In Namibia, we find a number of false views concerning the nature of the church and the place of the church in the life of the believer.
- “I do not question the beliefs and practises of my church. Into this church I was born and in this church I will die. I am comfortable here. I do not question my leaders. I accept their teachings uncritically.” This view is very common. It is often associated with those who are “pew warmers” and traditionalists who have adopted the we-have-always-done-it-this-way mentality. They tend to be passive, non-interactive, non-thinking types who only grow upset when their comfortable routines are upset!
- “I have been hurt in the church. Therefore, I will never again entrust myself to any church. I believe in God, but I do not believe in the (local) church. Therefore I will do my own thing.” This view also constitutes a fairly big group. There are undoubtedly many casualties of spiritual abuse in our country, since in Namibia we have a large group of unruly, undisciplined churches which tend to grow like our large Omajova mushrooms out of a termite hill—literally overnight! These churches are focussed on big personalities rather than on the rule of Christ and his word in the church. Man-centred churches ultimately always hurt people. This is a serious problem and it may take years for people to regain their confidence in the local church. The point is that they must regain their confidence in the local church by joining a church where Christ is loved and where Christ is preached.
- “The local church is an optional extra for me: First comes my family, then my leisure, then my work and, if there is time left, the local church!” This group has many adherents in Namibia, and they quickly infect other church members with this sort of warped logic. The truth is that Christ and his church (if it is a Christ-centred church) cannot be divided, any more than a head may be severed from a body. The man who despises the church despises Christ. This is what people are doing. They are dividing what God has joined together. Granted, it takes effort to learn what the Scripture teaches about the union of Christ and his body, but learn we must! We shall perish without the church on earth.
I am aware of the fact that there are those who would insert many buts into what I am saying here, and you may of course have good grounds to disagree. I want you however consider the fact that the church is not your idea or plan. It is God’s idea!
So, if you disagree, the best place to start is not with your own opinions, nor with your denominational comfort zones.
You need to ask: “What is God’s opinion of the church?”(The following is adapted from Daniel Wrays, The Importance of the Local Church.)
The church, in God’s opinion, is glorious! Consider then God’s view of the church. He has, after all, the last word!
- The glory of the church is seen in her election by God (Ephesians 1:3–6). Whatever the Lord God has set his deliberate love upon from “before the foundation of the world” must be surely of supreme importance to him.
- The glory of the church is seen in the great cost with which she was bought (Ephesians 1:7; 5:25; 1 Peter 1:18–19). We often assess the value of an object by what it costs. God bought the church by the blood of his own Son (1 John 4:9).
- The glory of the church is seen in the adoption of her members as children of God (Ephesians 1:5; Romans 8:15–17). Through “adoption,” we are assured of our full standing as legitimate children. God’s people are called a “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (1 Peter 2:9). God’s people are children of the heavenly King!
- The glory of the church is seen in her splendid and marvellous inheritance (Ephesians 1:14, 18; Romans 8:17–18). As adopted children the members of the church are heirs to a multitude of blessings. We have eternal life and the hope of living in the eternal presence of God. The Holy Spirit is our guarantee for this.
- The glory of the church is seen in the wonderful purpose and central place she has in the plan of God. Through the church, God intends to display to the world the glory of his love and grace (Ephesians 1:6, 14; 2:7; 3:1–12). The church is at the heart of God’s plan (Ephesians 1:9–10). Out of the ruins of fallen humanity, God is building a people for himself (Ephesians 2:15).
- The glory of the church is seen in the glory of her head, the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:22–23; Colossians 1:15–19). Jesus is supreme above all. He is altogether glorious, and the church (as his body) therefore shares in this glory (Ephesians 4:15–16; 5:29–30). The glory of the church cannot be understood apart from the glory of her head.
- The glory of the church may be seen in the fact that she enjoys the personal and powerful ministry of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13–14).
- The glory of the church may be seen in her true holiness (Ephesians 1:4; 2:21; 5:26–27). The church is “separated” from the world for God’s glory. It is through holy lives that the saints of God reflect his image (Ephesians 4:24).
- The glory of the church may be seen in her nearness and access to God (Ephesians 2:13, 18; 3:12). No one, except the church has unrestricted access to God. The church lives in present fellowship with God.
- The glory of the church may be seen in her spiritual knowledge of all the mysteries of the gospel (Ephesians 1:9; 3:2–5). Only the people of God, by faith in Jesus Christ have a true understanding of the things of God. They have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:6) and the anointing of God (1 John 2:20, 27).