Reality-based TV shows have become popular in recent years. They reveal an inner desire in people to connect with something perhaps a little more realistic than a Hollywood-scripted version of reality. And this is also reflected in a parallel movement in Christianity where many people no longer view the traditional or institutional church as reflecting the true reality of who Jesus Christ is. The scripted version is just not Jesus; it doesn’t represent what He is really like. The Jesus of the Bible put a lot of stock in people facing reality and not avoiding it.
The Kingdom of God is the reality of God, it’s how the King sees things and how it’s always supposed to have been. His Church is supposed to be the prime expression and witness of His Kingdom Reality on the earth – a reality Church. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8), He never changes, so why doesn’t His Church shine with the glory it had at the beginning? What happened? And how will we see the return of the glory of Jesus Christ in His Church?
He wants a reality Church – Churches which reveal the reality of who He is. Let’s look together in His Word about what He has to say about how He wants His Church to be and how He wants us to live.
I appeal solely to the Scriptures as the basis for everything written here. Writing a book only has any value if it points people to Jesus and to the Word of God, for all the Scriptures point to Him. In this sense, then, I present this book without any claims or pretensions: if it has any value at all it is only to the degree it helps and equips people to understand and obey the Scriptures. This book doesn’t claim to be any definitive guidebook or handbook of how to do church, but simply points to what the Scriptures say about this and related issues of the Christian life. It is a compilation of articles I‘ve written on my website IanVincent.Com and on my daily blog over many years. Many of the messages are close transcriptions of what I preached and taught spontaneously over many years in central India. Various subjects are touched upon, some briefly and some in depth and it’s in no particular order. I’m not trying to present a structured or systematic treatise as that is not my gift. The central theme and the common thread here is the glory of Jesus and His glory in His people, and His people are His Body, His Bride and His Church. This glory of Jesus is the reality we must seek in our lives and for the Church, so that it is indeed a reality Church.
We want to have eternal glory and not the transient glory of this world, or the fading glory of man and his kingdoms, traditions, ideologies, fads, philosophies and pursuits, which are even now vanishing away like the morning mist: these are all passing away and will be forgotten forever, but Jesus Christ and His Words will remain forever and shall never pass away (Matt. 24:35).
Consider the words of the martyr Jim Elliott:
The pivot point hangs on whether or not God has revealed a universal pattern for the Church in the New Testament. If He has not, then anything will do so long as it works. But I am convinced that nothing so dear to the heart of Christ as His Bride should be left without explicit instructions as to her corporate conduct. I am further convinced thatthe 20th century has in no way simulated this pattern in its method of ‘churching’ a community… …It is incumbent upon me, if God has a pattern for the Church, to find and establish that pattern at all costs.
God indeed has a pattern for His Church. This is the very reason He ordained twelve Apostles to establish that pattern for all the Church age, and we have this pattern in our hands in the form of the New Testament.
An essential key all professing Christians need to have and acknowledge as a starting point is that the church system does not have its origins in the Bible: it is not what the Apostles established, but it was the result of men abandoning the instructions, commands, example and traditions of the Apostles and thus drifting away from Scripture as the authority and basis for understanding what the Church is and how she is supposed to function. The way many people approach the subject of The Church is as if God left it wide open for man to interpret the NT anyway he wants and do whatever he wants just so long as “it works”. Such a line of thinking would not have cut it with Paul and he would probably have called such men apostate (1 Cor. 14:37). All we can do is point people to this pattern of God revealed in the NT and help them to see it in the same Bible they have in their hands. Once you see it in the Word then the Word becomes your authority, and then you can throw this book in the trash if you want to! If you could go back in time and meet Paul the Apostle he would tell you that there is a very definite way Church is supposed to be (his letters tell us that) and it is commanded by the Lord.
Not just a way to do church but a way to live, for to the disciple of Christ these are inseparable: the way you live is the way you function as the Church. Later on, other patterns emerged where the life a person lived, and the Church, became separated into two different things, but not so in the original pattern. So, therefore, as it is a matter of a particular kind of life and quality of life which people possess and live-out that determines the pattern for the Church, then we want to address the issues which concern the true Christian life and then relate them to how we should gather as the Church, rather than simply give mechanical directions of how to do church. And this is also the pattern we see in Paul: he is mostly concerned they know the Lord, and then doing church should be the natural fruit of that true relationship to Jesus Christ. Out of all of Paul’s epistles only one chapter is about how to conduct meetings: 1 Cor. 14. So this book looks at many of the heart issues which disciples of Jesus will need to come to terms with, particularly in these closing years of history as Christendom continues to fall away from the truth.
In a nutshell, a reality Church is that every one of Jesus disciples grows to really know and obey Him, and then when these disciples come together as equals and function as the Church then Jesus glory is revealed in and thru the Church to the world. As the Lord Jesus came down from heaven to reveal and glorify His Father, so has He sent us into the world to reveal and glorify Him (John 20:21). When we believe and obey His words then we glorify Him and He is glorified in His people, but when His people depart from the New Testament and the commands of the Lord Jesus and His Apostles then they bring dishonor to the Lord Jesus and His glory is concealed from men. When men glorify themselves and other mere men, and disobey the commandments and example of the Apostles then the glory of Jesus is obscured from men. The glory of Jesus is not an abstract concept, it is a very real glory, and it is seen and manifest in and around His holy disciples who come together as one Church and one people in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:44-47, 5:13-14). The glory of Jesus is His love and truth, goodness, holiness, power, grace, mercy and righteousness manifest in His people by the indwelling Holy Spirit and the engrafted Word of God. It is such a glory corporately in the New Testament churches that the world can see and know that Jesus is truly Lord and Savior (John 17:21, 23).
He came to me and saved me on January 15th 1987. I saw His glory; I saw the infinite, dazzling heavenly glory of Jesus and then yielded my heart and life to Him immediately (My testimony is at the end of the book). What else could I do? Since then my passion has been to see His glory restored to His Church, which is His people, as it was in the days before His glory was exchanged for the empty glory of man. My prayer is that thru the Word of God you shall see by faith the risen LORD of Glory: Jesus of Nazareth, and yield your life to Him. And for those who love Him, that thru faith and obedience to the Word of God you will come to love Him more and understand His ways and purposes more, and come to love and obey His Truth more, and beholding The glory of Jesus be … changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:18).
It needs to be noted that some will object to us asserting the NT pattern as the way it’s always supposed to have been, and assume we are taking a judgmental stance against those who don’t follow the NT pattern. No, that would be a silly rationale. Of course, we mark false prophets and false teachers (Rom. 16:17) but we don’t judge sincere Christians who do not yet follow the NT pattern for the Church. Should we cease teaching what the NT teaches just because there is a risk of offending those who don’t agree? That would be a ridiculous position. Also, the accusation that to teach there is a way it’s supposed to be means we are being prideful and elitist; that’s another silly assumption. And the response, Well, that’s only your opinion! Well… what do you do with that? You say that if they can’t intelligently articulate their objection from the Scriptures, then the retort, That’s only your opinion, is, ironically, just that. It’s just their opinion.
This material is copyright Ian Vincent and used by permission. Check out Ian’s blog here.