What is the Church?

Church. We know what it is right. We have been around, to, and in church. “Here is the steeple; Open the doors and see all the people.” We know how it goes.

Yet despite our great familiarity with the church, few of us can sit down and easily rattle off a definition of the church. We go to church; we may even work for a church, but we do not know what a local church is. We cannot confidently say this is church and that is not. And we need to be able to.

As Jonathan Leeman notes,

To claim interest in Christian fellowship or even in the church while paying little heed to church structures is like claiming to love family while paying no heed to the differences between parent and child or husband and wife.

The answer to the question, “What is a local Church?” is of monumental importance.

The Scriptures teach that,

“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph 5.25b-27).

Christ died for the Church. Christ came to call a people to himself who join together to worship God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. And if we hope to be with Christ in heaven we need to be with his church today.

So what is the true local church?

Does our college student have the freedom to exchange her local church for the solid BCM or Campus Crusade ministry on campus? Both preach the Word and have worship? Can we do church in our small group apart from the larger congregation? Is the ordinance observing church that preaches all roads lead to heaven a church? Does our small group have the right to excommunicate Steve from church if he refuses to stop embezzling money from work? Is church defined by size or by doctrine of by both? What is church?

I will answer this question over the next several weeks. I invite all those who live in the greater Amissville, Warrenton, and Culpeper, Virginia area to join the congregation of Amissville Baptist Church’s first seminar Bible study at 7PM. We will be discussing everything from preaching to baptism, to elders, seeing God’s plan for his people, his bride: the church.

If you cannot join us or if you want to keep studying in between lessons, I encourage you to follow along with us here at witkowskiblog.com.

And now to the definition: What is the local Church:

The local church is the spiritual, physical, and spatial assembling of God’s universal Church which consists of those who have and, will be, redeemed through Christ’s blood by the Holy Spirit according to the will of the Father. Initiated at Pentecost, The local church consists of baptized believers who have covenanted together to regularly assemble for the purpose of preaching and obeying the Word, worshiping God, administering the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, maintaining the purity of the church, and evangelizing the lost (Heb. 10:25; Mt. 28:18). The local church is led by elders, served by deacons, and ruled by the members.

We will spend the next 8 weeks unpacking our definition, by spending a week on each of the following topics:

  1. Physical, regenerate church membership
  2. The content and worship of true churches
  3. Baptism
  4. The Lord’s Supper
  5. Purity and Discipline
  6. Elders
  7. Deacons
  8. Congregational Rule

This-is-church-101

I hope to see you next Wednesday night at 7PM if not before.

Should We Excommunicate The Kids?

excommunicate blogChurch discipline is making a comeback. And it should be! For a church to be a church it must affirm the purity of the gospel and the purity of the the God’s people. God is holy. All those who truly love him, will seek to purify themselves. And when a man or woman continues in sin and refuses to repent after being approach by two or three witness, the sinner should be brought before the church. Hopefully at some point during the discipline process, the man or women will repent. But If no repentance ensues, the sinner must be kicked out of the church and treated as an unbeliever. Such are the commands found in Mathew 18: 15-17.

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

But should we make our kids walk through church discipline? In the Old Testament, parents could take their unrepentant and disrespectful kids to the elders and have them stoned. Can we and should we take our kids before the church and have them excommunicated? The easy answer is, it depends.

Um…No

In some cases, the answer is a flat out no. If the child is not a member of the church, then we do not discipline them. All children come into the world with a sin nature. All kids are sinners and all act like sinners. If they have not repented and accepted Jesus, we cannot expect them to respond to God’s divine means of repentance and restoration. Expecting church discipline to bring an unbeliever to repentance would be like expecting a soccer team to thrive in the NFL. It’s not going to go well. They play by different rules.

For this reason and others, some churches are very slow to admit children into membership. Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C. will only baptize people who are 18 or older. And while I do not think we have to make 18 a special benchmark age, our churches should be slow and methodical when considering children for baptism and church membership.  If a kid is not a believer and not a member of a church, they are not subject to church discipline. Yes, we should pray with them and for them. We should counsel them with the word (evangelize them). But we should not discipline them in front of the church.

Why…Yes

In other cases, the answer is a resounding yes! If a child or a youth has made a credible profession of faith, has been baptized, and has been admitted into the church as a member, then he can be disciplined. If the child refuses to repent of lying, slander, sexual immorality, or any other sin, then their parents should practice church discipline. Their parents should involve the church, bringing a trusted friend or pastor into the situation. Lord willing, the child will respond well and repent. But if he does not, the child should be taken before the church. And if that still does not drive the child to his knees, he should be excommunicated.

Final Thoughts

In short, we should not hastily kick our kids out of the church. But if we are going to have biblical, healthy churches, we must be willing to excommunicate those who refuse to repent even our kids and teenagers. As 1 Corinthians 5:11 says,

But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.

Because church discipline is such a monumental and necessary thing and because following Christ is no easy accomplishment, we must not hastily rush kids down the aisle, baptize them, and admit them into membership. We must make sure our kids understand what they are doing. The church is no country club. And if we do enroll a child, we must be willing to discipline him. Are you ready to excommunicate the kids?