The Church and Beef Soup
I like vegetable beef soup, especially on a frosty winter day with the wind whipping and the mercury falling. Eaten at home, on the road, at church, or at the homes of those unfortunate enough to have me over ( I sure can put it away ) the warmth and comfort found in a good homemade bowl of soup is what legends are made of. Now, I don’t think chicken soup does anything for the soul, but what about Church Soup and what makes it up?
Church Soup for the Soul
Now bear with me for a second, I am not making light of the institution that Christ founded ( Matthew 16:18 ), was the Father’s eternal plan ( Ephesians 3:10-11 ), and that we are called to assembly with ( Hebrews 10:25 ), but I am attempting however poorly, to make an analogy that even I can understand.
The Church is a wonderful place often times filled with not so wonderful people. Everyone who makes up the church is just like you and I ( and Wilma from Wal-Mart and Bob from Boise ), we are those who are joined to the Body of believers and are not always in the best of shape. In fact we are often rotten, miserable, spoiled little brats who cry every time we don’t get our way. You know, like when the songs don’t suit us, the preacher was long-winded, or the carpet color clashes with our chosen attire.
Can you imagine making soup with ingredients such as we are? Would you eat it? Would you find it at all appetizing? Shoot no, and neither would I. I would chuck it out the door and open up a can of Campbell’s, throw it in the microwave, and call it a day.
I sure am glad God isn’t like that. He takes the weak and foolish ( 1 Corinthians 1:27 ) and confounds the best the world has to offer. We are a motley crew saved by grace and joined to Christ by the redemption found in His blood ( Ephesians 1:7-8 ). We are chosen vegetables holy and blameless in His sight ( Ephesians 1:4 ).
Essential seasonings of Church Soup
Yeah I know, most people don’t like being compared to vegetables and I can’t say that I really blame them, but it isn’t much worse than being called sheep is it? I mean, sheep are only slightly more intelligent than taters or broccoli and the same can be said for a lot of us.
Now, there are some things that go into making a good ( true ) church. Is it really vegetable beef soup if you put pepperoni and mozzarella cheese in it? Just because I like pepperoni and mozzarella cheese doesn’t mean it belongs in the beef soup. Similarly, there are things that we can use to identify a good church
- The preaching of the word
- The right administration of the sacraments
- church discipline
If the Word is not properly taught, including but not limited to proper exegesis and a biblical distinction between law and Gospel can we rightly say the Word has properly been proclaimed on any given Sunday? If we are not fed both the meat and the milk of the Word how will we grow in knowledge and wisdom? Well, quite simply we won’t.
Next, if the sacraments, namely baptism and The Lord’s Table, are not rightly administered how can we avail ourselves of what God has given to strengthen and encourage us. I take great comfort in knowing that I have been baptized into Christ, that baptism is a sign and seal of His promises, and that there is only one Christian baptism. I also look forward to spiritually feeding at the Lord’s table, communing with the brethren, and rightly discerning the Body. These are both, baptism and the Table, visible means given to the church to strengthen our often feeble faith.
Finally, we cannot overlook Church discipline. Discipline should be instructive, corrective, restorative, a means of repentance and reconciliation, and as a last resort the way we remove unrepentant vegies from the soup. Discipline should not be a rod by which church leaders beat the sheep, but is a Godly undertaking by the elders to restore those who have fallen.
The church should be Comforting
Much more than a bowl of soup on a frigid day, the Church should be comforting to our souls but should not always make us comfortable. We should be able to enter into fellowship with those around us and worship our Savior and King, Jesus Christ, while being exhorted to greater Holiness. The Church should be a safe haven for the weary where their self-righteous toes are sometimes stomped on by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit.
The Church should be a place where we learn to season our speech with salt ( sorry y’all with high blood pressure ) and hear the God breathed Words of Scripture expounded upon faithfully.
As for me, I don’t want to be a rotten tater in the church so I pray daily that the Lord will pare out the black rotten spots He finds and makes me, however slowly and painfully, one that is daily being conformed to His image. How about you?