|A Voice Cries Out Amid Religious Confusion
Part Four: WHAT AND WHY THE CHURCH?
It is the function of the CHURCH—as the spiritual MOTHER of Christians in it—to develop holy, righteous and perfect Godly CHARACTER in those God has called—those God has added to the Church.
Remember, none CAN COME to Christ, except called and drawn by God the Father (John 6:44). Newly converted members are not brought to spiritual conversion by "salesmanship" of human evangelists—are not "talked into" being "converted"—are not emotionally high pressured by high-powered evangelistic oratory or fervor—or by emotion-packed "altar calls" in evangelistic crusades to the moanful strains of a choir singing, "Just as I am, I come, I come."
You cannot find that sort of MODERN "Old-Fashioned Gospel" crusading either taught or used to set us an example in the New Testament! Yet people today suppose falsely that is the way Christ intended—the way Jesus initiated.
Jesus DID NOT come on a "soul-saving crusade!" NEVER did He beg or plead with anyone to "give one's heart to Him." At Jacob's well in Samaria Jesus spoke to a woman about the Holy Spirit in terms of "living water."
The woman said to Jesus, "Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not." Here was a direct request from an unconverted woman for salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit. BUT JESUS ONLY TOLD HER OF HER SINS—OF WHAT SHE HAD TO REPENT OF! He did NOT say, "Come to me, just as you are, in your sins."
None CAN COME to Jesus except God the Father draws him! All have sinned. Sin is against GOD the Father. Sin must first be repented of—turned from! It is much more than remorse for guilt. It is a matter of being sufficiently SORRY to TURN FROM the sin, overcome the sin. This reconciles one to God on faith in Christ. It is GOD the Father who adds to the Church such as He calls to be saved (Acts 2:47). It is GOD who sets members in the Church (I Corinthians 12:18)—not the emotional oratory of the evangelist in the emotional altar call!
God sets individual members in His Church that His holy, righteous perfect CHARACTER may be developed in them. And WHY? To prepare them to become GOD BEINGS in the KINGDOM (Family) OF GOD, to GOVERN and RULE the whole earth with the Government of God!
But HOW does the CHURCH as the spiritual MOTHER of its members DEVELOP THAT SPIRITUAL CHARACTER?
This brings us to the real PURPOSE of the Church. This brings us to an UNDERSTANDING of WHY one cannot be BORN AGAIN outside the CHURCH.
The Real Purpose of the Church NOW MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL—what is the REAL PURPOSE for the Church. WHY did God have Christ raise it up?
The CHURCH is the spiritual MOTHER of human converts. They are the spiritual embryos and fetuses as yet UNBORN, although begotten by God's Holy Spirit—already children of GOD.
The CHURCH is God's spiritual ORGANISM, well organized, for feeding on spiritual food, training and developing in spiritual righteous CHARACTER the future GOD BEINGS—sons of God the Father!
For that training—that spiritual development of God's CHARACTER, God has given His Church a DUAL responsibility:
1) "Go ye into all the world" and proclaim the GOOD NEWS—announcement—of the coming Kingdom of God.
2) "Feed my sheep."
But in FEEDING the "sheep," developing in them God's spiritual CHARACTER, God has given them THEIR PART in supporting, backing up, the great commission, "Go ye into all the world."
This first and great commission was given to the apostles. To a lesser extent evangelists were used in carrying forth the message. Other leaders—ordained ministers—were stationary, yet even the local pastor of a church may hold evangelistic services in his area—not the "soul-saving crusade" type, but lectures ANNOUNCING and PROCLAIMING as a witness the coming KINGDOM OF GOD (the true Gospel)!
This ENTIRE GREAT COMMISSION—proclaiming the GOOD NEWS of the coming Kingdom, and "feeding the sheep," is a COMBINED administration and function of the Church.
The individual lay member HAS HIS VITAL PART in proclaiming the GOOD NEWS (Gospel) to the world. How? Not by going out and himself proclaiming Christ's message to the neighborhood or to the world. That is done primarily by the apostles, to some extent by evangelists, and to even a lesser extent in local areas by local pastors. (The chief responsibility of local pastors is supervision of and preaching to the local church.)
But the ENTIRE CHURCH OPERATION is one WHOLE, organized into various operations and administrations (I Corinthians 12:5-6).
For example, what part does the individual local member have in taking the Gospel message to ALL THE WORLD? This is done primarily and directly by the APOSTLE. In this latter half of the 20th century it is done also by radio, television and in PRINT!
In the first century it was done by personal proclamation. Then WHAT PART did the individual lay member have in it?
MUCH! Without this larger body of lay members the apostle could do nothing!
Notice a scriptural example: Peter and John had been proclaiming the message at the Temple in Jerusalem. A miracle had been performed by Peter and a large crowd had gathered. As a result Peter and John were thrown in prison overnight, and severely threatened. Their lives were in danger. They were unnerved.
They went immediately upon release to the lay brethren (Acts 4:23). They needed the backing, support, encouragement of the brethren. They fervently PRAYED! Peter and John sorely NEEDED this loyalty, backing and the prayers of the lay members. THEY WERE ALL A TEAM TOGETHER!
Take a recent modern example.
The office of the attorney general of America's largest state—California—had made a sudden, unexpected massive armed assault on the headquarters of the Worldwide Church of God at Pasadena, California. They claimed, in violation of the U.S. Constitution, that all church property and assets belonged to the State, and a court had secretly appointed a receiver to TAKE OVER, RUN AND OPERATE the Church of the living GOD!
But when the receiver was about to enter, with his staff and deputy sheriffs, the Hall of Administration and other headquarters buildings, some 5,000 lay members, with children and babies, crowded these buildings in extended and continuous prayer services. The doors were locked. The armed officials did not quite dare to break down the doors and disturb these massive and orderly prayer services. After two days they gave up. The receiver, an ex-judge of a non-Christian faith, resigned. The civil lawsuit went on "the back burner." And the OPERATION OF THE CHURCH CONTINUED!
The author, Christ's apostle, can say emphatically that the apostles, evangelists, pastors and elders could not carry on the Work of God without the loyal backing and continual encouragement of the lay members.
Neither can the individual lay member develop and build within him God's holy, righteous and perfect CHARACTER without the operations of the apostle, evangelists, pastors and elders. All these various members GOD HAS SET in His Church are interdependent—mutually dependent on one another. They form a TEAM—an ORGANIZED SPIRITUAL ORGANISM—utterly different from any secular and worldly organization!
HOW, more specifically, does this mutual dependency operate?
In general, the whole operation of the Church costs money in this late 20th-century world. Facilities and methods are available to the Church for performance of its commission that did not exist in the first-century world. Without the tithes and generous freewill offerings of lay members the Church commission could not be performed in today's world.
Without the fervent and prevailing continual prayers of all members the Work could not be accomplished. Without the continual ENCOURAGEMENT of lay members and those over them locally those of us operating from headquarters could not bear up under the persecutions, oppositions, trials and frustrations.
Also in reverse, the lay members need just as urgently the encouragement, teaching, counseling and leadership from headquarters and local pastors.
An example of the former: I receive frequently large cards—often beautifully illustrated or decorated—signed by the hundreds of local members of churches, giving encouragement and assurances of loyalty, backing and support. Lay members scattered over the world simply cannot conceive fully how much encouragement and inspiration this gives the one Christ has chosen to lead this tremendous worldwide activity, God's CHURCH! The assurance of the earnest PRAYERS crying out to God continually from these thousands from all parts of the earth inspire the confidence of FAITH to persevere in the direction and oversight in this great Work!
Specifically, HOW is God's Church organized today—HOW does it operate in this modern late 20th century?
Christ's Gospel message—the Kingdom of God—goes out in dynamic POWER by radio worldwide, by television nationwide, and by the mass-circulation magazine, The Plain Truth. This unique magazine of more than two million copies monthly, in five languages, is full color, effectively and interestingly carrying Christ's Gospel. Then, sent free on request are millions of copies of attractive booklets and even full books. And now, to reach a class unreachable by other means, quality hard-cover books are appearing in bookstores. Recently a campaign of dynamic full-page messages are appearing as advertisements in leading newspapers, The New York Times,The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and other daily newspapers. Large space has been used in the London Times.
Then to encourage local church members and the ministry, a 14-to-20-page mimeographed Pastor General's Report is mailed from headquarters weekly to all ministers. Twice monthly a tabloid newspaper The Worldwide News goes out to all members. Monthly a handsome full-color magazine The Good News is sent to all lay members, ministers and near-member co-workers. And finally, Christ's apostle sends out monthly a mimeographed Co-Worker Letter to all members and co-workers reporting on progress in the Work, current activities and needs.
And we must not overlook a very important department, the Bible Correspondence Course, sent free on enrollment to lay members, and the public, giving monthly lessons in-depth of basic subjects covered by the Bible.
All this is a well-organized operation carrying out the PURPOSE of the Church, 1) proclaiming the coming Kingdom of God to the world, and 2) feeding the flock.
The author's personal travels to all parts of the world carrying Christ's message personally before kings, emperors, presidents, prime ministers and leaders under them in numerous nations perhaps ought to be mentioned.
Thus GOD'S GREAT PURPOSE FOR HIS CHURCH IS BEING VIGOROUSLY CARRIED OUT THROUGH THE PRESENT "PHILADELPHIA ERA" OF THE CHURCH.
There is but ONE true Church. None other carries out the purposes and functions of the CHURCH of the living God.
The "loner"—the "individual Christian," who wants to climb up into the Kingdom some other way than by CHRIST and HIS WAY through His CHURCH—is not being trained in CHRIST'S MANNER OF TRAINING, to rule and reign with Christ in His Kingdom!
"Individual Christians"—Ex-Members Now what about the "private," or "individual Christian," who says, "I don't want to be a part of the Church—I want to seek my salvation direct and alone with Christ."
The answer is this: God Himself laid out the plan and the method by which humans may be, after begettal, trained and prepared to become part of the Divine Personnel of born GOD BEINGS that shall form the KINGDOM OF GOD!
The Kingdom of God will be the GOD FAMILY—a superbly and highly trained and organized Family of GOD BEINGS, well ORGANIZED on GOD'S pattern of mutual teamwork and cooperation to function perfectly together. They shall become the GOD FAMILY. Remember God IS that Divine FAMILY!
One who says: "I will live alone by myself in this world of Satan's—I will be NO PART of the FAMILY" is, therefore NOT trained and developed in spiritual character according to GOD'S pattern. Such can never FIT IN as a PART of the FAMILY then, if not trained and developed with the Family, the CHURCH, now.
Take an analogy from Satan's world. A football player at Ohio State says: "I want to play in all of the games, but I'll train alone. I don't want to be part of the TEAM until the games start." Would the coach let him be part of the team in the games, without having learned TEAMWORK during practice season? Neither will God let one INTO His Family at the resurrection who refused to be part of it now—in the CHURCH—in the spiritual "training season."
To those chosen to be apostles in the start of the CHURCH, Jesus said, speaking of the CHURCH:
"I am the vine, ye are the branches." Those not joined with others of the branches, all joined to the main vine, were NO PART OF THE CHURCH, and God the Father will cast them away as DEAD branches. The LIFE (spirit life impregnated now) is received along with all other "branches" from the main vine—Christ, the Head of the CHURCH!
What about one who has been IN Christ's "spiritual BODY"—the Church—and is PUT OUT for cause (causing division or rebellion or opposition to Church Government)? The CHURCH is like a human mother who is pregnant. If there is an abortion, the HUMAN LIFE departs totally from the fetus. There is, however, perhaps one difference in this analogy. A human who goes out, or is put out of God's Church, could, on repentance and renewed belief, be admitted back into the Body again.
What about the millions of members of other churches or religions?
Satan is the great counterfeiter. Satan has his churches, his religions, and his ministers in those religions and churches (II Corinthians 11:13-15). What about the millions of people in traditional established "Christian" churches? In the book of Revelation, the TRUE Church is pictured in the 12th chapter as the persecuted "little flock," many martyred—put to death for their faith—having to FLEE for safety from persecution, torture and death. In chapter 17 is pictured the big, politically and worldly powerful churches, headed by "mother" "Babylon the Great the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth" (verse 5). In other words, the ancient "Babylonian Mystery" religion, out of whom have gone daughter churches in protest. This politically great church was the persecutor of "the saints" (verse 6). This false church, politically great, sits astride a "beast" pictured in chapter 13 as a government ruling by power of "the dragon" who (Revelation 12:9) is Satan the devil.
This is shocking, but plainly revealed in God's Word!
What about those, in such churches, who profess being "born-again Christians"? They are DECEIVED! They may be ever so sincere. They do not know they are deceived and wrong in their beliefs. But they are not now being judged! They are neither "lost" nor "saved." They are among the WHOLE WORLD, swayed by the deceptions of Satan, CUT OFF from God!
It must be repeated—they shall have their eyes opened to God's TRUTH if still living after Christ comes and Satan is removed—or, if dead before then, resurrected and called to truth and salvation in the Great White Throne Judgment resurrection (Revelation 20:11-12).
Again, the reader is urged to read the free booklet Just What Do You Mean—Born Again?
Yes, the whole world is DECEIVED. But praise GOD! Satan soon shall be removed from earth, eyes shall be opened to ASTONISHING TRUTH, and ultimately EVERYBODY who ever lived shall have been called to salvation and eternal life! But when called, each must make his own decision.
Meanwhile God's GLORIOUS PURPOSE must be worked out here below according to God's wonderful MASTER PLAN—a step at a time!