I truly enjoy ice cream, pizza, diet Dr. Pepper and kettle potato chips. I would like to eat my fill of these every day. However, I am told that this is not a good meal plan. I need some meats, fruits, and vegetables. I must limit my consumption of fats, carbohydrates, and sugars. And I need to get exercise both of my body and my mind. I need to also sleep well. Balance and moderation are called for, if I am to have a healthy body.
The Apostle Paul liked to compare the church to a human body. Each of us is like an organ of the body. We have a function to perform. The health of the church is dependent upon each of us playing our role. While some roles are not prominent, all are important. He declared that the healthy church, like the healthy body is one where the members put the health of the church before their own interests, where relationships are informed by the Golden Rule, where each one rejoices in the work of the others.
The church has several basic functions it must perform to be the body of Christ. Essentially, it must recognize that Christ is the head of the church and that the church must focus upon doing his will in the place where the church serves. Here is a list of the basic functions:
*Worship. The church must praise God in public worship, regularly. The minds, hearts and wills of the members must be involved. The five senses–hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling and feeling should be impacted. God is glorified. We are reminded of our dependence on and our submission to him.
*Witness. The good news of the Gospel must be proclaimed and persons invited to commit to becoming a part of the body–using their gifts and graces for its health.
*Disciple. The church must provide opportunity and resources for its members to grow spiritually, coming to understand and commit to the teachings, worldview, and lifestyle of Scripture. Mentoring the new by the experienced believers is a task of the churches.
*Minister. We need to care for one another. Paramount for us should be considering how we can practice the Golden Rule in our everyday relationships. This is counter-culture. Culture teaches us to put ourselves first. Not so, followers of Jesus. This calls for us to be sensitive and responsive to the material and spiritual needs of others. When we are practicing the Golden Rule we are ministering to others and they are ministering to us. Imagine what things would be like if most of us were living like this. Joy would abound. Suffering would be checked.
*Mission. We are to be Great Commission folk. Jesus told those assembled for his assent back to the father to practice these first four functions as they moved about. In recent centuries we have become more intentional about moving about and sharing the Gospel by appointing and supporting missionaries. Nearly 30 have gone from Pickens County with the support of our churches to other nations as career missionaries. And many others have gone on short-term mission trips.
Let me note that the primary function of the Pickens Baptist Association is to undergird the work of the 34 affiliated churches in performing these five tasks and addressing more directly the missionary task in the territory where the association and its churches serve. In recent years this has been primarily at the Aliceville FCI. Through these efforts nearly 500 inmates have made professions of faith, more than 100 baptized, and more than 1,000 ministered to and discipled through Rubies for Life, Samford Ministry Training Institute, meals for staff, Kairos and other efforts.
Three Protestant churches started by the association there have been started within the walls. And these churches are performing these five tasks well and being blessed of God. Women are leaving the prison with a testimony about being saved and/or restored here. Many of them are returning to other nations and serving there as volunteer missionaries.
In addition to these five tasks, the Apostle Paul identifies four marks of a good church–unity, purity, mutual submission and spiritual warfare. But this will be the subject of another column. How is your church doing in regard to these tasks and marks? How are you contributing? How might the PBA help your church? If you have not, it is because you ask not.