Today we embark on the second half of our series. We have dealt primarily with theological teachings thus far, but in the coming messages we will talk more about practical application. In other words, how do we take the theology we’ve learned and incorporate it into daily living? What is the Christian life supposed to look like? During these next several messages we will discuss topics such as the church and its ordinances, Christian education and evangelism, what we believe about the end times, and the Christian worldview - among other things. We will begin this morning with an overview of the church, as detailed in the Baptist Faith and Message.
A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized
believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two
ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in
them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation
operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each
member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and
deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited
to men as qualified by Scripture. The New Testament speaks also of the church as the body of Christ
which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people,
We will deal with the church ordinances specifically next week, and so for the sake of today's sermon we will not discuss them in detail. Having reserved that for later, in the remaining text of this statement I see three broad areas - the church's make-up, mission, and management.
The word church is used in two different ways in Scripture. On some occasions it refers to all born-again
believers everywhere and of every age. This is the universal church - all Christians across the globe and from every generation. However, the overwhelming majority of the time the word church refers to a specific group of people at a confined geographic location.
There are 6 descriptors of the make-up of the New Testament church. First, it is local. It is found at a particular place consisting of a people living in that area. Second, it is autonomous. It is self-governing, and not bound by any other human authority or religious hierarchy. Third, it is a congregation. It is a group or gathering of people who constitute the church - not a building! Fourth and fifth, it consists of baptized believers. A person must have accepted Christ and been saved in order to be a true member of the church. In addition, as the first step of obedience in their Christian walk the new believer must be baptized - not for the attaining of salvation - but for church membership. And sixth, the church is associated by a covenant relationship. It is more than a loose organization where membership is meaningless - rather, the church consists of those solemnly pledged to Christ and to each other.
The mission of the church is multi-faceted, but generally it is to foster and promote worship, discipleship, fellowship, ministry/service, and evangelism/missions. A church worships God by expressing love to Him - through singing, giving, praying, preaching, and so on. They practice discipleship by teaching, learning, studying the Bible, and growing in the likeness of Christ through spiritual maturity. Through fellowship, the people of the church develop and deepen personal relationships to support and encourage one another. Though ministry/service, the church endeavors to serve others and to meet their physical needs. And through evangelism/missions, the church carries the gospel message to the ends of the earth.
The management of the church boils down to three steps. The head of the church - the sole authority over it - is none other than Jesus Christ. He directs the church and the pastor, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, seeks to discern this direction and communicate it to the congregation that has been entrusted to Him by God. Deacons assist the pastor and church by ministering to the numerous needs of the members. The congregation, also led by the Spirit, and by consensus, either affirms or renounces the pastor's understanding of Jesus' leadership of the church. Following this method and in one accord, the church moves forward operating as a theocracy which employs a democratic process.
Much of what we've touched on today - but not all - is specific to the Southern Baptist denomination and our interpretation of the Bible. This will also be the case next week when we discuss the church ordinances. Until then, I pray that God will use you mightily to bless those around you in His name.