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      Nurturing people in the image of God since 1868.                                                                          POB 397/520 Dry Creek Rd./Smithville, TN

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What’s A Church To Do?

There's a story about a small boy who sat with his mother in church, listening to a sermon titled, "What Is A Christian?" The preacher punctuated his sermon at several key intervals with the question, "What is a Christian?" Each time, he pounded his fist on the pulpit for emphasis. At one point the lad whispered to his mom, "Mama, do you know what a Christian is?" She assured that she did and replied softly, "Now try to sit still and listen." As the preacher moved toward the conclusion of his sermon, once again he thundered the question, "What is a Christian?" and pounded especially hard on the pulpit. At this point the wide-eyed little boy yelled out loud, "Tell him, Mama, tell him!" That little story prompts another question — "What is a church, and what's a church supposed to do?" A glance around at the church world in general would confuse just about anybody. Churches are all over the map as regards programs, projects, philosophies, practices, and preaching. Some churches are "stuck in a rut" and not doing much more than, as preachers of past generations often put it, "keeping house for the Lord." More concerned about the budget or the building or about "getting out on time" than seeking to preach the Gospel to people in their community and beyond. Other churches are busier than a centipede at a shoe-tying contest, but not really busy with the Lord's business. Busy with things like faddish faith and trendy worship where music is in and meditation is out. Busy with celebration but not much into consecration. The main concern in many churches seems to center more on convenience than on the cross. Much that is passed off as worship these days is more aimed at entertaining people than at evangelizing them and presenting the Gospel to those who show up for the service. What's a church really supposed to do?

Words from Matthew 4:23 remind us what the church's Lord and Founder, Jesus Christ was about. As Jesus launched His public ministry, Matthew reports, "Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people." Embedded in that verse are three words that provide a guide for what the church is supposed to do: "teaching .preaching ... healing." That's what the church ought to do. The church is designed to function as the body of Christ, and as such she ought to be doing the work Christ Himself did while He was in this world. Even a surface reading of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John leave zero doubt about the nature of His work on earth. Jesus constantly encountered individuals and crowds, rich and poor, religious and non-religious, Jews and Gentiles. He fed the hungry, gave sight to blind eyes, healed paralyzed limbs, cured diseases, cast out demons, and even raised dead bodies back to life. He constantly practiced a ministry of compassion that demonstrated mercy. And always, always, He was preaching and teaching the gospel of God's kingdom and what God required people to do to get into it. He sought to minister to and heal the needs of people's bodies and their souls. He was not content to do one and ignore the other. Teaching and preaching the gospel, and healing — these were the priorities Jesus jealously maintained. That's what the church that wears His name ought to be doing. Is that what we are doing?

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ