Cowardice and the Hijacking of Church Language
Perpetual surrender characterizes the moral cowardice of much of the modern, western church. Concession.
Would we even surrender our language?
The opened a new worship center right up the road from our church.
In the other direction is a ministry. There’s an outreach right around the corner. A fellowship has been operating down the street a ways. There’s a house of prayer, a house of worship. There’s an assembly, a company, a group.
Does anyone plant churches anymore?
It’s not the Name.
With over 400,000 churches in America, it’s tough to be original and let’s face it, pastors, unless they plant the church, likely inherited a church that already had a name. You likely had no say in the naming of your own church and I’m quite sure there is a solid and biblical PointDoorHeartJourneyEmboldened Church out there somewhere.
A trendy and superficial name does not automatically imbue trendiness and superficiality.
I’m speaking to language and really, surrender…motives, actually.
The Church are the Called-Out Ones
Jesus, talking to Peter, declares,
“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:18)
Peter is not the rock. Jesus is the rock. Peter’s confession of Jesus as, “the Messiah, the son of the living God,” (v. 16) this is the rock. Jesus’ mission is the building of His church, the ekklēsia, literally, the called-out ones.
We ought to esteem the church.
We ought to hold the church in the highest regard.
God is about the business of calling a people to Himself, out of the darkness and into His marvelous light. The church is the bride of Christ, the unified body of believers. And the local church is the hands and feet of Christ in the local community.
The Bible calls every believer to submit to the local church, to be under headship. (Hebrews 13:17) The Bible calls us to unity, to not neglect the assembly of God’s people. (Hebrews 10:25) The Bible calls us to walk our Christian walk in terms of community and fellowship. (1 John 1:5-10)
The Bible calls us to be the church.
How could we have a low view of the church, that we shy away from the very word.
It speaks to intent, reveals a troubling motive.
The vexing trend is the desire to appeal to the unbeliever.
It’s the same desire that drives churches to install coffee shops, worship leaders to squeeze themselves into skinny jeans, and pastors to neglect solid, biblical preaching or even neglect the Gospel altogether.
God forbid we make the unbeliever feel unwelcome.
We don’t want to “push anyone away” from the church and so…we just won’t call it a church.
Here’s the rationale. The world has come to associate ‘church’ with judgmental ‘churchy’ people. These are people who judge everyone and tell us we are all a bunch of sinners and all they talk about is hell and they are all a bunch of hypocritical stuffed-shirts anyway. They do the same stuff we do, they just don’t admit it.
And a lot of people have been hurt by ‘church people’ so we just won’t use the word.
We’ll get you into church. You’ll be more likely to attend, you just won’t know you’re in church. You’ll think you’re in a fellowship, or a ministry, or an assembly. Our numbers go up. Everyone wins.
The natural end state is the even more ridiculous notion that the church (those who have been saved!) can be for lost people.
I’ve heard ‘pastors’ say…
…If you’re a church person, this isn’t the place for you.
…If you’re anxious for me to get into the Bible, this isn’t the place for you.
Yes, we must seek to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth, to all men of all nations. Yes, we must contextualize, we must become all things to all people so that some may be saved. Yes, we must urgently and passionately seek the lost and be God’s voice…in calling them into our fellowship, into the church!
But the church IS the body of believers.
This is the Church.
The surrender reveals a low view of that which God esteems, the church.
Yes, there are hypocrites in the church. I’m one of them. There are swindlers, adulterers, fornicators. There are cheats and thieves and liars. There are blasphemers and idolaters, slanderers and misogynists. It’s got you doesn’t it.
I acknowledge that the church has hurt people.
But don’t believe the hype. Don’t surrender the term.
I acknowledge all of the above while still affirming that my brothers and sisters in Christ are the kindest, friendliest, warmest, and most generous and genuine people I know.
This last Christmas, a struggling single mother contacted our church for some help. We put it before the people and they poured out love and support, for weeks. And she, apparently thinking it was conditional, promised to attend our church in our return. We made it clear that it was not conditional and that we wanted to give to her because of Christ, and Christ alone. She never attended and were she to show back up, I’m confident our people would love on her the same.
Several years ago, a young couple in our church gifted their pickup truck to our financially struggling pastor. When an elderly lady moved to be with her grandkids, a large portion of our church body showed to help her load the moving truck. It’s always the same.
A group of brothers came alongside another brother struggling with an addiction. No judgment, no condemnation. Only, we are here for you. Some of us have struggled similarly. We love you and at the same time, will never quit you, but also call you to repentance and to turn to that which you know is better.
This brother rejoices in his deliverance and restoration and the love of his brothers.
We cry together, laugh together, rejoice in the sheer presence of one another.
This is the church.
This is the fellowship into which God calls men, from the darkness.
I want unbelievers to feel welcome in our church…to a point.
Yet, if an unbeliever hears the message proclaimed, a message that speaks literal death to his soul, and is not at all uncomfortable, then something is wrong. The Gospel is the most offensive thing that there is, and if the unbeliever is not a bit uncomfortable, then perhaps he is not hearing the Gospel.
Attracting them by becoming like them and denying who we are is not a useful endeavor.
At the end of the day, the world hates Jesus and by association, hates the His people, the church. The world hates the church because the church represents the death of the world. As such, why on earth would the church concede anything to the world?
I am determined to reclaim that which the world has co-opted, so much of our language.
Let us reclaim the very word, so meaningful in its inspiration, that defines our very existence and let us pray that God would call out some more, that He would build His church!
** cover photo is members of the Way praying over a deploying soldier and his family.
Author - Founder
Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).
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