Monday, April 6, 2009

The Church Destroyed

In Jeremiah 1:9-10, the Lord says to His prophet, "I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant." Almost every congregation that I know of is connected in some way with a church planting group. Much is said about building and planting. Strange though ... I have never heard discussion of uprooting, tearing down, destroying or overthrowing existing congregations.

Some might suggest that God is not referring to the church, yet in v. 18 of that text God says to Jeremiah, "I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land--against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land." Jeremiah was being sent with the word of the Lord against God's own people!

At this point, surely someone will scoff and suggest that this is all Old Testament and does not apply to a New Testament people ... that the church's purpose is to build and plant, not to destroy. But is that the truth? A good portion of my life has been spent watching Indiana farmers plant and harvest their crops. Every season - before the first seed is planted - the plows and discs begin tearing up the ground in preparation for the seeds. Jeremiah was being sent to do the very same thing.

Perhaps we should listen to an expert in the field. Jesus said, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful" (John 15:1-2). Many in church leadership today believe that we must do everything in our power to bring people in. Surely that is a noble sentiment, but before we can bring people in we must - in some situations - get people out!

Have you ever wondered why so many congregations seem to have a revolving door of visitors, yet little actual growth? Perhaps because the friendship and invitations of some are being sabotaged by the surliness and ignorance of others. In many churches ministers come and go, yet the people and their leaders remain. Heads are scratched ... "Why aren't we growing?" Because growth is effected by the field in which the seed is planted (Luke 8:4-15).

When the question of building and planting is raised, too often the responses are of human design. "Let's start this program ... Let's build something ... Let's make some changes to our worship services." God knows the truth though. He has revealed to us the truth. "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 6 And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete" (2 Corinthians 10:3-6).

We are in a war, of that there is no doubt. The decision is of how to fight the war. Should we lower the standards of Christ to compete with the standards of the world? When the authority of opinion supercedes the authority of God's word, walls have been raised that must come down. The religious world today cries out for tolerance for conflicting beliefs. The apostle believes that fighting a war in hostile territory is hard enough without unsanctioned orders from imposters spreading confusion within the ranks. Such imposters must be rooted out and exposed, because they do nothing but weaken the body from within.

In Jeremiah's day, God's people were accused of committing two sins, "They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water" (Jeremiah 2:13). Have we in the church today replaced the springs of living water with our own brand of bottled water? Have we created for ourselves wells which cannot hold water, because they have been built only by human means?

Those who have called themselves the people of God have tried this in every generation ... and failed in every generation. "Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you. 13 But you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception. Because you have depended on your own strength and on your many warriors, 14 the roar of battle will rise against your people, so that all your fortresses will be devastated" (Hosea 10:12-14).

If we truly desire church growth - if we want to see congregations planted and built up - it must begin with the destruction of self and self-made things. "Break up your unplowed ground." Remove those obstacles - be they programs or people - which are a hindrance to the spiritual growth of Christ's body.

1 comment:

  1. Bill Dinwiddie4:42 PM EDT

    Please note the warnings to five churches in Revelation. Please note warnings to particular people in churches by John and Paul.

    If people think that the Father of the Groom is going to sit around and turn His head, they do not realize that the Father has chosen the bride for His Son. They do not realize that the Son Himself gave Himself up for her that she might be blameless and spottless at His coming. If anyone thinks that man is free to do with the Lord's bride as he wishes, he had better wake up.


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