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Importance of the Local Church

What it should do


Pastor Marcelo Herrera Garcia 

     I was born in the state of Zacatecas, Mexico. I have 22
years experience in the ministry, and I am married with three
children. What I offer in this article is the product of many
years. My readings, experiences, and reflections will be a
confirmation of what many already know, yet perhaps there will be
something that can help. My focus will be the local church and
its mission.
     Each group of believers must understand the reality of the
Gospel. The reality is this: We are commanded to understand, to
help, and to conquer all for the Kingdom of God. Within our
surroundings, there are human masses of the lonely, injured,
rejected, and abandoned. Many are without hope. Many lives would
be different if someone would be interested in them. Sadly,
violence, torture, deceit, falsehood, and misery are very
typically in many cities; it seems that nobody has successfully
stopped the destruction and corruption of evil.
     One day Jesus told his disciples to go to those human
masses, to give them their time and their aid, to go and
encounter their inexhaustible needs, and to be dedicated for the
needs of others (see Matthew 9:36-10:1). He has established his
Church in the middle of this world to be a light and to be salt
(see Matthew 5:13-16).

GOD'S INTEREST IN THE LOCAL CHURCH'S HEALTH

          The Lord has always been interested in the welfare and
the health of the local church. He knows that if it's healthy, it
will be able to carry out the mission for which it was created.
We can, as a local church, cause great joy to the Lord's heart,
but we can also be the biggest shame for his presence and
Kingdom.  During the time of Isaiah, Israel was confronted with
unfaithfulness. There were many who had been unfaithful, and even
the animals seemed to have more knowledge and obedience than
they. Israel had many chances to repent and return to the Lord.
The New Testament, consisting of the Gospels, Acts, the Pauline
letters, and Revelation, mentions that there are all kinds of
churches.
     There are those churches that tradition, legalism, and
exclusivism reign and the Gospel suffocates. In those churches
the methods of pursuit, manipulation, and sectarianism are used
too much. There are also those churches where idolatry, false
doctrines, sin, disorder, divisions, and the lack of forgiveness
are common mainstays.
     But allow me to say that there are also churches worthy of
mention and recognition. There are churches of love, work, and
faith; they may show their defects sometimes, but they present
very positive aspects most of the time. We surely remember the
first church in Jerusalem. It was there the public proclamation
of the Gospel occurred, and prayers, the communion of goods, and
miracles made it a church that impacted its city. Jerusalem, and
the world.
     We also have the church of Antioch, the site where the early
believers in Jesus were referred to as "Christians" for the time.
The early believers are an example of bravery, ministry,
discipleship, and missions. Another ancient group of believers,
the church in Philippi. was characterized by its great interest
in supporting missions and the apostles. There are many examples
of exemplary churches. Such as those in Revelation 2 and 3. 
     They were praised because of their fidelity despite existing
in the midst of persecution and death. Each time, in each place,
we must wonder if the purposes of the church are being fulfilled.
It can be that we receive strong reprimands for our negligence or
worthy praises for our fidelity. Each one should examine his
faith.

IN SEARCH OF LEADERS

     The harvest is great, but few are the workers-it has always
been this way. God is looking for brave people, those whom he can
give dreams. He desires men and women who have Him in first
place. Those who have known Him and who will never go back.
Leaders will allow the power of God to shine, even in moments of
weakness. Those who yearn and desire to work, do so for the glory
of God.
     God uses us to accomplish his plans. He trusts that there
will always be someone to trust his projects. He used Noah to
save the prediluvium generation from extermination, Abraham to
found his people, Moses to confront pharaoh, Joshua for the
conquest, Nehemiah for the reconstruction, Peter to open the
Kingdom to Jews and gentiles, and Paul to preach to all the
nations.
     The leaders whom God is looking for are in the benches of
our churches. There are many future leaders who still don't know
him yet, but we should go for them so that the Lord can use them.
Everything begins with one who is willing. Will you be the leader
whose heart is afire for God's sake? Are you willing to do what
God wants you to do? To go wherever he wants you to go?

LEADERS TRAIN OTHER BELIEVERS
(see Ephesians 4:11-12)

     Leaders become leaders because they are the people who share
their experience, their knowledge, and their life with others.
Leadership is a gift from God to the local church for the pur-
pose of the patient and continuous training of all believers. As
Ephesians 4:11-13 states, "It was he who gave some to be
apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some
to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of
service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all
reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God
and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness
of Christ."
     Leaders don't live their lives for themselves. but they live
to train the community of believers in the work of the ministry.
Leaders work in the name of God to go forth presenting Christ and
him crucified. Every leader works according to how the Lord has
gifted him by the Spirit. We are not able to do this alone. The
work of the ministry is so big that we have to make it the work
of a team, as Jesus did with his twelve. Like Paul did with his
partners or the local ministry in the ancient church of Antioch,
we all should be trained to develop our part.

EACH ONE HAS HIS PART

     The work of the Kingdom of God involves several parts. There
is the divine part, the personal part, and the part of the local
church. For starters, the call is always from God. He examines
the hearts of individuals and groups. Then he invites us to
participate in his work. He gives us the privilege to contemplate
about him and to listen to his sweet voice saying, "Follow me."
There isn't a patriarch, prophet, or apostle who has been able to
serve without listening to God. All of them had the conviction
that they were in the presence of God. Jesus called his disciples
so :hat they were with him, and he taught them to be fishermen of
men. We must remember that God has promised to be with his
servants everyday. We can be sure that God will always fulfil his
part.

OUR PART

     In order that God's invitation may be successful, we should
always be willing to say, "Here I am, send me." Those who accept
their part are the men and women who live and dream God's vision.
This is what makes them passionate; it consumes all their
strength. Those who fulfil their part accept that their personal
plans no longer exist. Instead, what exists is their faithful
obedience to God's voice. For those who accept God's call, life
makes sense only because God directs their life. Whether one is
rich or poor or one is young or old does not matter. Where are
those who will accept Gods call? Will you accept God's call? The
Church needs to fulfil its part and respond to the call.

THE PART OF THE LOCAL CHURCH

     It is here that we have to emphasize there is not a
missionary without a church. The local church is the instrument
that God uses to start discovering the potential leaders. giving
them support, orientation, and guidance. When the time arrives,
after the potential missionary has been faithful in the little
things. the local church should send its best men and women into
the mission field. It is the local church's duty to finance them
while they are doing the work of the Gospel. The local church has
a great responsibility to sustain, to encourage, and to pray for
their missionaries. The local church is like a mother that has
children. raises its children to maturity, and then sends them to
continue the work. Imagine how many more people we could reach
for Christ if every church sent out missionaries.

EVANGELISM AND THE LOCAL CHURCH

     It is the duty of each local church to reach the lost for
Christ. to evangelize. When one receives Christ, the new
Christian automatically becomes our partner in his mission. From
our location to the areas that surround us. our limit is the ends
of the earth. Our loved ones, our neighbors, our city, and our
state are among the objectives. And many will be waiting to
receive Christ. God is waiting for the local church to seriously
conduct evangelism.

TO CELEBRATE

     To celebrate is to praise and worship together to the
Almighty God. Every detail of this time must be taken with care.
Filled with prayer. with the Word, with music, and with silence.
the Holy Spirit needs to have freedom to touch our lives and to
bring the sinner to the conviction of sin by the presence of God.
At that time, God alone is the object of our adoration and our
recognition. Our part must be to take care of the details
concerning the church, including the space, the climate, the
instruments, the reception, and the illumination. This must be
done in such a way that the place can offer the answer to the
necessity of every occasion.

INTEGRATION

     Those who have been evangelized and have visited the
celebration usually will want to be part of the church when the
time arrives. They will want to be integrated to the community of
believers that is Christ's body. They will want to be part of
God's people. This is the time to baptize them and to place them
in a small group. Let us remember that baptism is the public act
of joining ourselves by faith to the group of saints. In this
time it is very healthy for the newcomers to join a small group,
whereby it can take care of them very closely so they can have
the opportunity to have contact with believers in real life (and
outside of the service).

DISCIPLESHIP

     If evangelists, missionaries, and preachers do evangelism
and bring people into the church and the musicians, worship
directors, ushers, and pastors do their part in the service, and
then teachers are needed to discuss the first steps of the
Christian life. Potential believers need to know their first
responsibilities as Christians as well as the dangers that they
might face after they accept Christ. Sometimes we Christians are
ridiculed by the world. But this step is very important because
many churches do not properly teach discipleship to the newly
converted.


THE MINISTRY

     Finally, each local church or group of churches should be
equipped with the type of training to develop young Christians
beyond the first steps. Those whom God has called need to be
trained in the local churches. This prepares them to be sent out
into the world. Here the process finishes and begins again,
meaning that when a Christian has arrived to a certain degree of
maturity he should begin looking for others to convert. To
conclude, let us see the details of a special church.
The Church at Antioch (see Acts 11:19-30, 13:1-3)
The church at Antioch dared to reach the lost ones who were not
of their own race, breaking a tradition and passing an impassable
barrier. God powerfully approved and supported the ministry of
the church at Antioch. It was so visible and overwhelming that
Christianity was known for hundreds of miles away because of this
church. What made this church unique? Its ministers worked hard
and guided the church to grow and mature. Notice at what the
church did-they prayed, they taught, they helped the poor, they
sent missionaries to other regions, and they gave the Holy Spirit
freedom so that it could work among them. They did everything
according to their own abilities, abilities that God had given
them.

     My reflection is that the Lord can indicate to us which
place we belong, and he can show us and give us the strength to
do what is missing. What are we waiting for? We must be the
church that God wants it to be! We must work!

                             ................


Pastor Marcelo Herrera Garcia has ministered for 22 years. He
studied at the Iglesia de Dios (Septimo Dio) seminary in
Cuernavaca, Mexico and has served as a pastor in the Yucatan.
Afterwards, he worked as a missionary in Uruguay. Currently, he
is a Church of God (Seventh Day) pastor in Monterrey MX.

                             ................

December 2004 ACTS magazine
A publication of the Churches of God (Seventh Day), Meridian,
Idaho, USA.


 
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