Is it a Church?

So, what makes it a church?

Maybe you were raised in church. Maybe church was something you dreaded and avoided. Maybe church just was never something you considered. Maybe you grew up with that "extra Saturday" that I was often jealous for - in my sinful nature.

But, if you are a "church-goer" have you ever stopped and wondered to yourself what even is church? Well, I could give you the granola answer: Ekklesia in Greek means assembly. Which admittedly, even most churches in America seem to think online service is "Church." It is not. It is a resource to help you lead your family in to devotion with the Lord, learn a sermon, and grow in understanding of the Word. But online church is not a real thing, it is not sustainable.

This is not to say that online church is bad. Rather, I am saying it is not even church. I listen to sermons each week. I grow and feed myself throughout the week. But that is not church. If that is church, why don't we have an American Idol of sorts, find the best, most polished, most profound and intelligent preacher and have every Christian watch him preach each Sunday? Then we really would be unified under one man - surely, the best preacher preaching to us through our phones, TVs, laptops and tablets is the answer, right? No.

When we first started Living Faith, the leadership decided to challenge tradition and look toward the Word. We fought off so many preconceived notions of what church had to be, or at least we were told it needed to be. We wanted to do church "right." 

Actual "Requirements"

Some may say, "Do not pester me with your religiosity Pastor Jesse." Religion is a good thing. Legalism (what people usually mean) is not. So, hear me out. This is not legalistic. This is religious. After all, we are in a religion and a relationship - we need both.

You could argue based on Acts - we need to meet on Sunday in houses! Well, they did that because of the persecution. But do you also want to go to the Jewish synagogues and worship with those practicing Judaism? May as well remove a foreskin while you are there, no? Sorry, I digress. Church isn't about how you meet, where you meet, when you meet: but it is obviously to meet - to gather together. 

So, when I became Pastor I once again asked myself this question: "What is a church?" You may be shocked, I've once again refined some of my opinions. Ironically, I knew two things had to be established. 1. Preach the Word (Logos - Gospel) and 2. Establish Elders who teach, lead and *shudder* exercise that authority in church discipline.

To my great pleasure, I came across a pretty well-known theologian who dared to say if you did not have three things, you were not a church. The two mentioned above and the third being (an obvious thing I did not think about) sacraments. 

John Calvin & Church 

Calvin argued that a church was found lacking if it was missing any of the three things mentioned above. So, briefly, I would like to journey through these together. I agree wholeheartedly with Calvin and wanted to write to the congregation so we could understand the plan (we're striving to get there) moving forward.

1. Preach the Gospel/Word/Logos
A church that does not preach the Word is not a church. It is a social gathering of "mostly good" people mutually becoming a gnostic family. We must remain grounded in the Gospel message, the Word (Christ) and the Logos (written, God-breathed Scripture). Without this in the church, I would quit. So, as Pastor - I promise to preach the Gospel, Word and Logos (slightly synonymous).

"If the gospel be not preached, Jesus Christ is, as it were, buried." - John Calvin

2. Uphold the Sacraments 
Calvin only truly adhered to two sacraments. Most puritans and reformers would agree with him on the two: Baptism and Eucharist. You (and I) could argue for a Godly marriage ceremony, or even perhaps an Elder's "ordination." But, those are not going to make or break whether or not a church is a church. But if a church chooses to not baptize or partake in the Lord's Supper (eucharist), they are not a church.

"Wherever we find the Word of God surely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to the institution of Christ, there, it is not to be doubted, is a church of God." - John Calvin

3. Church Discipline from a Plurality of Elders 
If you study Calvin and his work (especially his pastoring) you will quickly realize, he will never shy away from church discipline. So, if you are reading this, understand - elders are to be patient, gentle and kind in nature, but we must learn how to come in and discipline. Slowly, but surely, I promise you now, as your Pastor, I will begin implementing church discipline. Do not run from this word, but embrace it and study it. It is absolutely Biblical to correct someone in sin, especially a saint of God. We must create accountability if we wish to grow toward maturity. 

"But because some persons, in their hatred of discipline, recoil from its very name, let them understand this: if no society, indeed, no house which has even a small family, can be kept in proper condition without discipline, it is much more necessary in the church, whose condition should be as ordered as possible." - John Calvin

Closing Ramblings

In closing, I would like to thank you for reading. I am so very excited for the direction God is driving us. This church, when submitted to God, can become something great. Perhaps not in man's eye, but in God's. And nothing matters more to me than pleasing God in this ministry.

You are each a blessing, and I thank God for you daily.

In love,
Pastor Jesse

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