And through the church the manifold wisdom of God is made known (Ephesians 3:10)
The church is distinct from any institution or organization by reason of its origin, mission, and authority. Its origin is Divine; its mission is salvation; and its authority is the Gospel and the Holy Spirit. While the church may work in concert with other agencies within the sectors of government, education, commerce, science, and even the home, its work as the representative of Divine interests and purposes make it peculiar unto itself. Its strength does not rest in social programs that emulate other agencies or organizations. That is, the church is not a benevolence agency, a public school, a medical facility, an entertainment program, nor a recreational outlet. While the church may contribute principles and precepts that influence the ethical and moral character of such agencies and organizations, the church is not called to emulate their functions. Rather, the church can set the standards for their functions. The distinction of the church rests in its authority to provide services that cannot be emulated through any other agency or organization. For example, only the church has the privilege of prayer, Spirit baptism, and revelation knowledge. Only the church has authority in the realm of the spirit world and authority over demons. Only the church can offer forgiveness of sins and deliverance from evil forces. Only the church can cancel the consequences of original sin and human failure and grant true redemption through the authority of Jesus Christ. Only the church can provide the sacraments of holy communion and water baptism. Only the church can mediate the benefits and privileges of spiritual regeneration (born again). And only the church can impart principles, concepts, and even models of righteousness to society that may be implemented in laws, organizations, institutions, policies, programs, and practices. Therefore, the power and force of the church rest in its dedication to this work.
The battleground of the church will always be theological. Theology is the science of faith and represents the efforts of the church to interpret Biblical truths and translate them into principles, precepts, and practices. And because faith has tremendous influence upon attitude, behavior, and outlook, historically, the beliefs and convictions of the church have either motivated or impaired its mission. For example, its belief in reconciliation and inclusion sparked the development of councils, organizations, and laws to eliminate discrimination and exploitation of humanity in every sector of society. Its emphasis on faith and prosperity motivated countries and nations to improve their own economic status. Its teachings on the love of God provoked tolerance and consideration of cultural and ethnic differences in a world that is extremely sectarian, nationalistic, and prejudice. But its belief in the subjection of women to men as a matter of creational order put women at risk for abuse in the church, home, and market place. And its preoccupation with heaven and an escape mentality at the expense of earthly stewardship generated a dangerous pessimism among Christian leaders in areas of government. That is, its belief in a literal annihilation of this planet and the moral and ethical decline of this world as a fruit of the judgment of God, generated a spiritual climate that dismissed the kind of thinking necessary to transform this planet through the areas of government, education, science, commerce, media, and even the family. Consequently, reformation movements have been a consistent spiritual diet demonstrating the need of the church to be reminded of its essential beliefs, privileges, and responsibilities. While its foundational principles are timeless and endure throughout every generation, the strategies for implementation have been adaptable and vary according to the demands and conditions of the environment.
Before His ascension and while still in this world, the Lord prayed a most interesting prayer for the disciples and those who should believe on Him because of their message. He acknowledged that they are in the world but not of the world; that they not be taken from the world but that they be kept from the evil (John 17). There are some interesting prepositions such as “in,” “out,” and “not of.” It is interesting to note that while they are physically in the world they are not conditioned by its influences. And they are sent into the world to declare a message of redemption. The church is in the world but not of the world. It is not a commercial business and cannot be evaluated by the same statistical methods used to determine the effectiveness of secular organizations (the conspiracy of the statistical movement and the use of opinion polls to evaluate the effectiveness and relevance of the church will be discussed). Productivity, efficiency, and excellence are no substitute for character. Trust, honesty, fairness, patience, and integrity are not to be dismissed for the sake of growth and expansion of a ministry. The church is not an emulator of culture but is a representative and an architect of Divine consciousness. Therefore, it must proclaim and demonstrate the righteousness of the kingdom that it represents. It must declare a Holy God, a vicarious Savior, a comprehensive gospel, and it must demonstrate the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. Such a mission does not always generate popularity in the public opinion polls.