There it was -- another article posted today on Facebook for the world to see dressing down the church. Its content was predictable, talking about the church's march towards irrelevance and showing all of its flaws. The theme was clear -- the established church was an old dog that needed to be taken to the back forty to be put down.
I am tired of people ragging on the established church. I am tired of internet trolls who think that internet shaming is the way to love God’s bride. Sadly church bashing seems to be the sport for many well meaning christians.
Why do I love the established church?
1. Multigenerational worship.
In recent days, there has been a movement away from multigenerational churches. Since none of us can get along about how to do church, we all just choose to worship in different services or in different churches.
One of the treasures of the established church is that multiple generations show humility in what they want (even though worship isn't about us at all) so that they can celebrate the unity that comes from being one in Christ. In the established church, singing together matters more than worship preferences.
2. A proven discipleship structure.
Our Sunday lineup has 2 major staples. 1. Bible Study and 2. Morning Worship. We have other ministries, but the foundation of our church rests on these two weekly events. These two events show what is important in our church. We gather in small groups to study God’s word, and then we gather as a body to worship God and have God’s word preached.
I remember going through seminary reading a book called “Revitalizing the Sunday Morning Dinosaur.” In many ways the Sunday morning routine is seen as old and outdated.
In the established church, intrinsic in its structure, is a reliance on God’s word. I love being part of a body that intentionally meets regularly to study and be changed by the word of God.
3. Genuine fellowship
Recently in our church we have seen several of our members pass on to be with God. In this I had the pleasure to watch as our church came together to mourn as a community. When we hurt it was more than just a single class, it was the church.
Most established churches don’t have the fancy coffee shops or the newest trends in small group ministries. What we have is people who live life together.
I have seen personally when we lost a family member that our mail box had more cards than could fit. As we have walked through the struggles of parenthood, we have moms and grandmas (and great grandmas) who walk with us.
The more I learn about fellowship the more I learn it isn’t something that can be programmed. Fellowship with your church is something that is lived. I can tell you that every established church I have ever served in has been a place where genuine fellowship is lived out among its members.
4. Doctrinal standards.
My church is a Baptist church. We are not ashamed of it. The established church is almost always denominationally affiliated.
Trends tell us that denominational affiliation is on the decline. They tell us that if we desire to connect with younger generations that we need to drop the denomination from our name, and really from our church.
I think it is a dangerous step to walk away from denominations. Denominations have served to help set a standard of belief for the local church. When you attend a Baptist church there are certain convictional expectations you have for that church.
With the decline of denominations, many churches are choosing to simply be independent (calling themselves Community or Bible Churches). What happens in this instance is that the doctrinal stability of the church is directly tied to either the church planter or leadership team. In many churches who have forgone affiliation, a new member has to go deep into the organization to understand their core convictions.
With the established church there is often little doubt about where it stands doctrinally. With us, we accept the Baptist Faith and Message and guide for our doctrinal beliefs.
5. Denominational cooperation.
This past Christmas our church skyped with two missionaries in Colombia. Our church was a part of placing these two on the field. We have never met them (though we will), but we cooperate with churches throughout America to send missionaries to spread the gospel in what is called the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program.
As an established church we are loyal to the Southern Baptist Convention. We participate with them so that we can keep missionaries on the field. In independent churches missionaries often have to travel from church to church annually or biannually to raise support. As a church who is connected to a convention, our missionaries have the freedom to stay on the field for years.
I love my church. I love pastoring a church that has buildings that are older than me. I love that this church will continue to minister to our community after I am gone. I love being the pastor of an established church.