The Plan Is Perfect, But The Church Isn’t

The Plan Is Perfect, But The Church Isn’t

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Real cowboys from the American frontier, both the good guys and the bad guys, had no interest in the big, bulky Stetsons that everyone associates with them. Contrary to our more modern cowboys, the most popular headgear among 19th century gunslingers was the bowler, sometimes called a derby.

Many people have an idea in their minds of what the church looks like, but it just might be the case that the image doesn’t match scriptural teaching. 

The “church” in the Bible is a singular, unified group of God’s people spread out across the globe in the form of multiple likeminded congregations. Though the people are God’s— they’re still people. People have problems. The difference between His family and the world, though, is that there’s a solution and a hope for His own. 

When New Testament Christians claim that there’s one church they don’t mean there’s only one group of people who have all the answers and can do no wrong. They simply acknowledge the Biblical truth that God made plans for only one church and that plan had been in motion before the creation of the world (Eph. 3.10-11). 

The New Testament is largely made up of letters that were written to correct and admonish our natural human tendencies. When these things are left unchecked and unbridled they produce more pain and destruction, which can clearly be seen all around us. For most, the product of sin is self-evident but the power of the Savior isn’t— and that’s where the church comes in. The main function of the church is to seek, save, and keep the saved saved. This is done by walking, speaking, and acting like Jesus. The form and function of  His family is simple because God’s goal is to save as many as possible (Jn. 3.16-17). The New Testament church is meant to be the hands, feet, and mouth of God. The church is to work, walk, and speak only the things He would and that’s only possible if a group of people are living by His instruction. Since God only wrote one book, there’s only one manual. Since following the instructions will produce one church family then there’s only one church. In the same way you can assembly an entertainment system wrong by incorrectly following the plans, you can also assemble the church wrong. There’s a right way and there’s a wrong way and one needs only to reference His instructions to be certain. 

Dale Pollard
Following Instructions

Following Instructions

Saturday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

David Chang

Have you ever gotten something—maybe a piece of appliance or a new faucet that you needed to assemble or install—and it seemed too simple? You see all of the pieces that came in the box, and you recognize all of it and their functions. Maybe, because it looked so simple and straightforward, you overestimated your ability to put it together and went straight into installing it by yourself without reading the manual. What happens usually? Well, if you’re lucky (or just that skilled), you may do it just right. But most times you either get stuck and eventually are forced to read the manual anyway, or you think you installed it correctly but actually didn’t do it all that right. Whatever the case is, there are times in our lives when we may have foregone the instruction manual because they are tedious or you think you know the steps, only to find out soon that there is a good reason why the instruction manuals are included with the product!

Even the simplest looking assembly comprised of just a few steps can quickly become quite intricate if there are specific order and method to the process. And if one, out of the abundance of their self-confidence, refuses to read the manual for that crucial piece of information, the process can be very frustrating indeed. Maybe you’ve had to witness someone stubbornly try to put together or operate something without first reading the manual for it.

I’ve heard people describe the Bible as an instruction manual for life. Although this is an oversimplification of the Word of God, I think we can agree for the most part that the Bible contains instructions and concepts that directly impact our lives—both physical and spiritual. We should not develop a dysfunctional view of Scripture as a mere checklist of things to do to get a passing grade to get into heaven, but we should also recognize that the Bible as a whole is a guide for us to internalize as we navigate this life.

The Bible and its contents are profound yet simple, and everyone can understand it. Logically speaking it must be so, because throughout Scripture there is a consistent expectation for the people of God to study and understand the laws (in the Old Testament) and the teachings of Jesus Christ and his apostles and disciples (in the New Testament). We know that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (II Tim. 3:16-17). The gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). The doctrines, precepts, principles—all of these things contained in Scripture both Old and New Testament are there for us to read, to understand, and to let impact our lives in a meaningful and transformative way.

Now then, how are we to do so without examining the book? The Bible may not be as simple as a checklist of things or like an instruction manual for some furniture assembly, but we cannot deny the reality that it contains guidance that we need for our navigation through this life into eternity. It would be foolish and inefficient at best for us to recognize such a fact but still fail to read it and study its contents. Do not be stubborn and try to go through life without the guide revealed to us by the very Creator who is the source of life itself. Make sure to foster that need to meditate on God’s Word regularly.