Is church a dangerous place?
In the month of June 2013 I met a young couple who are IT professionals. They are blessed with a son who is about 8 years old. Both of them are committed Christians having their priorities right and have passion to live for our Lord and extend His Kingdom. They are members of a local church which has a very rich tradition of reaching out to unreached people. Of late, there were problems in the church. Alas, one Sunday morning the worship was conducted with police presence as there was rivalry and expectation of violence to break out. After the service, one angry member pours hot cup of coffee on another. There is lot of gossips. The eight year old boy is a passive witness of all that is happening. When they reach home they analyze the situation and the boy is hearing their conversations. The exasperated father said: “Is the church safe place for my child to grow?” I was shocked and did not know what to say.
Later, I thought about this. What is the biblical teaching about the Church? And I tried to find some answers.
Who founded the church?
The most important question, we have to ask is: Who is the Founder of the Church. The Scripture clearly teaches that Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross of Calvary, was buried and rose up again. The Bible states that the Church was purchased and redeemed by the Blood of Lord Jesus Christ. It was huge price to pay for the Son of God. If God has founded the Church, human beings or Satanic forces cannot extinguish the Church.
Divine or Human Institution
The Church is a divine organism and functions as the body of Christ in the world. The members of the church are all Fallen human beings, washed by his blood and are in the process of becoming saints. So, the church is not full of saints, rather sinners becoming saints. That demonstrated the power of the transformation of the church.
Timothy Keller writes in his book “Reason for God” writes: “The answer is not to abandon the Christian faith, because that would leave us with neither the standards nor the resources to make correction.” The Church has the capacity and apparatus to self-correct. This is amazing to note right through the history, the Church reformed and transformed itself.
Resources provided for the Church
How can the Church do a course correction? As human beings the leadership of the church is vulnerable to misjudgment, wrong decisions and going astray. These things could be just temporary as the course correction would soon happen.
- a. Word of God
The Word of God (Bible) has been given to humanity and especially to the Church to know the truth and walk in truth. In fact, the Bible could be described as Maker’s Manual. Social customs, economic pressure, political convenience and popular cultural trends could impact the vision and mission of the church. However, God speaks to the Church through the Scripture, admonishing the Church to make course correction.
The slave trade in UK was abolished because few evangelical Christians aroused the conscience of the nation and correct the blunder of slavery. In fact, it was a great economic loss for the British in doing that. “They agreed to compensate the planters for freed slaves, as astounding sum up to half of the British government’s annual budget. The Act of Emancipation passed in 1833, and the costs were so high to the British people that one historian called the British abolition of slavery ‘voluntary econocide’”. Such thing cannot happen without the Word of God and the Church obeying His Word.
- b. The Holy Spirit
The Spirit of God works in the hearts of men. The Holy Spirit was poured and the Church began in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. The Church is sanctified by the tireless work of the Holy Spirit. Until the Lord comes, the Holy Spirit would be relentlessly working for the growth and cleansing of the Church.
- c. The Prophets and Reformers
In every generation God raises prophets and reformers. The challenges of each generation would be different, and God raises his faithful witnesses in each generation. These men of God boldly proclaim the truth and call the Church to repentance. Many times, these prophets could be harmed and even killed. However, they do not count life more worthy than the truth they proclaim. Their message could not be silenced, even when the prophets are silenced by death penalty or martyrdom. The Protestant movement emerged in the shadows and valleys of death.
- d. Remnant
There is always a group of people who do not compromise under all situations. There may be widespread lack of faith and apostasy, but there would be a remnant. Prophet Elijah thought that he was the only one who was following the Lord. However, Lord reminded Elijah that there was a remnant who were faithful and did not compromise, and the number was seven thousand. (I King 19:18) Elijah as a leader in the nation was not connected or known to that seven thousand. God has faithful witnesses in each and every situation and in every generation.
God will not just ignore the lawlessness, inequities, rebellion, hypocrisy and disobedience. The children of Israel were punished, sometimes through the invasion of ruthless nations. “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (I Peter 4:17) “God will not spare individuals, families and organizations. “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)
- a. An individual judged: Eli (I Samuel 2)
Eli had the honour of serving the Lord as High Priest. Certainly, he had spiritual insights and discernment. Amazingly, he mentored Samuel to listen to the Lord. However, he failed as father to discipline his sons. Eli’s sons were notorious that they grabbed meat before it was sacrificed from pious and devout worshippers. They also involved in sexual immorality. Though he tried to reason with his sons, they did not listen. Ultimately, God judged his sons they died, Eli also died and his whole household was rejected from priesthood.
- b. Family judged: Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5)
In the Jerusalem church, young couple Ananias and Sapphira wanted to have reputation within the church as great ‘donors’. They pretended that they gave all the money they sold the land for. In fact, they had some money for their personal use and security. They dared to lie before the Holy Spirit and they were judged. Both died instantly, within few hours. That is a warning that God does not overlook sins and punishment is imminent if not immediate.
- c. An institution judged: Cleansing of temple (Mark 11:15-19)
During the ministry of Lord Jesus Christ on this earth, Jerusalem temple became notorious for ‘Ananias Bazaar’. The High Priest ran a racket, that all items to be used in worship should be purchased in certain shops run by the Priest family. Any sacrificial lamb would be simply rejected if not purchased from particular shops. The exploited worshippers may raise their voice but were powerless. Lord Jesus cleansed the temple and demonstrated his wrath against commercialization of worship and exploitation of people in the name of religion.
The Global Church is not perfect. There would be always sinners who in the process of being transformed into saints. However, God is working that the Church may become spotless and holy through His Word, Spirit, Prophets and faithful witnesses or remnant. Also, he judges individuals, families, organizations and institutions to cleanse the Church. One day the Church would be perfect and on that day the Lord will come to take His Bride to Eternal Glory. Then, it gives every Christian inner resource to bring change and guide the Church to perfection.
 Timothy Keller, The Reason For God: Belief In An Age of Skepticism (New York: Riverhead Books 2009), p.63.
 Timothy Keller, The Reason For God: Belief In An Age of Skepticism (New York: Riverhead Books 2009), p.64.