Shifting The Church’s Foundation

Flimsy Foundation
My wife and I have seven children (so far). The oldest is 9. The youngest is 4 months. Nope, no twins. We’re not trying to set a world record. We don’t want our own reality TV show. We just seem to be particularly fruitful in this area.

As we teach our children about the Bible it’s delightful to see them grow in their understanding of who God is. I enjoy seeing them get the bigger picture. It makes me laugh when our kids realize they can answer many questions by blurting out “God” or “Jesus.”

This practice is not restricted to children. It is a mark of spiritual immaturity. It is often praised for its simplicity and child-like faith. However, children are supposed to grow. So are we.

If I were to ask you, “What is the foundation of the church?” what would you say? Would you blurt out “Jesus!” without thinking? If so, you’d be close.

But you’d be wrong.

Before you burn me as a heretic look what God’s Word says about the foundation of the church:

having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:20-22)

Jesus is the cornerstone. He is not the entire foundation. According to His design the foundation includes the apostles and prophets, too. That’s what the Word says.

Jesus taught the wisdom of building on a strong foundation and the foolishness of trusting a superficial one.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell–and great was its fall.” (Matthew 7:24-27)

What is the firm foundation? Jesus tells us plainly that it is hearing and acting upon His words. God’s word is a strong, trustworthy foundation.

The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.
(Isaiah 40:8)

I want to take this seriously. Do you?

Many people I know would answer this question with a quick, “Yes!” Sadly, when we examine the foundation of the predominant modern church model we see a foundation that is absent in Scripture. It is built instead on a worldly foundation.

It is not enough to say that our church model is built on the idea that Jesus is the Christ. We must build on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Himself as the cornerstone. Our forms and practices must take root in the apostolic teaching. It is more than the simple profession of faith that Jesus is Lord and Savior. That’s the corner stone. Not the whole foundation.

The New Testament teaches that the church is closely related to the family. I often tell people I learned more about the Bible by becoming a father than I did going to seminary. The longer I’m a dad the more I believe this to be true.

God reveals Himself as our Father. He sends His Son for our redemption. When we believe He adopts us into His family. He gives us an inheritance in the kingdom of His beloved Son. We become His inheritance. We are members of the household of faith.

All family related imagery.

Many qualifications for elders are tied to their family. Qualifications include:

  • Being a one-woman man (the most literal translation);
  • Opening his home (hospitable);
  • Managing his own household well;
  • Keeping his children under control with all dignity.

The apostle Paul explicitly states:

but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God? (1 Timothy 3:5)

Paul expects that the answer is, “he can’t.”

Jesus and the New Testament emphasize that the church is designed to be modeled on the family. I look all around and see the church being modeled on successful businesses. I see pragmatism and capitalism influencing our structures and practices more than the family.

Where are the passages that say leaders should be successful in business? Where are the texts that tell us leaders need degrees from accredited institutions of higher learning? Where are the passages that say we should divide everyone up into age-appropriate and life-situation appropriate programs?

Can you find them?

I can’t.

The business model is superficial. It is shallow. It will lead to ruin in the long run.

Pragmatism makes sense because it’s easier. But most things worth doing aren’t easy.

Look around. We see countless programs. We see the body segmented into special interest groups. We see CEO’s instead of Pastors. In the short-term it seems to be the only successful way to build a church.

Are you single? You go over there. Married? Over here. You like to ride a motorcycle? That way please. You been divorced? Over there. Kids? We have separate rooms for each of you.

Is this what we should see? Is this how our individual households and families are supposed to operate?

Look into your New Testament. Open it up and read it. Tell me if what you read about is what you see on every corner.

What do you think the Apostles would say about our current models?

My family is integrated in my home. We all eat at the same table. We value time together. Participating in life together allows for us all to mature together. It is valuable for each member to interact with all the rest. Sadly, many church programs are built to ensure that cross-contamination never happens. Or, at least it is few and far between.

Most families enter the church building and head in different directions. Each to their own place. Sadly, this is becoming more and more a reality in their homes, too. The family is becoming more fragmented. Screens and activities demand our attention. We live to be entertained. Many homes are enslaved to busyness.

It doesn’t surprise me that the world attempts to pull families in this direction. What breaks my heart is that our local churches seem to be leading the charge.

Tell me if you think I’m wrong. I hope I am.

I see local churches built on the foundation of successful business-models and pragmatism. Family life can be messy. Offering a different product to every age, gender, and interest group is cleaner. It’s easier.

While we build our “services” around entertaining the masses with Jesus-flavored entertainment we must be warned: rain is coming. It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when.

Build wisely.

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