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As a physicist I recognize that all models are necessarily simple in order to be useful. The tradeoff of modeling is in the neglect of critical details. Nevertheless, I offer a simple “3-pillar” model for a New Testament church. This can be used in the design and practice of a new church or in the analysis of an existing church that you might be part of . . . or are considering being a part of.
The 3 pillars are:
Truth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Love . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Zeal
I’ll assert that it is extremely rare for an American church to score decently in any two of these areas, not to mention all three. Most churches go “oh for three”.
The Bible is the inerrant word of God and . . . I can hold the inerrant word of God in my hands. Typical evangelical statements of faith cite inerrancy in the original autographs, but don’t trust God to have preserved His words through the ages. Note: the “original autographs” don’t exist anymore. And they never did at any one time. By the time the Gospel of Matthew was written, there were no “original autographs” of the Old Testament books. So with the modern position, there never was an inerrant Bible.
What to do? Trust God’s inspiration and preservation. Consider the truths about preservation and the importance God places on His word in the following Scriptures: Deut 4:2, Ps 12:6-7, Ps 19, Ps 119 (including verses 89, 152, 160), Ps 138:2, Matt 4:4, 24:35, 2 Tim 3:16, Rev 22:18-19.
Short version: If you take truth seriously, take the following position . . . God’s inerrant, inspired words have been preserved through the ages, especially in the Hebrew Masoretic text for the Old Testament and the Greek Received Text of the New Testament. In English the King James Bible is a wonderfully accurate translation of the preserved original texts, such that we can say that it is the word of God for the English speaking people. Modern English versions (NASV, NIV, NLT, ESV, etc.), are based on corrupt, recently discovered texts and use interpretive translation techniques. The “scholars” behind these versions deny preservation and are continually in search of the “lost text” of the original autographs. (Continually in search . . . keeps them employed.)
Now this is a big subject, so . . . for more discussion of these points, see my article, “The 10 Most Deadly Heresies . . . “ (heresy #8) on this web site, including the references cited.
Once you know which Bible is trustworthy then you must take it seriously! Most churches pay lip service to their devotion and obedience to the Bible. To cite one example, however, I recall an evangelical church in Michigan that claimed Biblical authority, but got itself embroiled in a debate about the validity of homosexuality and gay marriage for the ministry. So their claims of Biblical fidelity were baloney.
Believe the Bible. Stand on it. Study it. Memorize it. Quote it. Meditate on it. Make it the study of your life! Take God seriously!
Biblical love / charity is really the essence of discipleship. This pillar gets much lip service, too. In order for a church to practice love among the brethren, Christians need to know each other well enough to allow mutual encouragement, exhortation, prayer, and friendship that rises to the level of brotherhood within a family. The clear teaching of the Lord in John 13:35 and the apostle Paul in 1 Cor 13 must be taken seriously. Yet most churches are designed around a pulpit ministry, a show, and facilities to support them. Find support for that in the New Testament!
I recall sitting in a service in a large conventional church some years ago. Before the “show” started I looked around and saw about 15 people I knew somewhat personally. Everyone was in their Sunday best, looking pleasant and contented. Smiles and handshaking abounded. But I knew something of the pain and problems that wracked the lives of these people. And that few others in the church (including the pastor) had any awareness of these particular difficulties in these particular lives. It struck me that the rest of the congregation could be no different. Yet the morning service, including the pulpit-thumping sermon, addressed nothing of what I knew to be real problems – that needed to be dealt with Scripturally and compassionately.
That church was designed to prevent intimate relationships among the people. Come to church Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night, plus special meetings when offered, and you’re a “good” Christian. Families who work hard all week and then attend the “show” are worn out. There’s no time for people to get to know each other, not to mention deal with issues personally and Scripturally.
I note that many evangelical churches do design “small group” experiences. That’s good, if done well and with substance. Some would get a passing grade in this area. Unfortunately, the ones that do seem to be totally derelict in the other two pillars.
Consider Heb 10:24-25. The whole purpose of “assembling together” is to provoke “one another” to love and good works and to exhort one another. One another . . . not just the super-preacher to a crowd of scores, hundreds, or thousands.
Examine your church. Is it designed so that people have the time and opportunity to talk of spiritual things (see Malachi 3:16), to discuss the Bible and ask questions, to encourage one another, to work together in the ministry, to share prayer requests, to lift up prayers in the hearing of those who need to know that you care? If not, why not?
Evangelism. Since this web site has much to say on this subject, I’ll be brief here.
The Great Commission is fundamental to the practice of New Testament Christianity. How can someone be a Christian in fellowship within a church and not be about the Lord’s work? If you or the people around you in church don’t care whether the lost around you are going to hell, then you need to repent.
I live in a city of about 200,000 people, a few hours away from a city with millions of people. In our city we have about 300 “churches” of all varieties. Yet I see evidence of perhaps 20 people that consistently reach out to lost strangers with at least a somewhat Scriptural presentation of the Gospel. (Those that are zealous with heretical presentations of the Gospel are doing harm – they don’t count!)
In the “city of millions” nearby, there are some obviously terrific places in the downtown area to conduct one-on-one street evangelism. Since I travel there often I can stipulate with some authority that there is only one person outside my own tiny church that hits those hot spots. There are likely (hopefully?) other folks throughout the city working different neighborhoods, but it’s remarkable that we have effectively no “friendly competition” for the premier corners in the city.
What’s going on!!??!! What are the churches doing? The Lord is coming back! The time is short! Souls are headed for hell! Christians – Preach the Gospel!!
If you can’t find a church “scoring well” in all three pillars, then start one that does! New Testament Christianity – in Biblical practice – is consumed with love (as the core of discipleship) and zeal (evangelism). These two pillars cannot stand without a foundation of truth – an inerrant Bible. And absence of any one pillar leaves a church in terrible weakness.
But if you start with a solid foundation and work hard in love and zeal, you’ll be prepared for the judgment seat of Christ. Are you ready for that? Is your church ready for that?
– Dr. Dave
1Thessalonians 5:16 -18 Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. KJV
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