Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on Church and Missions. Hello and welcome to episode 40 of Missions on Point. If you've been with us for a while, you'll know that we've had several series of significant topics together on missions on point. We've talked about the church and agency roles in missions. We had a couple of episodes on the biblical definition of missions. We talked about the pastoral leadership of missions in the church and how to encourage your pastor in that role. We talked about short-term missions, missionary care, bible translation, and a rather lengthy series on keys to effectiveness as a missionary and how to apply that back at home with candidates and even in our own lives and churches. I would just encourage you to not miss these three in this series of radical realization of three central truths. Please check the box on your podcast app for follow or subscribe so that you won't miss them.

I'll just give you a heads up that these three central truths will challenge you to radically refocus your understanding of and commitment to biblical Christian life and ministry. They have done so for me, and I maybe should tell you in advance, I'm going to rattle some cages. I could get in trouble for some things I'm saying in this series of three episodes. Here's the essence of it. We're going to talk about a radical realization of three central truths. The first one is about the church as the central means and ends of God's work in the world. The second one is missions, the central mission of the church, and the third is the gospel, the central message of missions. Please listen carefully. You may have to retrack your steps to hear all that I'm going to tell you in this short time together. This first central truth is we need to radically realize that the local church is central to God's purposes today.

Now, let me explain the word realize. Realize means to become aware of like, "Oh, I realize something happened or I realized some new piece of information." It also means to achieve or to attain it, and that's what I want to accomplish in this short series of three episodes to have you become aware of the truths that I'm going to tell you convinced from God's word and to refocus or recommit your understanding to practical action in your life. The first one is the centrality of the local church in God's purposes today. We want to start by understanding the Bible. Basically, this is Bible truth, and I'm going to read some verses from Ephesians three and Ephesians five, and then reinforce it with other observations and conclusions from the New Testament that will demonstrate the centrality of the local church in God's purposes today.

Listen carefully to Ephesians chapter three, verse seven through 11, and then verses 20 and 21, followed by Ephesians 5 25, "Of this gospel, I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 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." This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

In verse 20, "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. And this selection from verse 25 of chapter five, "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." The realization of this central truth from scripture is amazing. It changes our view and orientation toward the local church. I would maintain that normally when we read the term church in our Bibles, we should think local church, that is the local expression of the church and not automatically think the church universal of all people that are saved everywhere through all time.

Paul writes these things toward the close of his ministry and he says, "Look, it's through the church that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the rulers and authorities in heavenly places," and this was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Think of this, God planned for all time, that today in our time it is through the church that his wisdom would be made known. In fact, it says in those closing verses of chapter three that it is his glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever, amen.

The local church has that significance in centrality, in God's purposes as expressed by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians chapter three, he reiterates a little snippet of that in chapter five when he is speaking of husbands and wives relationship and he goes back and says, "I'm really talking about the church." Here's what he says in verse 25 again, "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." There is certainly an immediate sense in which the church in Ephesians five is referring to all churches everywhere, but again, I would say it's church. It's assemblies of called out ones. It's not just independent, random, lone ranger Christians, and you could read it as Christ loved local churches and gave himself up for her.

When we realize that God's work and his purposes are not just to bless me, they're not individualized, they're not just for me. It is for and in the context of the local church. It changes our whole realization of ministry and dynamic body life of the church. God intends that Christians grow together. There is a community involved. There is a [inaudible 00:06:59], a fellowship, a sharing of life together that knocks the hard edges off and enables us to grow in grace and in our godliness because of mutual accountability and exhortation and encouragement together. At this point, I think it's right to talk about what is a church and what is not a church. A church is a mutually committed body of local believers worshiping regularly together around the teaching of the word of God and prayer, observing the ordinances of baptism and communion under the leadership of biblically qualified shepherds while being active witnesses of the gospel.

In contrast then, what is a church not? A church is not paid pastors and staff. A church is not programs, it's not Sunday school. It's not a choir or youth group. It's not a printed curriculum. It's not the buildings or offering plates or a particular style of music. A church is not a particular size of congregation or audience. A church is not just the corporate worship service on Sunday morning or a midweek prayer service. It's certainly not electrical and technology things like sound amplification and LCD projectors and lighting. I would not say that the Bible mandates a particular size or style of church. It is possible that a house church could be a healthy biblical church. It is also possible that a very large, what we might call a megachurch could be a healthy biblical church and everything in between, it has to do with their orientation to why they're meeting and what takes place. But the key thing that I'm talking about is the local church dynamic of the body life growing together, being mutually committed together to grow in grace, in godliness, and in witness to the world.

The local church is God's central means and ends to fulfill his purpose. What do I mean by that? The local church is the means for growing and discipling Christians. That's normal. But it is also the endpoint of the local church reproducing itself, both locally and internationally to see that other people have access and reach to the gospel itself and to a gospel community of saints that are living, and growing, and worshiping, and witnessing together.

The importance of the local church gets even larger when we take a step back and try to look objectively at the testimony of the New Testament. For example, the Great Commission as expressed in Matthew 28 cannot be fulfilled in its entirety apart from the planting of local churches. Jesus himself says, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you always to the end of the age."

The going and discipling involves evangelism, discipleship, and teaching. Baptizing them is an ordinance of the church usually presided over by recognized qualified leaders. Teaching them to observe all I've commanded you assumes a whole body of content that is the New Testament and that there's regular meeting together for this teaching. We tend to do that at least weekly. When we take it that way, it's easy to see that the great commission cannot be fulfilled apart from the establishment of these local bodies of believers that are worshiping, learning from the scriptures, being taught by qualified leaders, observing the ordinances and evangelizing others. Also recall that Jesus promised to build his church in Matthew 1618, and he refers to local churches in the first couple of chapters of Revelation. All through the New Testament, Matthew, through Revelation, Jesus is seen as having care and interest in local churches.

Notice also that the original recipients of the Great Commission, the Apostles and those associated with them, including the Apostle Paul, what did they do to fulfill this mandate, this great commission. They planted local churches everywhere that they went. In fact, most of the New Testament was written to local churches or local church leaders. Take into account that 40 plus commands that are one another commands of the New Testament cannot really be fulfilled by lone ranger Christians. It requires a body of people that know each other really quite well and worship together enough to be in each other's kitchen, so to speak, to know each other's life and hold each other accountable to spiritual growth and development.

I've come to believe that the local church is central to missions. The local church is where missionaries are saved and developed, equipped, and sent out to do the work of missions, and their goal is connected to at least, if not directly involved in the planting of healthy, biblical churches and developing healthy qualified leaders for those churches.

But I've also come to realize and understand that the local church is central to all of God's purposes, not just that outwardly reaching goal of missions, but the inward goal of edifying and developing a godly body of believers for their community and their own personal families and lives. The radical realization of the centrality of the local church in God's purposes today should change the way we think about our own local church, how much priority we give to involvement in the local church and local church relationships, how we invest in it, how we commit to it, how we see the local church as our laboratory for our own personal growth, and not just our little quiet times by ourselves.

The fact that God has placed you and I in a local church means that we should find our source of comfort and strength there, and if there is a weakness, there will be weaknesses. If there are flaws, there will be flaws. We need to play our part in helping remediate that, helping God enter in with grace, and mercy, and resources, spiritual resources, to resolve that and have the church grow and be mature in every way in order to best represent Jesus Christ and the gospel to the watching world. This is the first of three central truths that will challenge you to radically refocus your understanding of and commitment to biblical Christian life and ministry. It is the centrality of the local church in God's purposes today. Please tune in, subscribe and follow to the Missions on Point Podcast to catch the next two in this series.

Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. I trust that you'll find more help and resources on the website, Please preferably consider supporting this ministry, now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.

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