Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Gloriously Important

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Download "Questions to Consider When Choosing a Church."

Dannah Gresh: If God's called you to do something in your church, it is important. Here's Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: What are you doing? Observing the Lord's Supper, witnessing a baptismal service, discussing a pastor's sermon after church with your children, vacuuming the carpet in the sanctuary and the halls, setting up church for Sunday? You're helping God build a beautiful temple. It's called the Church.

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned, for February 7, 2020. I’m Dannah Gresh.

The problems of this world are so big, and our contributions can feel so small. When it comes to your involvement in the church, do you ever feel discouraged? Nancy's going to encourage us today as she reminds us of the big picture. She’s wrapping up the series, "Who Needs the Church?" Before the grand finale, though, Nancy wanted to address something that’s on the minds of some of our listeners. Here’s Nancy.

Nancy: Now the question arises, and I have talked with people over the years, many people. Some of our listeners have written in as we did a survey, a poll, on ReviveOurHearts.com. We asked people for their view on the local church: What were some of the needs in the local church? We received back some answers that were pretty disheartening. People were pretty frustrated over their experience with the local church. One of the questions that rises is: Is it ever right to leave a church? And if so, when and how should I leave?

Now, I'm not going to explore that subject in the depth that it needs or deserves, but let me just give some suggestions and insights to help you think through that. Is it ever time to leave the church? Obviously, one time to leave a church would be if you're making a move, if God is leading you to another state or another part of the country. But let me suggest that when you prepare to make a move (it may be a job change or you're moving to take care of a member of the family or whatever) investigate the local church situation before you make a final decision.

I'm amazed by how many people make a decision to make a geographical move. They come back from a weekend where they are interviewing with their prospective employer and you say, "How did it go?"

"It went great! I love the place where I'm going to be working. We got to check out the school situation. There are some great schools there for our kids, so that's going to work out really well."

"Well, I'm glad to hear that. What about the church situation there?"

"Oh, um, you know it was just a really quick weekend and we didn't have a chance to check that out. But we are going to be making a lot more money, so we'll be able to support our family better. I'm sure there are good churches there. There are good churches everywhere. We'll find one when we get there."

Now, I hope you do. But can I say that I think it is a foolish thing your family if you haven't checked out the church situation first, if you possibly can.

Now I realize there are some times when you have to make a move. You can't check all that out in advance. But how important is it to look into the church situation and know that there's a church where you can plant your family, where your marriage can grow and thrive, where your children can grow and thrive? That ought to be, I think, one of the very top considerations when you're making a move is where is there a local church, a local body that we can plant ourselves in.

When you get to that area, don't do this stuff of hanging around for a year or two before you find a local church, visiting all the churches in the area, and taking months and months to settle into one. That's dangerous. I'm not saying don't check out some different churches, but make sure that you don't take forever to do it.

Find one. Get into it. Don't expect it to be perfect. There will be some surprises.

So that's one time when obviously you leave your local church is when you're making a geographical move. But assuming you're not moving, are there other reasons to leave a church?

Well, one that I think would be clear is when there is doctrinal heresy being taught from the pulpit in the church on a consistent basis, and it's not being dealt with. It's not just that one thing is being said wrong that you don't agree with one Sunday but then it's corrected. But if there is teaching in the church that is contrary to the Word of God on the essentials of our faith, then you're in the wrong church.

What are the essentials? The authority of Scripture, the gospel, by faith through grace in Christ alone. That's the gospel—who Christ is, the Son of God. If you're in a church where the fundamentals, the essentials, the foundational principles, the truths and doctrines of our faith are not being taught, then what you're in is not really a church. It's a building; it's an organization; it's an institution, but it's not a true local church. You need to be in a true local church.

If there's doctrinal heresy, if your church is not committed to the doctrines of Scripture, the foundational doctrines of Scripture. (There are some secondary doctrines that characterize different denominations. It's okay to disagree on those things, but the essentials need to be there.) If they're not, you need to ask the Lord is it time to be in another church?

If you're in a church where the church refuses to deal with blatant ongoing sin or immorality, then you need to say, "Lord, are we in the right place if this is not a church that is committed to being a pure church?" Now, I'm not saying that every sin that takes place in the church needs to be addressed corporately, collectively. The Scripture gives us illustrations throughout the New Testament of particular issues.

For example, Paul talks in 1 Corinthians 5 about a man in the church who was having incest with his mother. I mean, it was a wicked immoral situation, and the church wasn't doing anything about it. And Paul said, "You have to deal with this." If you're in a church where the leadership of the church persistently refuses to deal with blatant or known sin or immorality, then you probably don't belong in that church. It's not functioning as a biblical church.

If you're in a church that is characterized by spiritual deadness—there's no heart for God, there's no hunger for God. Then you need to consider if this is the place where God wants us.

I'm not saying that when you go to church and you feel like, "That service didn't do much for me. Maybe I don't belong here." That's very subjective. And remember, you don't go to church for it to do something for you. You go because you are part of that body; you are part of that community; because you are under the preaching of the Word.

But if chronically there is no life in your church, especially if you have children growing up in that church, then it may be time to say, "Lord, should we be somewhere else where our children can have a sense and where we can have a sense of the reality of Your presence."

Don't expect heaven until heaven. Don't say, "Well, there's not much life here, so we'll go find something else." Because if you're an essentially a discontented person, you may find that problem follows you everywhere.

But I'm just saying if there's chronic lack of spiritual life, chronic unwillingness to deal with issues, what do you do if that is the case? If there's no life in your church, if there are serious chronic problems . . . . I think there are some churches (and God knows where and when) that God has just written Ichabod over that church.

The glory of God has departed from this church. It ceases to really be a church. It's just the bundle of sticks we talked about earlier in the series—a group of people who get together, but there's no life; there's no vitality.

What do you do if you sense that's the case in your local church? Well first let me say, be patient. Don't jump to that conclusion the third week you're in the church. Now maybe it's really, really obvious and I know I'm talking to people who are in a lot of different situations, so I hate to broad brush. You need to get in the Word and get on your knees and ask the Lord to show you what the situation is in your case. But be patient with imperfections and weaknesses and needs in your church as God is with us. Remember that people are in a process and give room for growth, give time for growth.

Be prayerful. Before you open your mouth to speak to another soul about the problems in that church, if you ever do, talk to God about it. Don't become critical. Don't go around talking to everybody else. "I'm just really concerned about our pastor." That is sin; that is wrong.

Now, if your pastor is having an affair . . . and I thank the Lord that all the pastors that I've been under in my life have been godly men. But I know there are some who go back on their covenant to the Lord and aren't fit to be spiritual leaders. If there is a known sin like that, then it needs to be dealt with. But if you're just aware or sensing things that are troubling your spirit, go to the Lord. Ask Him to deal with it. Ask Him to show you His perspective.

You know, church is a lot like marriage and real life. Life is hard. It's messy at times, but just stick with it. You work through the problems, and you grow through them. There are some problems in our churches that we just need to pray about and wait on the Lord.

If you want a better church, pray for the one you have. If you want a better pastor, pray for the one you have. Ask God to give you a vision for how He can breathe new life into even that flawed church.

God says in Revelation 21:5, "Behold, I am making all things new." I may be that you are in a church where God is at work. He's in a process. He's stirring. He is making things new, and you should wait.

But having waited, having prayed, having sought the Lord, having been patient, having done the most you possibly can to be a part of the solution, to be a part of the life there and you see it over an extended period of time not happening, then it may be that God has turned out the light in that church as He said He would do to the church in Ephesus if they didn't get back their first love.

He said, "I'll remove your lamp from its lamp stand" (Revelation 2:5). That can happen in a local church. At that point prayerfully consider if and when it's time to make a change, and then ask God to direct you as to how to leave that church. I would say, generally, that should be done quietly and without creating contention or division. Now it's a different situation if again there's blatant sin going on in the leadership or something that is clearly contrary to Scripture that's not being addressed.

But as women, you know what? By and large it's not our responsibility to deal with those things. If the men who are given the responsibility of leading the church are not dealing with them, then don't you become a point of contention or criticism in the church. Don't be divisive, don't be contentious, don't be disloyal, don't try to draw out other people with you, and don't create a split in the church. That has all the ramifications, implications and more than divorce does in marriage. It's just messy, messy, messy. Sometimes it will happen, but don't you be the one who instigates it.

If you're going to leave and it's time to make a change, then do it quietly, in most cases for sure. Ask God to direct you to a healthy church where . . . not a perfect church. There isn't one in any community anywhere this side of heaven. But ask God to direct you to a church where you can place your life.

If God leads you to stay in a church that has some of the kinds of problems that we've been talking about where it's a gray matter, it's not a clear matter. If God leads you to stay there or perhaps you have no other option. Maybe your husband says, "This is where we're staying." You are his wife; you want to stay under his protection and authority. Or maybe there are no other churches—literally no other options in your area.

If you're going to stay there, don't sit and sour. Don't become bitter, don't become cantankerous, don't become ornery, don't become divisive, don't stand up and speak your mind and tear apart the church in church meetings or behind the pastor's back. Plug in, serve, love, pray like crazy, and believe God to bring new life into something that looks like it has so little life at all. God can do that. That's what revival is about—God breathing new life into old systems that are tired and need a fresh breath of the Spirit. God really can do that.

Dannah: We’re listening to Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth with some helpful counsel on when it’s appropriate to leave a church. She’ll be back to give us the grand vision of what the Church is all about in just a moment. Quickly, though, if I may, I’d like to point you to a resource on our website.

It’s a list of questions you need to think through as you choose a church. Our team compiled these questions specifically for those who are needing to settle on a local church. You’ll find them at our website, ReviveOurHearts.com. There’s a link to them in the transcript of today’s program. Now, here’s Nancy with part 2 of today's message.

Nancy: There's a college named Concordia College that's located in Moorhead, Minnesota, way up in the cold regions there. This college has a fabulous choir that puts on a Christmas concert every year that attracts something like 20,000 people each year in different performances of that concert.

One of the unique features of those Christmas concerts is the production each year of a different twenty foot high by sixty foot wide painted mural that reflects the theme of that year's Christmas concert. The artist is a man named David Hetland. He designs the scene to go with that concert, and then he supervises more than a hundred volunteers who begin painting the mural in mid-October.

Now, you don't have to have any art experience or ability to be a part of this effort because it's a paint-by-number mural. He's drawn all these pieces and numbered them. The paint goes with the number. Then these hundred or more volunteers work for two months to paint this beautiful mural.

When it is done, it has the impression of a beautiful stained glass window. The artist, the designer, David Hetland, goes over the entire work putting the final touches on it. Then they place it behind the choir, and it looks like this beautiful stained-glass window behind the choir.

So every year during the fall in Moorhead, Minnesota, dozens and dozens of unknown, ordinary, average people paint tiny, insignificant sections of this canvas. Weeks or months later the result is a spectacular, beautiful masterpiece.

As I read about the mural in Moorhead, Minnesota, I thought, Isn't that a great picture of the Church, the body of Christ? We have all these little, unknown, average people, that's us, painting these little pieces that seem so insignificant, not really knowing where our piece fits in. "Am I painting a camel's leg? Am I painting a star? Am I painting a part of the sky?" They may not know what they are painting or what part theirs will have in the whole when it's done.

But they are part of a much bigger exercise, an undertaking, an endeavor that is bigger than themselves. When it's all said and done nobody knows or really cares about the names of those volunteers. They know who the artist is. They know who the designer is. They see this beautiful masterpiece, and it's really secondary and unimportant who all the individual contributors were.

I think of the Church of Jesus Christ as a great, big mural, a masterpiece that God has designed, that God has allowed us to have a part of painting through all the ages, all the scenes. The apostle Paul painted a part of it. Peter painted a part of it. James painted a part of it. Lydia in the New Testament painted a part of it.

Then George Whitfield and Jonathan and Sarah Edwards and other saints throughout history painted part of it. My dad got to paint a part of it, and now he's in heaven where he is witnessing the rest of us painting down here on earth, painting our little part. And those who will follow after us, should the Lord tarry, they're painting their little part. And God is making this great, big mural to display His glory in the universe.

The Church exists for the ultimate praise of the glory of God. We started this series in the book of Ephesians, a book that talks about the splendor and the wonder of the Church, capital "C," as God designed it to be. Ephesians 1 tells us that in eternity past God chose us as His people. He adopted us. He sealed us with the Holy Spirit.

He put us into the Church. Why? So that we should be to the praise of His glory. Three times in Ephesians chapter 1 you see a similar phrase, "to the praise of His glory." I can just imagine the "oohs and ahs" in that great auditorium there on the campus of Concordia College as the mural is unveiled—a new mural. It's been in the works for months. Now people see it, and it's spectacular.

Can you just imagine the "oohs and ahs" resounding throughout the whole universe when God's mural of the Church is complete. The saints and the angels, the citizens of heaven and those creatures in heaven and they look and they see, "Wow, the glory of God, the splendor of God displayed in His Church."

In fact, the book of Revelation describes the end result to us, what it will be like. And let me just read to you from the last few chapters of Revelation something of that description because I want it to give you a taste of what's ahead and why we labor today painting our little, insignificant spot on the mural, filling our little, insignificant role.

Why does it matter? Because here's what's coming: Revelation 19:6,

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, 'Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure'—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints (vv. 6–8).

Then Revelation 21, verse 1:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. . . . and I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man,. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.' And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new' (vv. 1–5).

Then came one of the seven angels . . . and spoke to me, saying, 'Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.' And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal (vv. 9–11).

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb . . . and its gates will never be shut by day--and there will be no night there (vv. 22, 23, 25).

No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever (Rev. 22:3–5).

That's what we have to look forward to—that great picture. We can hardly imagine it now. We just see our itty, bitty piece of it. But we're in a process. God is building something, designing something, making something for His glory, to show off the splendor of His glory.

Sir Christopher Wren was a famous, British architect in the 1600s who designed and built Saint Paul's Cathedral in London. Perhaps you've been there and seen it. That cathedral took a decade to design and almost forty years to build.

The story's told that one day Sir Christopher Wren was taking a tour around the construction site. He asked one of the masons, "What are you doing?" The man replied, "I'm cutting stone for ten shillings a day." Then Sir Christopher asked a second workman, "What are you doing?" He responded, "I'm carrying stones to build a wall."

Finally, Wren asked a third man, "And what are you doing?" The man stopped what he was doing, he looked up, and he said, "I am helping Sir Christopher Wren build a beautiful cathedral." There's a man who had a vision for the finished product, a vision for the whole. He saw how his little part fit into the whole.

So let me ask you, "What are you doing?" Working in the nursery, teaching a children's Sunday school class, working in AWANA, singing on a praise team, cooking at a church breakfast, filling communion cups, giving to support missionaries that are sent out by your church, making refreshments for the youth group, visiting a shut-in who can't get out for church, praying for your pastor, mentoring a young mom?

What are you doing? Observing the Lord's Supper, witnessing a baptismal service, discussing a pastor's sermon after church with your children, vacuuming the carpet in the sanctuary and the halls, setting up church for Sunday, praying with a single mom who's struggling to raise teenagers? What are you doing? Singing hymns and choruses with the rest of the congregation, maybe with your off-tune voice? 

What are you doing? You say, "What's the big deal?"

I'll tell you what the big deal is: You're helping God build a beautiful temple. It's called the Church, the Church of Jesus Christ for the praise of His glory.

You know, when Christopher Wren died he was actually buried under the cathedral he had built. But we serve a living Lord. The architect and designer of this temple will never die. We're building a temple for God to live in, and according to the Scripture, one day we will live with Him there forever. That's why you need the Church. That's why I need the Church. That's why we need the Church. It's all about Him. It's all about the praise of His glory.

Dannah: What an encouraging reminder from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth! She’ll be back in a moment to pray. But first, February is relationship month here at Revive Our Hearts. We want to do all we can to help you grow, not only in your relationship with God, but also in your relationships with everyone around you . . . and especially, as we’ve been seeing all this week, your relationships in the local church.

To do that, we want to let you know about a new devotional book from Revive Our Hearts. It’s called Living Out the One Anothers of Scripture: A 30-Day Devotional. This book will help you show hospitality to one another, encourage one another, bear with one another in love, and so much more. We’d love to send you a copy as our way of saying "thank you" when you make a gift to Revive Our Hearts. And if you want more than one copy, there are more available in our resource center.

Ask about the devotional on the "one anothers" of Scripture when you contact us. To get in touch with us, just visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1–800–569–5959. 

Next week, Nancy is joined in the studio with Valerie Shepard, the daughter of martyred missionary Jim Elliot and his wife, Elisabeth. She's a pastor’s wife and author. Sh'ell be here to give us a glimpse into the love that Jim and Elisabeth shared, and I think there are some lessons for all of us in what she has to say. I hope you'll have a wonderful weekend, worship the Lord in your church, and I hope you’ll tune in on Monday. Now, Nancy closes our series with prayer.

Nancy: Thank You, Lord, for the wonder of Your Church. And I say again, "Oh, Lord, I love Your kingdom. I love Your Church. I love Your people." I am amazed sometimes that they could love me. And I am even more amazed that You could love Your Church, Lord Jesus, the way that You have and lay down Your life for it, but You did.

So Lord, give us the heart that You have for Your Church and help us in the ins and outs and daily life of service in the church to have a long-term vision of what we're doing, what it's about, and to be reminded that it's all, all, all about Jesus.

Thank You for the day when that great, big mural will be unveiled. All the angels, citizens, and saints of heaven will bow together and say, "Hallelujah, the Lord God Almighty reigns." In His Church His glory has been revealed. And so, Lord, we pray that Your glory will be seen in Your people, in the Church, now and forever more, amen.

Reminding you that we all need the Church, Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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