“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.
Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the
Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely,
I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ – Matthew 28:18-20.
Christians are often attacked with the question: “What is the Church doing?” This comes, aggressively, in the midst of complaints about declining social conditions. Those asking are not usually church people. They have no idea of what happens in churches. They do not know what is being done for the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, needy children, spiritually impoverished and depressed. They are not present when leaders speak out against evil in the society, when church members are warned about their own unchristian behaviour. The critics do not attend teaching classes that instruct the young, that warn older believers against complacency, self-righteousness and immorality. Misunderstanding of whatever they believe the church stands for and is not doing, leads many to accuse the Church of fundamental failure.
The preliminary questions should be: “What is the Church? What is its purpose? What is the source of its authority?” The answers to these foundational queries determine what the Church should be doing in the world.
When our Lord Jesus Christ asked His disciples: “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:15,16). Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by My Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Biblical Christianity has always seen this incident as the blue-print of the “called-out” Church of Jesus Christ. The ‘rock’, correctly understood, is not Peter (a sinful human being who was soon to deny Christ with curses), but his faith and declaration of the fact of who Jesus is, the Son of the Living God, God Incarnate. Christ alone is the Rock of the Church.
The New Testament Church is made up of those who believe this, and whose lives are controlled by total faith in the Divine Sonship of Jesus Christ and His work as Saviour of those who believe in Him. These persons are scattered throughout the various denominations of the worldwide Church. For the converted, saved believer, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other Name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12). The world and other religions do not believe this. Many can be found within Christendom who do not hold this revealed truth as central and foundational to their profession of faith.
The true Bible-believing Church is made up of those who have been saved, literally, from the destructive power of the world, flesh and devil. Because of Christ’s victory at Calvary over sin, death, the devil, the Bible-believing Christian asserts “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8,9).
For these, the Bible is an inerrant, infallible, unchanging revelation of the requirements of Divine authority by which the Church determines its life-purpose and work. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).
The essential work of the Church is outlined in Jesus’ Great Commission: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” This Great Commission is expanded and developed in His Sermon on the Mount, the Gospels and Epistles and finds support in the Old Testament. Disciples are made through the preaching of the Gospel, proclamation of the Word of God given through Old Testament Prophets, Christ and the Apostles, and preserved in the Scriptures of the Bible. Where the Church has remained faithful to the Scriptures, it has spoken out against the evils of the world. The faithful Church has always suffered for condemning personal and public sinfulness in all its varieties. Positively, the Church has led developments in healthcare, prison reform, education and other social areas for centuries.
What is the Church doing today in Saint Lucia? The gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ is still being preached. The Church is still warning the sin-obsessed world of the inevitable and certain coming judgement of God. Yes, we are free to choose our life-styles. But there are consequences for which the Creator will hold each individual accountable. Prayer, which is often mocked, is still being offered up for individuals, leaders and the society, in the churches. The Church, challenged to do things in the way the world operates, asserts “though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God…” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
Have church leaders and members always been faithful to the high calling of God? Have they not fallen into sinful behavior, factionalism, heresy, self-righteousness? Have they not failed often to represent the holiness of Christ? Failed to show love for each other, family members, neighbours, fellow employees? Have they not failed to contribute meaningfully to the communities in which they live? Have they not allowed political partisanship and various social and class divisions to make them reprehensible to those around them? Yes to all. Down through the centuries, and even today. The Church everywhere needs repentance, reformation and revival if it is to fulfil its God-given calling. But, God has his 7000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal, to sin and the world.
Faithful Christians, largely unrecognized and un-thanked, continue to serve the needy in various ways. If it were not for the Spirit-filled influence of the faithful Church among us, the social situation would be worse than it is. The God of the Bible has not promised that the Church would make this doomed place a perfect world. The Church is to be the salt of the earth, the light of the present world. God is saving people out of this lost world. He will make a new heaven and new earth where righteousness dwells. The main work of the Church is to preach the Gospel of salvation through faith in Christ, to warn the world of the coming Judgement and to encourage the faithful with the good news of the coming perfect Kingdom of God where Christ Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. And even as the Church and its members live with this certain hope, it must do all it can to help make the society in which it finds itself a better place, with graciousness, kindness, love. That is its work.