Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col. 3:16-17)
Think for a moment about the verses above. Does it describe your church experience? Does the message of Christ dwell among the church members richly? Do people teach and admonish one another with all wisdom? Do they sing to God with gratitude in their hearts? Do they make Jesus the center of their lives, doing everything they do in His name and giving thanks to God the Father?
If you can honestly say that the above does describe your local church, you of all people are extremely blessed. Thank God for your brothers and sisters in Christ and make every effort to stay connected to your church family. Many of us have not had that experience.
In fact, if pollsters are correct, most of us have not had that kind of church experience. Church for most of us in the United States is going to a Sunday morning service and listening to the preacher and the worship team. We watch the performance and then go home without getting to know the people around us. It’s a two-hour affair, not a lifestyle nor a lifetime commitment. The message of Christ is a 24-minute exhortation to do better rather than a life-giving force that dwells in our hearts 24 hours a day. We don’t teach and admonish one another because we don’t know each other and, even if we did, we don’t know the Bible very well anyway. And as for doing everything in the name of Jesus, we don’t even try to live that way. After all, we are just “sinners saved by grace” who will never change or live for God the way the Bible instructs us.
It is time for us as the Body of Christ to contend for living out our Christianity the way that the Apostle Paul describes it in Colossians Chapter 3 and other places in the New Testament. It is time for our church leaders to think through how they lead services and how they can allow time for people to get to know each other so that they can do the one-anothers we are commanded to do: love one another, pray for one another, care for one another, encourage one another, exhort one another and yes, even teach and admonish one another. There are dozens of one-anothers in the New Testament – the above is just a short summary – but we ignore most of them except for the teaching one another, and that is usually one pastor teaching hundreds of people at the same time with hardly any relationship or accountability.
It is time for us as individual Christians to quit looking at church as a performance and to seek out a genuine church experience by sharing our lives with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We can’t be content with going to a Sunday morning performance, listening to a podcast, or listening to worship music through our headphones. To experience the fullness of Christ and all He has for us, we must be in community with other Christians – worshiping together, sharing meals and the Lord’s Supper together, studying the Word together, praying for one another, helping one another, living life together.
It is time for churches to rise up and be the Church. It is time that we quit being afraid of offending people and instead boldly call them to leave their sinful ways behind and follow Christ. It is time that we stop putting on Sunday morning performances and instead allow time and opportunity for many different people to share a Scripture, an encouraging word, a testimony, a teaching, or whatever God has placed on their heart. It is time that we encourage everyone to participate in our gatherings by breaking up larger congregations into small groups to pray for one another or talk about what the pastor is teaching.
It is time for us to allow the Word to dwell in all of us richly, not just in those who are preparing to preach. It is time that we challenge people to read the Word for themselves and be able to teach their family, friends, and loved ones about Christ. It is time that we exhort people to not just read the Word but to live it out. It is time for us to set our minds on things above instead of being obsessed with the things of this world. We must be transformed by the renewing of our minds if we are to be the church that God calls us to be.
Churches today, just like the people of which they are made, are in need of transformation. By renewing our minds, by seeking the Scriptures and God’s will for His church, our churches can be changed and our individual lives can be changed. None of us are perfect, all of us can become more like Christ and what He desires for His church. Even the New Testament churches that sat under the apostles’ teaching weren’t perfect – that is why Paul wrote his exhortations in the first place.
So let’s not shrink back in fear of changing our traditions or the way we have always done things. Let’s not be puffed up in our pride and think that because we have been doing church for years, we have all the answers already. Let’s seek the Lord for new direction, even if that new direction is the old way of doing church described in the New Testament.
Questions for Contemplation and Discussion
The Apostle Paul wrote Colossians 3, quoted above, to Christians in Colossae and gave instructions for his letter to be read in other churches as well. Which begs the question, would Paul give the same exhortation to churches today? Is following Jesus today the same as it was then? Is being a part of His Body, living in community in a local church setting, as necessary now as it was then? (Hint: See Heb. 13:8 if you are not sure.)
What changes can your local church make to become more like those described in Col. 3 and other places in the New Testament? (See Scriptures to Study below.)
Let’s Pray Together: Lord Jesus, You are Lord of the Church! Help us to live for You and to be the Church that You want us to be. Show us how to organize ourselves and lead our meetings in ways that line up with Your Word. Give us insight into how to allow room for everyone to share their spiritual gifts. Show us how to have services where everyone participates instead of watching a performance. Give our church leaders wisdom in these things and move in the hearts of Your people to reach out and be connected to other Christians. I lift the following people before You now….(continue praying as you feel led)