How can edification in the spirit hold authority if it isn't from the spirit? These things are spiritually administered, and spiritually discerned, and therefore meaningless to those without the spirit.
Conversely, evangelism is always something we are told to go out and do. The bible doesn't say anywhere to congregate and bring them in. We are to go out to fish. We are to go out to preach. The ends of the earth are not in our pews but in the outside world; we are to go into it, to reach out. Evangelism takes place through our preaching and our lives because we are ambassadors, and ambassadors are ineffective at best if they do so from there own home. In order to ambassage we must be sent out to do.
The criterion David Foster set forth fails originally because it is focused on mans wants rather than Gods will and glory. His explanation fails because is fails to recognize the real meaning of gathering together as saints. There has to be a better way to accomplish these tasks than the ways so common to us today. While he does make some valid points, the bible is still our guide book, and that is the standard we must abide in and by.
Just thinking out loud with my fingertips,
Grace and peace,