The Ministry & Marks of the Church
Finding a church is often compared these days to shopping. That should not surprise us. Many churches, today, market themselves to a particular niche demographic. It’s all about branding. People who shop at Restoration Hardware aren’t the same folks who shop regularly at Walmart.
Some churches say, at least implicitly, we’re all about teaching doctrine, while others brand themselves as the home-base for evangelism, or a place for warm fellowship. Others are known for service and political engagement, whether conservative or liberal. If you are into liturgy, there are plenty of options out there for you too. But according to Acts 2, the first Christians gathered regularly for the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers. As a result, the Lord was adding daily to the church, those being saved.
The Spirit creates the church through the Word, so the apostles’ teaching, particularly the good news of Christ’s saving work, was central. But it was the apostles’ teaching AND fellowship, submitting to each other in both doctrine and life. Believers shared their temporal goods with each other as well. Yet, the regular service also included the breaking of bread. The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper were central alongside the preached Word as means of grace. In fact, in response to Peter’s proclamation of Christ, those who believed were baptized and the Apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians that they partake of communion whenever they come together as the church. The Lord’s Supper wasn’t an optional extra, but a regular means of grace. They gathered also for “the prayers.” Like a trellis, scripturally rooted liturgies train hearts to grow in the right direction together. These public prayers of the whole church in praise, confession, and petition aren’t just for people who go for high church stuff but shape the community’s response to the Lord’s work. And finally, we see the effect of this ministry was to attract unbelievers. The Lord was adding to the church daily, those who were being saved. As Peter said in his sermon, the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are a far off, as many the Lord our God calls to himself. Knowing what they believed and why, believers were able to witness to their neighbors.
In short, the first Christians didn’t have branding consultants. They didn’t do market research to identify their market niche demographic. You didn’t have churches dividing up these ministry emphases. They were all supposed to be places where the sheep were regularly bathed and fed, bound together by the ministry of Word and sacrament, and the prayer and praise of public worship.
Joining us on the program to talk about the importance of this ministry and the marks of the church, first of all is Jeff Mallinson, and second by Sam Allberry. Join us this week on the White Horse Inn as we look at the marks and ministry of Christ’s church.