The quote above is from a man named Edmund Clowney. It appeared in my Twitter stream yesterday and immediately caught my eye for a couple of reasons. The first reason being I wholeheartedly agree with what Clowney says here. The second being I think I am probably in the minority in that belief here in the south and in my hometown of Rome.
The biggest problem facing the churches of the bible belt is a low view of God. Let me explain why I believe this to be true.
I have read some church growth material and spoken to numerous pastors both of established churches and new church plants. When it comes to the topics of how to disciple the saints and reach the lost, worshipping God for who he is shows up pretty far down the list.
Here are some of the things that tend to come up as ways to make the church more effective:
- Serving the community
- Exciting, relevant style of worship
- Practical teaching
- Creativity in the Sunday gathering and in programming
- Maintaining an up to date website
Now let me be clear that I don't think that anything on that list is sinful or wrong. Those are very good things for churches to keep in mind as they plan. And if the church was a secular institution then I think everyone of those things should be extremely important. Of course, the church is not a secular institution. It is the bride of Christ and He has already told us in His word what makes His church successful in accomplishing the mission He has given it.
The mission of the church is to proclaim the gospel to all the nations so that God may be worshiped and glorified throughout the earth.
We are not called primarily to relieve social injustices, or world hunger, or any other societal ill that exists. That doesn't mean we don't get involved in those issues, just that they are not our primary focus and that when we do involve ourselves in them we do so with an eye to using our involvement as a platform to proclaim the glories of God and His gospel.
God tells us how to accomplish this: by teaching and preaching the word of God.
Romans 1:16 and 1 Corinthians 1:18 tell us that the power to affect salvation lies in the message of the gospel.
2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that scripture is enough to equip God's people for every good work.
Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1-5 to always be teaching sound doctrine from the scriptures.
Why do we think that God's method for accomplishing His mission for His church is somehow outdated or not enough?
In their book The Trellis and the Vine, Colin Marshall and Tony Payne summarized the bible's teaching on church ministry this way:
However, despite the almost limitless number of contexts in which it might happen, what happens is the same: a Christian brings a truth from God's word to someone else, praying that God would make that word bear fruit through the inward working of His spirit.That is the call of the church and for every believer in the church. Proclaim the truth of the word of God to others and pray that the Holy Spirit would cause it to bear fruit. Nothing else will bear fruit for the kingdom. When we are faithful to do this, then our view of God and our people's view of God is lifted up. Only then can we worship Him as He deserves.
When we teach the truth of who God is from His word, people know God for who He is and turn the world upside down with His gospel.
When we teach the truth of who God is from His word, we learn to worship Him for who He is.
When we worship God for who He is in all His majesty, in spirit and truth, then, and only then, will the nations truly take notice.