STOVER: Have churches forgotten who they are?

Published 4:39 pm Saturday, August 19, 2017

By Larry Stover | Stover lives in Valley Grande and is pastor at Praise Park Ministries Church of the Nazarene.

Sometimes I wonder if the church in America has forgotten who they are. I grew up in the church just like many of you. I got baptized and joined the church. In the mainstream of modern Christianity, I would consider myself to be a conservative evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition.

Christians today have gone through a variety of means to become justified in the sight of God. Some can look back to an experience that permanently justified them in the sight of God. My grandmother went through “Confirmation Class” as a young teen, and stood before her church in a ceremony that justified her in the sight of God.  Some have told me of their baptism as an infant that prepared them spiritually for eternity. Still others point to baptism, church membership, emphasis on a particular spiritual gift, or even shaking their pastor’s hand as the seal of their relationship with Jesus Christ.

Along this journey as a Christian, I wonder if we have really forgotten who we are. Ephesians chapter six describes us as the “Bride of Christ.” That’s a powerful metaphor.
Can you picture the Bride on her wedding day?  She is beautiful; her gown is exquisite; every hair is perfect. She is smiling, radiant and walking on air. Her wedding day is one she has dreamed of her whole life.

Her husband deeply loves and cherishes her. He can’t resist her. She is about to become the most important person in his life. His heart is racing in anticipation on this day.

This is a picture of Christ and his church.  Christians are his bride. He loves every one of us intensely. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians describes this church as being glorious, radiant, without any stain or wrinkle. There are no blemishes in his church but reflect the holiness and blamelessness of the groom.

What has happened to the modern church in America? For the most part, the Christian church does not fit the description from Ephesians 6.

It reminds me a story I heard about a college student. The final exam required the completion of a certain book. He worked very hard completing the task.

A week later, the professor responded that “the bibliography was excellent, research was outstanding, but your grade is an “F” for completing the wrong assignment.”

This is a great parallel to the church. We have nice looking buildings, wonderful people, superb music and awesome activities but we too get an “F” for completing the wrong assignment.

We have forgot who we are supposed to be because we are too busy doing the wrong things. Our calendars are full of wonderful meetings and activities, but we fall short when it comes to fulfilling our role as the “Bride of Christ.”

The church has become the “end rather than the means to the end.”

We have become a “subculture” rather than a “counter-culture” movement. The church has become a group of nice people doing their own thing with little or no impact on their communities at all.

Even the church at Ephesus developed similar problems as the church of today. We find in the Book of Revelation, chapter two, a letter to the church at Ephesus.

We read in that letter, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”

This same church that at one time was blessed with the description as “The Bride of Christ,” had settled into a complacency, which included the judgment of God if they failed to restore their relationship with him as the Bride of Christ.

The Bible calls us to reflect Jesus Christ every day of our lives. People around us desperately need to see the church as the “Bride” and not as someone who last lost their love of Jesus Christ.

With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can rise up and be that glorious and radiant church reflecting the holiness and blamelessness of the Lord. Seeing a holy church in 2017 without any stain or blemish in the sight of God would be “Simply Beautiful.”