"A CLOSER WALK WITH GOD" The Church And You INTRODUCTION 1. As we grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, as we continue in our service and walk with God, we do not do so alone 2. A wonderful blessing we have in Christ is being members of His body, the church 3. When we properly understand: a. What the church is, both in its universal and local sense b. What our responsibilities are toward the church -- Then we can better utilize this blessing to help us remain faithful in our lives as disciples of Christ I. WHAT IS THE CHURCH? A. THE WORD "CHURCH" REFERS TO PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN SAVED... 1. As we are saved, the Lord in heaven Himself "adds" us to His church - Ac 2:47 2. As His "church" (a word meaning "assembly" or "congregation"), we are members of God's "household" or "family" - 1 Ti 3:15 B. THE WORD "CHURCH" IS USED PRIMARILY IN TWO SENSES... 1. The UNIVERSAL sense: all the saved throughout the world a. It is used in this way in passages like Mt 16:18 ; Ep 5:23 ; Co 1:18 b. In the "universal" sense: 1) There is only ONE church - Ep 4:4 ; compare with Ep 1:22-23 2) Christ is the head; individual Christians are members of His body - 1 Co 12:27 3) There is NO EARTHLY ORGANIZATION; what organization there may be is spiritual in nature - Ep 2:19-20 4) The universal church never meets as such; it has no "officers" except Jesus Christ and the original apostles and prophets 2. The LOCAL sense: the saved in one particular locality a. It is used in this way in passages like 1 Co 1:2 ; Re 1:11 ; Ro 16:16 b. In the "local" sense: 1) There are MANY churches - cf. Ga 1:2 2) There is to be EARTHLY ORGANIZATION within each local church a) Ideally, each church has elders (also known as bishops, pastors) and deacons - Ph 1:1 (described more fully later in this lesson) b) But churches may exist temporarily until such men can be appointed - cf. Ac 14:21-23 3) Local churches meet regularly; and Christians have responsibilities in connection with their brethren in the local church II. RESPONSIBILITIES IN THE LOCAL CHURCH A. WE SHOULD "JOIN OURSELVES" TO A LOCAL CHURCH... 1. Only Christ "adds" one to the church UNIVERSAL; but one can and should "join" themselves to a LOCAL church - Ac 9:26-28 2. This enables you to benefit by the association of other Christians, and provides you an opportunity to be of service to them - cf. He 3:12-14 ; 10:24-25 3. There are some responsibilities Christ has given you that you cannot fulfill on your own; for example, the Lord's Supper - Ac 20:7 4. So you need to find and join a local faithful congregation of the Lord (a careful study of the New Testament can help you to identify such today; perhaps a subject for future study?) B. WE SHOULD COOPERATE WITH THE "LEADERS"... 1. In a fully developed local church, there will be "ELDERS" to oversee the people of God a. The terms "elder, pastor, bishop, shepherd, overseer" are often used interchangeably, referring to the same position - Ac 20:17 ,28; Ti 1:5-7 ; 1 Pe 5:1-2 b. Their qualifications are found in 1 Ti 3:1-7 ; Ti 1:5-9 c. Our responsibilities to them are as follows: 1) To recognize and respect them - 1 Th 5:12-13 ; 1 Ti 5:17-20 2) To obey and be submissive when they lead scripturally - He 13:17 ; 1 Pe 5:2-3 d. Think of them as your "spiritual advisors", as "shepherds"; they are mature, experienced Christian men who are charged by God to "watch out for your souls"! 2. In a fully developed local church, there will also be "DEACONS" to serve the people of God a. These are "servants" who assist the elders in the work of the church b. Their qualifications are found in 1 Ti 3:8-13 c. The work they do is a very noble one - 1 Ti 3:13 3. There may also be those who serve as EVANGELISTS and TEACHERS - Ep 4:11 a. The "evangelists" concentrate their attention on teaching the gospel to the lost b. "Teachers" concentrate attention upon edifying the members c. Those commonly referred to as "preachers" or "ministers" may do both the work of evangelist and teacher d. But whether they serve as evangelist, teacher, preacher, or minister, within the local church they likewise submit to the leadership of the elders C. WE SHOULD CONTRIBUTE REGULARLY TO THE WORK OF THE CHURCH... 1. The work of the church can be divided into three areas: a. Evangelism - Mt 28:19-20 ; 1 Ti 3:15 ; 1 Pe 2:9-10 b. Edification - Ep 4:11-16 c. Benevolence - 1 Ti 5:16 2. How the local church can raise funds to do its work is illustrated in 1 Co 16:1-2 3. Principles governing such collections were discussed in the lesson, "Our Public Assemblies" 4. The financial support provided the local church enables it to do much of the work God designed it to do D. WE SHOULD DO OUR PART IN THE WORK OF THE CHURCH... 1. We cannot "pay" to have our part of the church's work done for us 2. A strong, successful congregation is one where every member is doing their part - Ep 4:15-16 3. There are different kinds of functions we might perform - cf. Ro 12:3-8 4. What is essential is that we each do what we can with the same zeal and enthusiasm - cf. 1 Pe 4:10-11 E. WE SHOULD HELP KEEP THE CHURCH UNITED... 1. Unity among believers is very important to Jesus - Jn 17:20-21 ; cf. Ep 2:14-16 2. Division is condemned in the Scriptures - 1 Co 1:10-13 ; 3:3-4 3. To maintain the unity we have in Christ requires certain attitudes and diligent effort - Ep 4:1-3 4. Here are some things we can do: a. Be peacemakers when brethren have disagreements - Mt 5:9 b. Avoid gossip - 1 Ti 5:13 ,19 c. Avoid discussion of speculative questions - 1 Ti 6:3-5 ; 2 Ti 2:23 d. Avoid partiality - 1 Ti 5:21 F. WE SHOULD LIVE IN A WAY THAT SPEAKS WELL OF THE CHURCH... 1. Be an example to others - 1 Ti 4:12 ; Ti 2:7-8 a. Some people delight in finding Christians who are not living right and use them as an example to attack the church b. We are to avoid giving them opportunities to do so - Ti 2:8 ; 1 Ti 5:14 ; 1 Pe 2:12 2. Christians are not perfect, but we should strive to be an example of what Christians ought to be! CONCLUSION 1. More could be said on this subject, but this should suffice to make the point that with the blessings of fellowship within the body of Christ come various responsibilities 2. God did not intend for us to be "islands unto ourselves", but joined together in Christ where we can encourage one another in an atmosphere of righteousness, joy, and peace - Ro 14:17-19 SOME QUESTIONS TO STIMULATE YOUR THINKING... 1. Have you let a local church know that you wish to be identified as an accepted, working member of their group? 2. Do you know the elders, deacons and other members of the church where you attend? 3. Do you have a sense of what function you provide in the body of Christ, and are you fulfilling it? 4. If every member of the church were as faithful and active as you in your service to the Lord, what kind of of church would it be?