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Essay

Last week, in the hope of stirring up some business for Gilbreath Productions, I prepared a document called "Video Technology in Church." It started as a promotional piece, but became something more, something I hope can help churches in their use of video, whether or not they choose to engage our production company.

Preparing the document helped me see "church" through fresh eyes.

"A church sanctuary is the most amazing place on earth," I wrote. "Here human beings gather to seek the one true God, hear His revelation, honor His magnificence, share His love with one another, and build — with Him and His people — ever deeper, richer relationships."

In writing about ways to enhance the effectiveness of Christian communication, it hit me anew just how important that communication is. "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation."

What an amazing privilege!

Messy!

I'm not naive about this. Since the Church is made of people, it's always going to be messy. It was discussed in an essay on this site called Laodicea. In it, I shared my deep concern for pastors in what has become a worldly system.

Yesterday over lunch, a friend told me about doing some audio engineering work for a church. Some men from the church were also working in the sanctuary that evening. A man he knew came in and they talked. He told the man what he had heard. "I can't believe those guys would use that kind of language in the sanctuary of a church."

The man asked, "Did they cuss beyond the ‘invitation bar'?"

My friend wasn't sure the man said "invitation bar," but knew it had something to do with "invitation." This was a Baptist church — I think Southern Baptist. In any case, it was (and is) strongly evangelical. Evangelical churches often give an "invitation" to come forward and receive Christ. I can understand someone feeling that the area where this happens is an especially holy place, but I was as stunned as my friend that "Christian" men felt they could use foul language in a church sanctuary as long as they kept it behind a certain, artificial line.

These men failed to recognize the real temple of God. The holy place isn't the area where the preacher prays for the seeker coming forward. The Holy Spirit dwells in us. This is not about "the Baptism in the Holy Spirit" or being "filled with the Spirit." Those are separate and controversial issues. But among evangelicals, there's no debating that when you are saved, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in you. That makes you His temple. If you aren't His temple, then you don't belong to Him. Romans 8:9 says, "Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his."

We often speak of the salvation experience as Jesus coming to live in our hearts. Jesus said, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh."

So if men decide they can speak any way they want except in one small part of a church sanctuary, they're missing the point of what it is to be Christian.

"Holy and Without Blemish"

Some hear stories like this and decide to dump a "church system" they see as corrupted by false rules and human tradition. Now they fellowship in home groups. You know what? It's smaller, but still messy. And it's still "church."

You may meet in a living room, a storefront, a modern, high tech communications hub, or a great, historic cathedral. In every case, it's glorious if it's the real Church and flawed because it's full of human beings.

Christians bring their flaws, but they also bring the righteousness of God.

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. — 2 Cor 5:21

Just the other day I heard some people talking about Ephesians 5:27 — "That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish."

They said Jesus will return for a Church without spot or wrinkle, so we need to get on the ball and make ourselves spotless. I agree that we need to live in the expectancy of His return, and we need to "lay aside . . . the sin which so easily besets us." — Hebrews 12:1

But that's not what Ephesians 5:27 is about. It speaks of Him presenting to Himself a glorious Church without spot or wrinkle. The Church is made of Christians. Since Christians are made righteous by the work of Jesus, the Church is made righteous — "without spot or wrinkle" — in the same way.

Our salvation is a miracle. The "glorious Church" is that same miracle multiplied by as many as are in Him.

In Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis takes the viewpoint of an experienced devil, Screwtape, teaching a young tempter, Wormwood, how to handle the human being to which he has been assigned. When the human becomes a Christian, Screwtape's first line of attack is through the Church.

One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans. All your patient sees is the half-finished, sham Gothic erection on the new building estate. When he goes inside, he sees the local grocer with rather an oily expression on his face. . . . When he gets to his pew and looks round him he sees just that selection of neighbours whom he has hitherto avoided. You want to lean pretty heavily on those neighbours. Make his mind flit to and fro between an expression like ‘the body of Christ' and the actual faces in the next pew.

If you want to be discouraged, look for flaws in your fellow Christians. If you want to be encouraged, look for Jesus there. If you want to be discouraged, look at the church as a building full of hypocrites. If you want to be encouraged, remember how the enemy sees us — "spread through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners."

We "do church" . . . "go to church" . . . "have church." But mostly, we arethe Church. And it is glorious beyond description.

The House of God
©2007-2017 Tom Gilbreath All Rights Reserved
Posted: 8-08-2008

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