Revive Our Hearts Podcast

A Body, a Building, a Family, and a Bride

Leslie Basham: Is it okay to love Jesus but not like the church? Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: The church has its flaws and its issues to be sure. Every church does, because it's made up of people like you and me. But it is still the Bride, the Body of Christ. We can't love the Head and reject the Body.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned, for Friday, July 6, 2018.

It's common to develop a consumer mindset when it comes to church. Do you find yourself shopping around, looking for the church that provides the best mix of products and services? Let's listen as Nancy provides important perspective on the church.

Throughout this year Nancy has been teaching through the True Woman Manifesto, and she's picking that back up in another series called "The True Woman Manifesto—Declarations, Part 2."

Nancy: Well, some of you thought it would never happen, but we come today to the final section of the True Woman Manifesto. We've been walking through the Manifesto in many series throughout this year. And in this last section, we come to eight important topics. I wish we could spend more than a day on each one. We could spend weeks on each of these. It's been a discipline for me to figure out how to take just twenty-some minutes to address each of these important topics.

But on our website, ReviveOurHearts.com, we've provided some links for additional resources, other programs, other series we've aired, books, things that will help you go deeper in each of these topics.

So we're just going to be skimming the surface on these topics. But we want to remind ourselves, these are aspects of being a true woman of God. As I’ve been preparing for this final section of the Manifesto, we come to some topics that I have said, "Wow, this is tough for me to teach because I'm not where I know I need to be on this particular topic." And that's true of several of these.

So I just want to encourage you, signing the True Woman Manifesto is not saying, "I have arrived." Because none of us have arrived really in these areas. What we're saying is, this is what we aspire to. This is what we want to be true of our lives. And by God's grace, this is what we will pursue, and this is what we will think to be.

So we come today to another one of the “we will” statements. These are things that we purpose to do in our lives. Let me read the statement, and then we'll talk about it. It says,

We will be faithfully engaged in our local church, submitting ourselves to our spiritual leaders, growing in the context of the community of faith, and using the gifts He has given us to serve others, to build up the Body of Christ, and to fulfill His redemptive purposes in the world.

Now this whole statement on the local church is really counter-cultural, as are many of the other statements in the True Woman Manifesto. The church, whether you realize it or not, has fallen on hard times in the Evangelical world. It's become fashionable today to critique the church.

There's been a spate of books in recent years, books like So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore. Another one called Quitting Church. Another one called Life After Church. We've become a generation of church consumers, church hoppers, church bashers, and sadly in many cases, church leavers.

This reminds me of a story I heard about a man who was stranded on an island in the Pacific for many years. Finally, one day a boat came sailing into view and the man frantically waved, and he got the skipper's attention. So the boat landed on the beach and the skipper got out to greet the stranded man.

After a while, the rescuing sailor asked the castaway, “What are those three huts you've built over there?” 

The stranded man replied, “Well that first hut, that's my house.”

And the sailor said, “What's the next hut?”

The stranded man said, “That's my church.”

So the sailor said, “What about the third hut?”

And the castaway responded, “Oh, that's where I used to go to church.”1

Well, that's kind of the picture of the way people function today. Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck have written a terrific book I read recently called Why We Love the Church. In that book they give several reasons why Christians say that they are fed up with the church.

  • Some people say they think church is boring.
  • Others are tired of the outdated Christian sub-culture.
  • Many people say they hate the mega-church and some of the things that go with that.
  • Then there are those that feel like the church is abusive or say they've been hurt by the church.

I received an email yesterday from a friend who said, “Our church fired our senior pastor last week. They read a letter from the elders, which simply said they had a 'difference of vision.' Very sad and odd. The church is shocked an angry at how this was done.”

I could tell you many, many similar stories. Don't know who is right, who is wrong. But there are different sides, people feeling like they got hurt by the church. Another reason that these authors gave as to why people don't like the church anymore, they say the church seems inauthentic. People are just going through the motions.

You hear a lot of people today talk about loving Jesus, but not liking the church. And many who don't feel that it's a big deal to miss church. They feel as long as they spend time with Jesus, then they're really getting more out of that then being at church. There are those who say they want God, maybe they even want to be in community with other believers, but they have had it with organized church. And there are some today who are even challenging what really is a church.

You'll hear people say, it's really just any two or more believers who get together to talk about God. They can do it at Starbucks; they can do it out in their boat; they can do it on a golf course. But it's two or more believers who get together to talk about God, or worship Jesus, that's a church, some will say.

Well, if we want to know what a church really is and how God views the church, we need to look at God's Word. God tells us what the church is and how we are to view it. In the book of Ephesians, we find four metaphors for understanding the church. Now, I’m not going to read all of these passages, but the references that I'm talking about will be on the transcript on our website, ReviveOurHearts.com. You can go and study these out more carefully as you read through the book of Ephesians.

We read, first of all in Ephesians chapter 1, verses 22-23, and again in chapter 4, verses 15-16, that the church is a body. It's a body. And like every other body, this body has a head. Capital H. Who is our head? Christ is the Head.

We as believers are members of His Body. We are united with Christ. We are inseparably connected to Christ, who is our Head. By being connected to our Head, we are also connected inseparably to other members of that Body, to other believers. You can't be close to Christ and keep your distance from the rest of His Body. In fact, we learn in Scripture that:

  • The way you treat the Body is the way you treat Christ Himself.
  • The way you view other members of the Body ultimately speaks to how you view Christ Himself.

So the church is a body.

Then we read in Ephesians chapter 2, verses 19–22, that the church is also a building. It's a building. It's a temple. It's not just any building but a special kind of building. You read also about this in the book of 1 Peter 2:1–8. The church is the dwelling place for God's glory. It's where God lives. In this building, in this temple, Christ again figures prominently. He is the foundation. He is the cornerstone. And what's our part in that temple? What's our part in that building? Well, we are stones–living stones that make up that temple. It's being fashioned as a dwelling place for God.

So the church is a body. It's a building. It's a temple. And then we read in chapter 2 verse 19 of Ephesians that the church is a family. We have been adopted into God's family. So what relationship does that give us to each other? It makes us brothers and sisters in this family. We're connected to each other. We're linked to each other inseparably as part of the family of God.

And then a fourth metaphor, you read about this in Ephesians chapter 5, verses 22–33, we are a bride. The Church is a Bride. The Bride of Christ. Married to Christ. That means we have a covenant relationship with Christ and with each other.

So we have these metaphors: a body, a building, a family, and a bride. Each of those is a picture of how we are organically related to Christ. Each is also a reminder that therefore to be in a relationship with Christ is also to be in relationship with others who are related to Christ. We are members of His Body. We are living stones in the temple that He is building, of which He is the chief stone, the cornerstone. He is the foundation. And we are brothers and sisters in the family of God.

Bodies, buildings, families, marriages. Beautiful pictures. But could I also point out that all of those things also have issues. They have problems. Sometimes they are majorly dysfunctional. But you don't abandon them just because they have problems. And in fact, all through the Scripture we see that Christ loves His church, flawed and messed up as she is at times, so much so that He gave His life for her.

I love that hymn stanza that says,

The church's one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord;
She is His new creation by water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her to be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her, and for her life He died.

"The Church's One Foundation" by Samuel J. Stone

You think Jesus doesn't know how messed up His church is? And yet He loves her. He engages with her, and He gives Himself to her. He stays engaged even when we blow it. He doesn't abandon His bride. He doesn't His Body, His temple, His family.

Now the local church, of which we have many represented in this room today, is the local visible expression of the Body, the temple, the building, the family, the Bride. The local church is both an organism and an organization. Some want one without the other. Both are important.

Our local churches consist of baptized followers of Christ who are banded together around their oneness in Christ for mutual growth and mission. It's not just a group of people who have all of the sames likes and dislikes, who are homogenous, or all the same demographic.

You see churches today who are built around all the same demographic: "We're going to reach twenty-somethings, or we're going to reach this generation or that generation." No, that's not what God intended. God intended that the church should be a picture reflection of the entire Body.

  • We need multiple generations.
  • We need people from different backgrounds.
  • We need people from different callings and seasons of life.

People who reflect what the Body of Christ reflects. That's our differences. But we come together because we have a common Lord, a common Savior, a common calling to make Christ known and to further His kingdom in this world.

I've had the privilege of being in the church since about nine months before I was born, and ever since. My parents had us in church. They were there with us. They were faithful. Church was not an option in our family. I don't remember ever discussing or arguing about it. It wasn't a discussion; it was the way it was. But I am so grateful for that.

I've been thinking over these last days as I've been preparing for this series about the way that the church has been a blessing in my life. I was baptized at the First Baptist Church of Newtown Square, Pennsylvania by Pastor Earl Connors, who is now with the Lord. I was five years old. I had to stand on an egg crate because I wasn't tall enough to be in the water. But I was baptized there in that church. I attended Sunday school, VBS, Pioneer Girls, singing hymns—all stanzas, hearing pastoral prayers that were so long I thought eternity had come, listening to preaching, participating in the Lord's Supper.

I'm talking, many of you can remember this, back in the days when there was no air conditioning. We would fan ourselves with fans that came from funeral homes. You'd be trying to get a little air. There was no children's church, no Power Point presentations, no video clips. The preaching, as I look back, was not always dynamic, by modern standards, but we grew up under that ministry of the Word, knowing that we were part of something bigger than ourselves and that it mattered.

We grew up worshiping, being taught, being challenged, being convicted, being encouraged, and learning to serve to give to the Body of Christ.

Over the past forty years I was reflecting on, if I include my teen years, I have been five in different places and have belonged to five different churches—ranging in size from 400ish to more than 4,000. Each of those churches have had different strengths and different weaknesses. There are some things about each of those churches that I have really loved and appreciated. There are some things that I would have preferred to be different in each of those churches.

I have loved the music in some of those churches, and I have tolerated the music in some other of the churches. There have been different styles of preaching—some more my preference than others. There have been seasons where I have been deeply ministered to through my church experience, and there have been other seasons where it has been mostly giving out. I have experienced some major heartaches and disappointments as it relates to church at some seasons. But when I take the long view, I realize how much there is in each of those churches and in my church experience for which to be grateful. 

The last few Sundays I’ve just looked around my church as I was preparing for this series, and I’ve just been thinking about what I appreciate there. There are a number of young adults in our church. I’m in a smallish church now. But there are a number of young adults who have grown up in the church, and I’ve known them since they were very little. Many of them are now starting their own families. They're serving the Lord; they're singing in the choir; they're leading worship; they're involved in Bible quizzing; they're helping to lead the teens. One of those young men is now a deacon in our church. That's a beautiful thing to see these families growing up and these kids growing up to serve the Lord.

I looked around a few weeks ago during our worship time and there was a young teenage man whose mother died suddenly a few years ago, with his eyes closed, both hands lifted up to Lord, on the front row oblivious to anyone else apparently, singing that chorus,

You are God alone, from before time began
You were on Your throne, You are God alone
And right now, in the good times and bad,
You are on Your throne, You are God alone.2

Such a precious sight to see that teenage boy worshiping the Lord. He's been through some bad times. He knows about that, but he's saying, "You are God alone; You're on Your throne."

I had the privilege last Sunday of praying with a ninety-year-old woman that I sat next to, Jean Murphy. She has prayed for me for years. She loves the Lord. She has mentored women. She's been an encourager to me. We have a 106-year-old man in our church. These people have been examples of faithfulness and of God's faithfulness. I’m thankful for them.

I'm thankful for the faithful teaching of the Word. A few weeks ago our youth pastor preached a message. He said, “Life is not about you, and many of you think that it is.” He said, “I know because I read your Facebook accounts.” And he said, “You need to reorient your life to His Word.” It was just so direct, so pointed. I’m thankful for that youth pastor.

I’m thankful for one of the musicians on our praise team. I look up there and this is a man who several years ago had a dramatic conversion. His life has been hugely transformed. We've been praying for the salvation of his wife. He's up there, smile as big as the world, praising the Lord. And when I see him I'm just thankful for what God has done, and I'm burdened to see his wife come to faith. That is part of our church.

I turned around several months ago and introduced myself to a woman who was sitting behind me. I met her after the service. I didn't know she was a missionary, the wife of a missionary couple home on furlough. She just started telling me some of her story, what God had been taking her through, some very deep waters.

And as she talked, she did not know anything about what I was going through. But her story so paralleled some waters I was walking through. But she was a little ahead of me in her journey. God had recently met with her and poured grace into her life. I got tears in my eyes, and I said to her, "You do not know how much I needed to hear your story. What you shared today, you had no way of knowing that I've been in a very low, deep, hard time in my life recently. God used you to minister grace to me. I needed that." That's part of the church.

I look around and we have younger and older people; we have professional people and blue collar people and tradesmen, we have different denominational backgrounds, but we have the same purpose, mission, and Lord.

The church has its flaws and its issues to be sure. Every church does because it's made up of people like you and me, but it is still the Bride, the Body of Christ. We can't love the head and reject the Body. In his book The Living Church, John Stott says,

I trust that none of my readers is that grotesque anomaly, an unchurched Christian. The New Testament knows nothing of such a person. For the church lies at the very centre [sic] of the eternal purposes of God.

That's a good word in an era when we tend to be so individualistic, so independent spirited, so consumer minded. "What does this do for me? Do I like this?" That's how we evaluate things. That's the wrong way to think about church.

You need the local church. You need it:

  • for support
  • for encouragement
  • for accountability
  • for discipline

It is dangerous to be at a place in your life where you are not plugged in to the life of a local church. And we talk about being engaged. I don’t mean just going and parking you body in a pew for one hour on Sunday morning and then high-tailing it out of there and not having any other connection to the Body. You need to be plugged in. You need to be connected.

Your local church needs you. They need:

  • your gifts
  • your prayers
  • your encouragement
  • your support

We need not only to be engaged but to be submitting to our spiritual leaders. What does that look like? It means when we hear the Word, we put ourselves under the authority of the preached Word. We don’t come home and roast the preacher or critique the message.

We say, "God, I am listening." I may or may not love the style of this preaching. It may or may not have been something that I found incredibly meaningful. But if you will ask God to speak to you through the preaching of His Word, He will do it. And we say, "Yes Lord, I agree with what you have had to say to my heart today."

  • It means being supportive wherever possible of leadership decisions, unless they are contrary to the Word of God. Not putting ourselves in the position of second guessing or critiquing.
  • It means encouraging others to be supportive. Or if they disagree, to go the people involved in leadership and ask questions there.
  • It means being unified, being loyal and supportive.
  • It means sometimes seeking counsel from those in positions of spiritual leadership.

One of the gals on our staff was sharing with me recently that she's in the process of making an important decision in her life. And she so wisely (she's a single woman), she went to each of the elders in her church and shared with them what she was dealing with and asked for their counsel. And she's listening. She's taking counsel.

Our goal as we engage in our churches is to grow personally, but then together to represent Christ and to further His kingdom in our world. It is not an option if you want to be a growing child of God, a true woman of God who is accomplishing His purposes for your life. Being a part of a local church Body is not an option.

I think back to that hymn written by Timothy Dwight around 1800. He was involved in the First Great Awakening. And he said these words,

I love Thy Church, O Lord,
The house of Thine abode,
The Church our blest Redeemer
Saved with His own precious blood.

For her my tears shall fall,
For her my prayers ascend;
To her my cares and toils be given
Till toils and cares shall end.

"I love Thy Church, O Lord" by Timothy Dwight

Choir: (singing)

I love Thy kingdom, Lord,
The house of Thine abode,
The Church our blessed Redeemer
Saved with His own precious blood.

I love Thy church, O God,
Her walls before Thee stand
Dear as the apple of Thine eye,
And written on Thy hand.

Sure as Thy truth shall last
To Zion shall be given
The brightest glories earth can yield
And brighter bliss of Heaven.

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth told us about a hymn, "I Love Thy Kingdom Lord." That version was arranged by Stephen Anderson. Nancy will be right back to pray. Her message on the importance of the church is from a series called, "The True Woman Manifesto—Declations, Part 2." It's the final series among several this year walking through this important document.

I hope you'll read the entire Manifesto for yourself at ReviveOurHearts.com. You can add your name to it there as well. The document addresses what it means to be a true woman of God and how to reflect the beauty of Christ and His gospel to our world.

We'd like to send you a book Nancy wrote that will help you do that. It's called Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together. It’s a verse-by-verse study of Titus 2:1–5. And we’re excited that this book just recently was recognized in the Christian Book Awards from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association,. It won book of the year in the Bible study category. Congratulations, Nancy!

We'll send you a copy of this award-winning book, Adorned, when you send a gift of any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Ask for it when you call 1–800–569–5959, or you can request it when you give online at ReviveOurHearts.com.

We hear a lot about climate. It's always in the news. This gets Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth thinking.

Nancy: I don’t think we hear nearly enough about how lives are impacted by the climate inside our homes.

Leslie: Hear more about creating the right kind of climate, Monday. Now let's pray with Nancy.

Nancy: O Lord, how I thank You for Christ, who is the Head of our Body, and is the Chief Cornerstone, the Foundation, our Heavenly Husband. How I thank You for His church, for Your church, O Lord. It is Your church. It is Your Body. We are the Bride of Christ. We are the temple that You are building to house Your glory. I pray, O Lord, that you would show us how to faithfully engage in our local churches, to submit ourselves to our spiritual leaders, to grow in the context of the community of faith, to use the gifts that You have given us to serve others, to build up the Body of Christ, and to fulfill Your redemptive purposes in our world. I pray it in Jesus' holy name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to grow and thrive in your local church. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

1 Mikey's Funnies (8-20-02).

2 ©2004 Billy Foote Music (Admin. by Integrity Music, Inc.).

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