Why Did God Invent the Church?

by Guest Blogger David Wentz

Why did God invent the church? Scholars have advanced various ideas. My own thinking goes back to the very beginning, and it builds on the way Jesus most often referred to God: as Father.

I have sometimes considered developing what I call a “theology of fun,” based on the idea that God created the universe just for the fun of it. Certainly nobody could force God to create! But I think there must be more to it.

Let’s start at the beginning. Not Genesis 1:1, In the beginning God created. . . .  I want to get behind that, to why God created. To do that we have to look at God himself.

How many ways can you think of that God is described in the Bible? God is great, God is just, God is holy, God is good, God is merciful. God is our refuge and strength and salvation. God is a spirit and a consuming fire. All these are descriptions of God. But one verse is not a description, it’s an equation. 1 John 4:8 says, God is love. Love is God’s essence. It’s who God is.

What is the greatest characteristic of love? Love wants to share. It’s a relationship. Love must be shared, or it isn’t love.

Since eternity, God has shared love in the Trinity. One of the most basic understandings of Christianity is that there is only one God, but this one God exists in three persons: God the Father, God the Son (who came to earth as Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit. Without this community of divine persons to share love, God could not be love.

God, who is love, has been sharing love since eternity. But God’s love is not only eternal, it’s infinite. It’s overflowing.  God’s love wanted to overflow the Trinity.

What provides the greatest opportunity for an ongoing expression of love? A family – different personalities living together, adapting to each other, adjusting to each other, caring for each other, putting each other first. A family creates infinite possibilities for love. So God decided to create a family to share his love, with God and with each other.

God could have created us so that we had no choice but to love him, but that wouldn’t be real love. God could force us to act like we love him, but that wouldn’t be real love. Love is only real if it is freely given. God wanted to share real love. So God gave us free will.

Unfortunately, our free will doesn’t just give us the opportunity to freely love God. It gives us the opportunity to cause a lot of trouble as well. We see this in the very first human beings God created.

Adam and Eve shared love with God for a time. Genesis 3 implies that God used to enjoy walking with them in the Garden of Eden. But one day they exercised their free will to disobey God, and that time of innocent family fellowship was broken.

When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the LORD God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the LORD God among the trees. Then the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”  – Genesis 3:8-9

God experienced the heartbreak of a father whose children turn against him and get lost in the world. Adam and Eve’s disobedience broke up God’s family. The whole rest of the Bible records God’s plan throughout history to bring his children back.

For a while God tried to relate to the whole growing human race, but they turned from God and became so wicked that God had to destroy them all in Noah’s flood (Genesis 6-8). He tried again with Noah’s descendants, but instead of trusting God, they built a tower and put their trust in it. They were unified, but not in God. To keep it from happening again, God confused their language, and the human race scattered across the earth (Genesis 11).

So God changed strategies. He decided to relate in a special way to one group of people, who would get to know and love him. Then they could invite the rest of the world into God’s family. God chose the children of Abraham, the nation-family known as the Hebrews, Israel, or the Jews.

King Solomon understood. He prayed at the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem that all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do (2 Chronicles 6:33).

God’s desire has always been to live among his people. When Israel wandered in the wilderness, God told Moses, Have the people of Israel build me a holy sanctuary so I can live among them (Exodus 25:8).

When the Hebrews conquered the Promised Land and started living in houses, God approved David’s plan to build a house where God could live. It was called the Temple, and God filled it with his presence (2 Chronicles 6:1). For the next thousand years, a series of temples in Jerusalem were the focus of God living among his people.

Unfortunately, somewhere between Solomon and Jesus the Hebrews lost their understanding of what it meant to be God’s chosen people. They forgot God chose them as messengers to invite the whole world into his family. Instead, they began to believe God chose them to be the only members of his family. Instead of welcoming other nations, they scorned them.

So God started again, with Jesus. But this time membership in the family wasn’t by genes but by choice. The Bible says, Abraham’s physical descendants are not necessarily children of God. Only the children of the promise are considered to be Abraham’s children (Romans 9:8). “The children of the promise” are the church.

The church – all people, of Jewish or non-Jewish descent, who put their faith in Jesus – is now the family of God. And our loving Father has commanded us to bring as many people into the family as will accept the invitation. When we do that, we become the fulfillment of God’s desire to live among his people. Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16).  Where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them (Matthew 18:20).

God so longs to live among his people that when we die, God takes us to live with him until the end of time. And at the end of time, when everything is put the way God wants it, where will God live? With his people.

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.” –  Revelation 21:3

God is not looking for a place to live in. He has that in heaven. God is longing for a group of people to live with. God’s plan in creating human beings was that we would be his family. Fulfilling that plan is what the church is all about.

Like any father, God desires a home where he can rest and be himself. Like any father, God desires to raise up children who will be like him. And because God is the ultimate and infinite Father, God desires for his children to bring other people to become part of God’s family – ideally, every other person in the world!

These three desires of God show us the three purposes of the church.

First, the church exists to create a loving family home where God can rest and be himself. Arise, O Lord God, and enter your resting place (2 Chronicles 6:41). The way we do this is traditionally called worship.

Second, the church exists to raise God’s children to be like their heavenly father. Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children (Ephesians 5:1). The way we do this is traditionally called discipleship.

Third, the church exists to equip God’s children to bring other people into God’s family. Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). The way we do this is traditionally called evangelism.

Everything we do as a local church – in fact, everything we do as Christians – should contribute to fulfilling one or more of these three purposes. How does your church stack up? Top of Form

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The above is taken from the first chapter of Pastoring: The Nuts and Bolts, by David Wentz. A comprehensive, theologically and culturally neutral compendium of practical options and best practices for being a pastor and leading a church, Pastoring is being used in pastor training courses in Africa and Asia as well as the US. It is available in print or e-book at www.books2read.com/pastoring. Scripture verses are from the New Living Translation.

 

 


About guest blogger David Wentz: 

Serving as a pastor since 1981 has honed David’s passion for helping people connect with God and make a difference.

Add a varied church background, a first career in engineering, and graduate degrees from three very different seminaries (charismatic, mainstream and Wesleyan-evangelical) and you can see why he expresses God’s truth in ways everyone can appreciate.

Raised in the Episcopal church, David has also been part of Nazarene, Pentecostal Holiness, and non-denominational congregations. As a United Methodist pastor he has served small, large, and multi-cultural churches in rural, small town, suburban and urban settings. David served as a regional church consultant in the Maryland – D.C. area and has led workshops for pastors in Turkey. In 2015 he retired to the rural Ozarks, where he writes, works in God’s great outdoors, and continues to pastor part-time.

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In 1974, David married his college sweetheart, Paula. They have five children, all with wonderful spouses, and fourteen grandchildren.

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David earned a B.S. in Systems Engineering from the University of Virginia; two Masters of Divinity, one from Melodyland School of Theology and one from Wesley Theological Seminary; and a Doctor of Ministry in Christian Leadership from Asbury Theological Seminary.

In his spare time David enjoys playing sax and flute in jazz and blues jams (though those are hard to come by in bluegrass country), and writing worship music with his guitar.

His heroes are John Wesley, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr. (And for you old baseball fans, Brooks Robinson.)


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If My People Will . . . Seek My Face and Turn from Their Wicked Ways . . .

Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Praying Woman With BibleOur first response to this Scripture may be yes, there are so many people out there doing wicked things. They need to repent. But wait a minute. God is speaking to his people called by his name. Christians. The Church. He’s speaking to us.

If we want God to heal our country, we, the Church in America, need to seek God’s face and turn from our wicked ways.

Seek God’s face? Don’t we do that? Sometimes. But how often do we . . .

  • Focus on what we want to accomplish for God instead of on what He is calling us to do
  • Want our timetable instead of God’s
  • Limit ourselves by depending on our own strength or talents or abilities instead of His

But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides. (Matthew 6:33 AMP)

Turn from our wicked ways. Repent. Our first thought here may fly to Christian leaders who have fallen. Yes, that’s an all too real part of the American Church’s failure. But there is so much more. . . . We don’t have to look far to find sin at every level of the Church. That’s part of seeking God. We need to continually ask Him to reveal our failings. Make this scripture your prayer:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. (Psalm 139:23-24)

Here are just a few things to consider. As you read through this list, ask God to show you these or other sins within your life. Within your church. Within your ministry.

  • Focusing more on entertainment than true worship
  • Letting tradition, rather than God’s Word, be our primary guide
  • Depending on ritual rather than the blood of Christ for our salvation
  • Being shaped by the world’s standards instead of God’s
  • Preaching popular themes instead of the uncompromised Word of God from the pulpit
  • Competing with other ministries instead of each fulfilling God’s call for us and supporting others in their call
  • Making the latest equipment and beautiful facilities more important than reaching out to the lost and hurting
  • Failing to carry out Jesus’ Great Commission

What do people see when they look at people in the Church? Gossip? Self-righteousness? More focused on being blessed than on blessing others? Do they see strife and power plays? Worldly lifestyles? Here’s the kind of behavior they should see:

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. (Philippians 2:1-5)

 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (Words of Jesus in Matthew 5:14-16)

My grandson Chris recently wrote a blog post presenting some challenging thoughts on this topic. I hope you’ll take a moment to read it. He titled it “Real.”

Jesus taught that we should not only love our Christian brothers and sisters . . . we should love our enemies. We should love those who don’t agree with us–even those who treat us badly.

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)

God’s Promise

Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Are we ready to face the truth within ourselves? Our ministries? Our church?

Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

If My People . . .

As we look at today’s America, sometimes it’s almost impossible to recognize the country we once knew so well. Contrary to what many would have us believe, we were founded on Christian principles. Today some would call those of us living by those principles terrorists. Instead of living by God’s standards of right and wrong, people are encouraged to do their own thing. Decide for themselves what’s right for them. Our Constitution is considered outdated. Courts are ruling against Christians who make a stand for their within their own businesses. Marriage has been redefined. And on and on . . .

So what can we as Christians do? It’s easy to point fingers. At the politicians. At the ones condemning us for our faith. But God tells us to look inward first.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

“If my people.”

So who are God’s people? He was speaking to the Israelites, his chosen people. But as followers of Christ, we have been grafted in to that special group so we have become part of “my people.” We are called by his name.

And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree. (Romans 11:17)

So the Church is part of “my people.” The Church in America and each of us as individual members of that Church need to stop pointing fingers at others and start taking responsibility. God says if we will humble ourselves, seek him, repent, and turn from our wicked ways. Then he will hear us and forgive us. Then . . . and only then . . . can our land be healed.

Does that mean that we shouldn’t take a stand in the government? Put our faith into action to change things? Of course not. But getting ourselves as a body and as individuals right with God has to come first. As we do that, he will help each of us discover how we fit into his plan and he will help us follow that path. His way. His time. His strength.

In the next few blog posts, we will look at various parts of God’s command in 2 Chronicles 7:14. We quote that verse often but do we really seriously consider how those words apply to us?

Kneeling Before The CrossGod is calling us to humble ourselves. Webster’s defines humble as “not proud or haughty; not arrogant or assertive; reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission.”

How often do we forge ahead with our own plans . . . instead of seeking God and submitting to his? How often do we try things on our own and turn to him only when we have failed? And how often in working with other people do we think our way is best, maybe the only way?

What does the Bible say about being humble? Here are just a few of it’s many teachings about humility . . .

He leads the humble in doing right, teaching them his way. (Psalm 25:9)

In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you, dress yourselves in humility as you relate to one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. (1 Peter 5:5-6)

Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2)

And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)

 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor. (James 4:10)

“But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:12)

 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. (Ephesians 4:2-3)

Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)

I encourage you to meditate on each of these scriptures, asking God to show you any areas in your life where you are failing to show humility. And reflect on ministries where you are involved. Are you as the Church walking and serving and leading in humility?

Jesus is the ultimate example of walking in humility. Here he was, God himself, walking on earth. Just coming from heaven to earth demonstrated more humility than we can even comprehend. And then walking on earth, facing the challenges of daily living along with constant ridicule and doubt and plots against him. Then our Lord was deserted by those closest to him, viciously attacked verbally and physically by the religious leaders as well as the Romans, and ultimately crucified. He chose to suffer all this because of his love for us. A depth of humility beyond our understanding.

Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—riding on a donkey’s colt. (Zechariah 9:9)

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Jesus’ words in Mark 10:45)

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)

And yet so often we walk in pride. Grumbling and complaining when when things don’t go our way, flaring an attitude of entitlement. Thinking we know better than anyone else . . . even our Father.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves . . .”