Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Cheering on the Church

Leslie Basham: Mark Vroegop wants you to guard your heart against judging Christ’s bride, the church.

Mark Vroegop: I think that many people treat the church like they’re a sibling making fun of a kid that’s taking his first steps. They’re like, “Look at the goofy steps he’s taking” instead of a parent saying, “Way to go! He took two steps!”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, October 15.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: When is the last time you encouraged your pastor and his wife in tangible or a practical way. October has been named Pastor’s Appreciation Month. Now, I think it’s important to appreciate our pastors all year round, but I also think it’s a great idea to devote a month to encouraging our leaders.

Now, this week, to help us think about the importance of the church and how God sees the church, we’re listening to a message from Mark Vroegop. Mark is the pastor of College Park Church in Indianapolis. You’ve heard him and his wife before on Revive Our Hearts.

Mark spoke to the staff of Revive Our Hearts along with our parent organization, Life Action Ministries. His message dealt really honestly about problems in the church, and it encouraged us to love and support the church in the middle of those challenges.

Now, let’s listen to part two of the message “A Beautiful Mess.” Mark is walking us through 1 Corinthians 12.

Mark: I don’t know how a person can grow spiritually without the body of Christ. I don’t think you can. I don’t think you can grow spiritually. Does that mean a local church context? Yes. Does that mean other believers in your life? Yes. It means all of it.

In the midst of our overly individualistic, rugged sort of environment of our culture in the United States of America, we need to be reminded that we need one another. You don’t do spiritual life on your own. You weren’t designed to do that because you’re part of the body. You’re a finger or a pinky or a big toe or a knee or a leg. And Paul goes through all of that.

The second thing, the beauty, is that it also is part of the Spirit’s work, verse 13. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body [and then again, here is this crazy social transformation piece] whether Jews or Greeks, or slaves or free—you were all made to drink of one Spirit.” In fact, Paul takes it even further in Galatians 3 where he says this in verse 28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, [there is] neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Does it mean that there is no definition any more between men and women? Of course there’s still definition. There was even still definition between slave and free. You were always Jewish, and you were always Greek.

What is he saying here? He’s saying that something has entered into your life now that even supersedes all of those things. That’s more important than maleness or femaleness or freedom or work or slavery or condition in life or Jew or Gentile. There is something that’s even more important than all of the things that we understand here on earth, and that thing is being baptized into the Spirit or baptized into the body by the Holy Spirit.

In other words, your immersion into the body of Christ and your participation in this thing called the body is the ultimate relational reality on planet earth. Do you understand that? The ultimate relational reality. Everything about my maleness is informed that I have been now in Christ, and femaleness is in Christ, and Jewishness in Christ, and Greek in Christ, and slave in Christ, and free in Christ. But now “in Christ” has changed everything and that changes all of my relationships. It changes everything. This is what it means for Christ to be preeminent.

But listen, the way you express that is hanging out with people that you don’t like that are different than you who come from different backgrounds than you. You look at them and you say, “Man, we’re different, and yet our hearts are knit together.” The beautiful thing that God does in the church is that He brings people together in their brokenness and causes them to be part of this beautiful thing called the body of Christ.

Then finally, the Father. Look at verse 18: “But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.”  Meaning, you don’t get to pick which part of the body you are. It’s part of God’s sovereign purposes. In my case, it also means, in some ways, I don’t get to pick the people who God sends my direction to be a part of the church. It’s His church. Remember that. It’s His church. It belongs to Him. And granted, there are filters and things of that sort to be sure the person’s genuinely converted. I’m not talking about all of those things. What I mean is, at the end of the day, God designs His church. He designs it even in its individual locality. Is it broken? Is it messed up? You bet it is. But it’s God’s.

That’s the orientation that we need to see because if we’re not careful, all we’ll see of that bride walking down the aisle is, “Man, has she got issues. This is going to be really interesting.” We miss the dress. We miss the music. We miss the awe. And we miss the beauty of what actually God is trying to do because in this moment with this couple getting married, it’s actually not even about them. It’s actually about the beauty of marriage.

So look at Ephesians 5:29. When Paul talks about marriage, he talks about the church saying this: “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” And then he says this in verse 32: “This mystery is profound and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

Why in the world would God choose the greatest illustration of His glory in the church? Why would He choose marriage? I wouldn’t choose that. I could think of lots of other analogies. Why choose marriage? Marriage is messy. It’s hard. It’s difficult. Oh, there are glorious moments, and I am very much a fan of marriage, but it is hard and it’s broken. So why do that and use that analogy with the church? I think because the church is the same thing and it displays the beauty of God’s glory.

Ephesians 3:8. Here are six reasons why the church is important. Number one: First because she displays the glory of God. Ephesians 3:8–11:

To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

That is an enormous verse. It means that God has chosen to paint a picture of redemption and the canvas of that redemption is the church. He wants to make known the manifold wisdom of Himself to the world and He has chosen to do that in the church. And in order for that to happen, it has to be broken, messy people. 

So if you ever look around and you say, “Man, this is a mess.” That’s exactly right, and this is a beautiful opportunity for God by His Spirit and His grace and His power to be displayed. So you can either look at the church as a mess that there’s no hope or it's a mess, it should be different. Or you can say, “This is an unbelievable opportunity for God to work.”

Secondly, the church is important because it is the church that has been entrusted with the truth. First Timothy 3:15. The church has been entrusted with the truth. "If I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of truth."

In other words, the church is not only the means by which God has displayed His glory, but it is also the organization with which He has entrusted His truth. So when you do church work, you’re doing something really important. If the church doesn’t do its work, then the world will not hear the Word of God.

Third, the church is important because it is called to assault darkness. Matthew 16. When Peter is asked by Jesus, “Who do people say that I am?”

Peter says, “You’re the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

And Jesus says this to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock [which is the rock of his testimony] I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

That does not mean that Peter is going to hold the fort and the fort’s going to hold steady. It doesn’t mean, “Peter, go and build little kingdom-Christ castles and build motes around them and hide and fill them with gospel gators and keep everybody out.” It doesn’t mean that when the enemy comes he’s not going to get in your citadel.

What it means is this, the enemy has a castle. We are going to go and assault that castle and the gates of that castle will not hold against what we have. That’s what it means. It is not a defensive position. It is an offensive position. It is not a position where we are hunkering down and being in refuge. It means that we are on a war, and we are on a march, and the gates of hell will not prevail against us.

What am I talking about? I mean that the gospel through God’s people can transform the world. It can. It can transform a home. It can transform a school. It can transform a nation. It can transform the entire world. And how does that happen? It happens one revived person at a time. It doesn’t happen institutionally. It doesn’t happen organizationally. It happens personally, and then it happens institutionally, and then it happens organizationally. And eventually, praise God, one day it will happen globally.

There are little tastes of this, though. We have a neighborhood in the Indianapolis area called Brookside. It is nicknamed by the police force “the swamp.” More disenfranchised people, fewer people who get their high school diplomas, more unplanned pregnancies, fewer evidences of fatherhood. I could go on and on and on and on. This is an area of the city that has been abandoned and deserted. It was a no-man’s land. And we said, “That’s where the gospel needs to go.”

So over a ten-year period we’ve invested a ton of money and a lot of people and a bunch of effort and a lot of tears. Today there’s a church plant that’s in that neighborhood surrounded by a program called “Heart Change.” It takes abused and hurting women who haven’t had a friend and comes alongside them and says, “Look, we’re going to love on you; we’re going to care for you. We’re going to teach you how to drive. We’re going to help you get your GED. We’re going to help you get out of this abusive relationship all in the context of helping you know how to know how to be a follower of Jesus.” As the gospel begins to transform their heart, suddenly now, they’re realizing what good relationships look like and what it means to be a contributor into the community.

Now we’ve even gone on to say, “This abandoned home and this abandoned home we’re going to buy those and graduates from these homes are going to enter into a covenant, and they can live in that home and pay rent. Then we’re going to find a way to create a job for them. And neighborhood by neighborhood these areas are going to be transformed.”

I could walk you down the street and say, “This house and this house and this house, my people are in those houses.” They’ve moved out of the suburbs, and they’re moving into this area. Why? Not because it’s the greatest neighborhood, but because it’s a bad neighborhood. That’s why. They think the glory of Christ through the church can be able to transform a neighborhood. They think that there is a tangible real way that the gospel does its work. We don’t do good for good’s sake. No way. We do good for gospel’s sake.

We build bridges of grace that can bear the weight of truth. This is what it means to be able to take the glory of Christ into the world. This is when the church really works. So when I talk about the church being the temple, that you are like living stones, I mean that when you go into churches, you’re not just proclaiming revival and message of change. It means that one person, one life, one church, one community, one city, one state, one nation, one globe at a time. The glory of Christ can transform everything, and it’s embodied in the church.

Matthew 18. The church is important because it’s the place we deal with sin. Matthew 18:17 says: “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” So it means that the church needs to take sin seriously, and if necessary to put them outside of the church as a demonstration that, “No, this is serious. You can’t continue to act this way and be a part of this fellowship.” So part of the glory of the church is realizing that she needs to realize what it is to be the church so we don’t tolerate sin that shouldn’t be a part of the church.

So the reason you get after sin and why you are direct and candid and loving and clear is because the church is so valuable and so precious that this can’t be here. We can’t do this. Not just because it’s wrong for you or because of the consequences, but because of the glory of what this church really is. The problem is, is I don’t think people see the church like that.

Ephesians 4. Here’s the fifth thing. The church is also the context for growth. Ephesians 4 says he gave some to be apostles and prophets and pastors and teachers for the building up of the saints for the equipping of the body of Christ. In other words, the church is the context where people are really going to grow. My life has been marked by five men who had a deep imprint on my life. People affect other people. That’s what it means to be the church, that we’re impacting and affecting one another and that happens as you experience the beauty of what it means to be the church.

And then here’s the final passage in Matthew 18, again. This is just something I’ve been thinking about. I don’t know that I fully understand this, but right at the end of the text on church discipline He says this: “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. And again I say to you [He says it again] if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

I think what Jesus is saying there is right in the context of talking about church discipline is that whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven. Whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven, that the local church, the individual assembly of God’s believers gathered together have the very authority of God invested in them.

Unpack that verse. I think that there is an authority base in that church that we don’t really fully understand, appreciate, or respect enough. Even a broken, messed up church . . . Can church discipline be abused? Absolutely, it can be. But the fact of the matter is there is some connection, that text tells me, between the local assembly of God’s believers and what they say, and the authority of heaven. The church in that community has an authority base in it that’s somehow connected to God.

So, what am I asking you to do? I’m asking you to join with me to get a glorious view of the church. That’s the first thing. Here’s the second thing. Even though you’re going to the church, Romans 1:15 tells me you have to preach the gospel to the church. Don’t assume that everyone in those seats knows the gospel. You need to preach the gospel to them because there are many unconverted people who are inside the building of the church who are part of the assembly of the “church” who are not really a part of the church.

You need to preach the gospel to them and also preach the gospel to people who do understand the gospel because their lives can drift from the centrality of the gospel. It’s the gospel that makes the church the church. So we have to remind people about the gospel over and over and over. You have to connect honesty and humility and brokenness and repentance. You have to connect their confessions and their testimonies and prayer cards and you have to connect all of that to the gospel. That is everything.

Thirdly, I would plead with you to model church to the church. Model things like truth and honesty and brokenness and reconciliation. Model those things. Help people see that you can do this and it’s okay. That’s crazy, I know, but some churches don’t think you can do it. It’s like this isn’t rocket science, but that’s what happens.

And then along with that, fourth, I want you to guard your heart against misplaced judgment. Treat the church as a parent would a child, not as a sibling would to a brother or sister. Meaning, when Paul talked to the Thessalonian church in 1 Thessalonians 2:7, he described his care for them like a mother nursing a child.

I have older children and younger children. It’s interesting to me that the older my children get, they look at their younger siblings and sometimes they treat them like they’re silly or stupid. When they were kids they did the exact same thing. We tell our older kids, “Look. When you were that age, you did the exact same thing.” They’re over there scoffing, “That’s silly. Training wheels . . . whatever.”

When my kids were starting to walk and they’d take those first two steps, I mean kids look ridiculous when they take their first few steps, right? They’re like [goofy walking]. And you’re like, “Yay!!!” Right? If my seventeen-year-old walked around the church like that, I’d be like, “Dude, stop it.” Right? So the age, the context is everything, right?

The problem is that I think that many people treat the church like they’re a sibling making fun of a kid who’s taking his first steps. They’re like, “Look at the goofy steps he’s taking,” instead of like a parent who’s going, “Way to go. He took two steps. I’m so proud of you. I love you. Keep going.”

And then the kid falls down. I’ve never said to my kid when they’re just starting to walk and they fall down, “What, are you stupid? Get up. Don’t make an embarrassment of me. Walk! Walk.” I don’t do that. I say, “Come on baby! Come on baby! One more! One more! You look like Frankenstein, but that’s okay. Come on baby, let’s go.” I’m cheering them on because I’m their parent, and I love them. They’re my kid, and those are little, baby steps. Are they broken? Are they sinful? You bet they are. But at the end of the day, my love for them trumps their silly, foolish childlike actions.

And I think that is the heart of what ministry is supposed to be. Like Paul, we’re like a nursing mother. We take care in gentleness. That’s what Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:24. I hate this verse, but it’s in the Bible. It says this: “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone.”

I want to go, “Paul, you’re killing me. Everyone?”

“. . . able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.” And here’s why. Because then he says, “God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”

In other words, I can’t beat the sheep. I have to be kind to everyone. Why? So there’s room for God to move so that when He does move, they’ll know that it was because of God not because of fear of me that they’ve really changed. I think that’s parental.

So what am I calling you to do? Friends, I’m calling you to give everything you’ve got for the church because she is the bride of Christ. She’s that bride coming down the aisle when everybody stands and we look at her and we just go, “Wow! She’s beautiful!” And we all know she’s broken. You bet she is, but she’s still beautiful. You’ve got to give everything you’ve got for that bride because that bride belongs to Christ, and one day He will make it all right and all beautiful and all perfect. But until that day, we labor and we cry and we moan and we think, Oh, Jesus, it could be better. And you bet it could be, but at the end of the day, we still get in there and we love and we teach and we grieve and we call and we rebuke and we call people to change. But we do it in a way that leads with love. We have to love our people more than we hate where they’re at.

Ephesians 3:14–20 says this, and I’ll conclude:

For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory, he may grant you [now listen to this vision] to be strengthened with power through his Holy Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ [that surpasses knowledge,] that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

That’s the vision. And then the last two verses. I want you to read this out loud with me. Ready? Let’s go:

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

That’s what we live for right there. That’s the essence of ministry. That’s the heart of this ministry and that is what you need to be the flag that waves when you go into churches, when you launch things out in the media, when you go into college campuses, when you care for families, when you do anything, you need to do it for the glory of Christ in the church throughout all generations. That’s worth your life.

Nancy: Well, every church has its difficulties and its problems, right? Pastor Mark Vroegop has been reminding us why it’s so important to support the church during those difficulties and to recognize that God may be using those challenges to make His people more like Jesus. Mark Vroegop is the pastor of College Park Church in Indianapolis, and he’s been a good friend to Revive Our Hearts.

We wanted to air this message here in October because this is Pastor’s Appreciation Month. I want to encourage you to take a few minutes today to think through how you could encourage one or more of the pastors of your church along with their wives. That may be a youth pastor. It may be a worship pastor. It may be a teaching and preaching pastor. But one or more of those servants who are ministering to you and your family, think how you could encourage and bless them.

They’re spending their lives to build the church for the glory of Christ, and they really do need our support. It’s so important to us here at Revive Our Hearts to support local church leaders. I often say that this program is no substitute for your local church. You need to be learning, worshiping, and serving with a community of believers in your area.

We want to support local churches. For example, we’ve provided retreats so women’s ministry leaders can get away and be refreshed. We host conferences for women’s ministry leaders so they can be more effective at serving the women in their churches. And we’re continuing to develop curriculum for women in churches and small groups. Now, if you have a choice between giving to your local church or giving to Revive Our Hearts, choose your church. No question about it. But if God lays it on your heart to support Revive Our Hearts after you’ve given to support the ministry of your local church, I want you to know that we’re using that investment to build the body of Christ and to encourage and serve churches like yours.

Now, when you support this ministry with a gift of any size this month, we want to say, “Thank You” by sending you a one-of-a-kind 2014 wall calendar. Timothy Botts is an artist and a calligrapher. I’m sure you’ve seen some of his work in Christian bookstores. He just does beautiful artistic work, and he created twelve unique designs for this calendar, each one depicting one name of Christ. We’ve called the calendar, “The Wonder of His Name.”

For example, I’m looking at the month of October in this beautiful calendar. It says, “No accusation can stand against us in the courtroom of heaven if Christ is our advocate.” That’s the name of Jesus we’re focusing on in the month of October next year—the name “advocate.” This beautiful calligraphy has a water color background. You’ve got to see this to believe it. It’s just so beautiful. I want you to have one of these calendars to have in your home. We’ll be glad to send you a copy when you support Revive Our Hearts this month with a gift of any size. Just give us a call at 1–800–569–5959, or if you’d rather make your donation online, you can visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Now, my friend, Paula Hendricks looks back on her life and realizes how much energy she spent on what she calls “boy craziness.” Eventually, she realized these weren’t just crushes on guys, but they showed a deeper heart issue. You’ll learn how to say “no” to idolatry and “yes” to freedom when Paula joins us over the next three days. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.