We will bring greater clarity to these concerns later, but it is important that you know it is not my intent to critique the modern church. Technically speaking, there is no difference between the church today and the church of New Testament. It is the living body of Christ, composed of those who have been cleansed by His blood and are connected to each other through a common bond of grace. What has changed is our context and the structures we have created to fulfill the Great Commission in our age. Although I think it is possible for a strategy to be inherently ungodly, the true character of the church always resides ultimately in the heart of every believer. It is easy to speak in institutional terms and complain about ways in which the church has lost its way, but we must remember if we are in Christ, we are His church. If the church is not what we think it should be we should not be so quick to absolve ourselves of personal responsibility for its trajectory.
This is my focus: Christ’s church as it relates to our personal faith and mission. While we cannot separate our work from the collective body, neither can we ignore the unique role God has given each of us in our individual journeys. The Apostle Paul touched on this truth in his letter to the Philippians when he wrote, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13). As the church, we move together in obedience to the gospel, but in our own person we seek God’s purpose for our lives. It is true the church body can have a worthy structure, and still not produce the fruits of the Spirit in its members, but if its members are living for Christ, the body will surely reflect His glory.
Therefore, the greatest contribution any of us can make to the Lord’s church is to be the best reflection of His grace possible. If we establish this as our goal, the stewardship of everything He has given us for kingdom work will follow. I realize the fellowship we have with other believers in the church is essential in this process, but at some point we must all decide for ourselves what kind of Christian we are going to be.