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January 11, 2013, 12:00 AM

I See a Building, but Where is the Church?


For a long time, I have noticed the abundance of church buildings in many communities across the United States.  This is particularly true in the inner-city, urban areas, where you may find a church building on almost every corner.  Sadly, in many of the communities surrounding these church buildings, there is an over-abundance of despair and community disintegration that has been caused by poverty, crime, drug infestation, and family dysfunctionality.  These social ills, however, are merely the symptoms of a deeper spiritual reality.   Poverty, for example, is often caused by economically unjust policies in which the poor are exploited by some industrialists and big banks.  It may also be caused by persons who take no personal responsibility to prepare themselves to be functional and productive members of society.  In short, whether we have been "infected with [sin] or affected by it", as Dr. Donald Porter, former Assistant Pastor of Mt. Bethel Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, once recalled, "sin is the cause of it all"! 

In my view, that is one of the reasons the church must not simply have a building in the community.  The Church must be in the community! The church (the baptized, body of Christian believers both individually and corporately) are called to "Go and make . . .not "Come and see" (Matthew 28:19-20).  Although the commandment of Christ extends to "wherever" we go or "as we are going", it certainly implies our immediate and surrounding communities.  Jesus' disciples are called to be "salt and light" in the world (Matthew 5:13-14).   In declaring this truth concerning His disciples, our Lord Jesus Christ revealed the Christians' responsibility to function as an agent of influence and change.  "Salt" must come into contact with "decay" (sin) and hinder it.  "Light" must come into contact "darkness" (sin) and dispel it!  The church must not only have a building in the community; the church should be in the community.

By "being in the community" I mean the Church's members should get out the building, intentionally move throughout the neighborhoods in the immediate and surrounding communities and establish relationships with the members of the community.  Through these relationships, we can then begin to address the individual's need for a personal, vibrant, and authentic saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Moreover, we can use our influence to begin to directly address the root causes of the social ills in our community and, thereby, facilitate the amelioration of these ills.

We must not allow ourselves to be cloistered behind hallowed walls or segregated within stained-glass ghettos, without any positive and transformative contact with the world around. If so, congregations risk becoming increasingly irrelevant. This is not reflective of the Great Commission that tells us to "Go" or the Great Commandment that tells us to "Love"! 

A church building in the community is no good without the Church in the community! 

J. Symonette



Comments

02-16-2013 at 12:18 PM
Servant Daphne
This I have noticed all my life as a native in this area. I have always been concerned by so many churches within the communities, and still there is so much poverty and despair. I do feel the faith based groups have a responsibility to the community in which it resides. They need to construct spiritual veins that connect one church to the other, and develop life skills with a Christian-Educational approach for individuals and families that they serve inside and out the Church Building.
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January 3, 2013, 2:55 PM

Have Christians Lost the Cultural War?


This thought was triggered by an article I read online recently.  The question posed in that article was concerning "conservatives and the culture war".  Although I don't remember the article's author, I do remember the thoughts and feelings that subsequently came while reading the article.  The question, as it pertains to Christians and the Church, is loaded with all sorts of presuppositions and implications.  Some of which are faulty.  

In my view, the first faulty assumption in this question is that the war in which Christians and the Church are engaged is a cultural one.  No doubt we are indeed in a war; however, it is a spiritual war that often manifests itself in the culture.  The Apostle Paul writes in the Bible that "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12).   Culture is merely a reflection of the spiritual condition of the society.  The absence of godly, Bible-centered, Spirit-filled and Spirit-led attitudes and actions all work together to have an adverse affect on the culture. 

Another inherently problematic implication found in this question is that the war is over!  The spiritual war will be not over until Jesus Christ is declared the Victor over the forces of evil, and He then makes all things new!  Satan and all of his cohorts will be relegated to the lake of fire and brimstone will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Revelation 20:10).  It will be that time when "every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:10-11).  The winning of a presidential election does indicate much about the culture.  However, it does not signal the end of spiritual war.  The continued godless trajectory reflected in the lost of shame and increasing public manifestation of sin do not mean that the war is over. Yes, there will be many skirmishes lost along the way to final victory.  The Christian and the Church's hope are not found in or of ourselves.  It is found only in Jesus Christ who has already conquered death, hell, and the grave! 

Notwithstanding, Christians and the Church have a mandate to fight in this war!  We must fight the enemies of the flesh (our nature this moves contrary to God), the world (values, mores, ideas, systems, and practices that are contrary to the Word), and Satan.  We fight the flesh through the power of the Holy Spirit that is within us.  Again, in the Bible it is recorded that if we "Walk in the Spirit . . [we] will not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16).  We must make ourselves enemies of the world, because "friendship with the world is enmity with God" (James 4:4).  We have the power to fight Satan in the strength of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). If we submit ourselves to God. "[We can] resist the devil and he will flee from us" (James 4:7). 

We have not lost the war!  The battle is not over!  As a matter of fact, we already know the outcome of the war!  Not only will the devil, the beast and the false prophet be cast into the lake of fire, death and hell will be too.  Then, a new heaven, a new earth, a New Jerusalem will come from God.  God Himself with be with [us] and be our God. And God shall wipe away every tear from [our] eyes; there will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.  There will be no more pain for the former things will have passed away (Revelation 20:14; 21:1-4). 

God will fight every battle, and God will win every war!    Thanks be to God who gives us the victory!!!

Dr. J. Symonette

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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