Over the years my wife and I have watched a number of episodes of a television show called Undercover Boss. Its basic storyline deals with the CEO of some company disguising themselves and then working at various positions and locations within their organization over a week or so period of time. Along the way, as you can imagine, these bosses make some wonderful discoveries and some not-so wonderful discoveries, they find some hard working employees and others not-so hard working. One episode that stands out in my mind featured a pretzel company. If memory serves the enterprise began with the now CEO operating a food cart out in Philadelphia. Through some fortuitous twists the cart grew into a company that was now on a roll with multiple restaurant franchises throughout the Northeast. The CEO thought the time had now come to go undercover in his corporation, leaving his executive office to find out how things were developing on the front lines. One of the franchisees visited by this head-hancho featured a husband and wife who thought they could make a better profit in their locale by offering sandwiches that corporate did not devise, approve, or even know about. Needless to say, the undercover boss was not amused that someone who had agreed to follow certain guidelines, who had agreed to be a franchisee, who had the name of the corporate brand over the door, was choosing to go rogue and misrepresent the company’s products. Certainly we can all understand the CEO’s dismay. If you’re gonna sell Whoppers, you shouldn’t have a McDonald’s sign over your door. If you’re gonna sell hamburgers, you shouldn’t have a Chik-Fil-A restaurant. If you’re gonna be part of a pretzel company, don’t sell ham and cheese sandwiches on bread rolls. If you’re going to be a franchise, you’ve got to obey corporate; and if you don’t intend to obey corporate, then call yourself something else!
Grace Christian Ministries had its first service on Wednesday, August 12th, 2009 and we had a special evening of celebration of our 10th Anniversary during service on Wednesday, August 14th, 2019. As we give thanks for the Lord’s blessing during this past decade and seek to honor Him for all the years to come, I thought it important to take a look at what Jesus (corporate) says in His Word is the mission for every local church (franchisee). I have chosen what’s called the W.I.F.E. paradigm (which is printed in the cover of every bulletin we’ve ever produced these past 10 years) to help keep us focused on what it means to be a part of Christ’s Church.
W—Worship (Exodus 5:1; Exodus 15:1-2)…The Old Testament book of Exodus tells of the deliverance of God’s people from Egyptian bondage. The Hebrews had miraculously come to Egypt during the time of Joseph to escape a famine in the Holy Land. All was well for the descendants of Abraham for a period of time, but eventually there arose a Pharaoh who did not remember Joseph and the great blessing that had been brought to them by the one true and living God through this son of Jacob. In short order the Egyptians conscripted the Hebrews into forced labor and a near 400 year life of slavery ensued for God’s chosen people. Through a series of events God hears the cries of His people and sends them a deliverer. Moses was commanded by the Almighty to go to Pharaoh and tell him that, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, “Let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness”” (Ex. 5:1). As you know, Pharaoh avoided God’s command like the plague (pun intended), but after a series of consequences reluctantly agreed to free the Hebrews. Even then, he changed his mind midstream (pun intended again). The Egyptian army chased Moses and God’s people to the Red Sea. The Lord parted the waters allowing Israel to cross over on dry ground. Then the same Hand that split the sea, brought the roaring waves crashing back together drowning the greatest fighting force in the known world at the time. Although the Hebrews would certainly have many moments of unfaithfulness, their praise and worship of God on the other side of the Red Sea is noteworthy and recorded for us in Exodus 15 which begins with Israel singing this song to the LORD, “I will sing to the LORD, for He is highly exalted; the horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea. The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.”
Why have we been saved by God? To worship Him. What is the proper response of God’s people to His saving action? Worship. So many congregations today have disposed of the term “worship service” and replaced it with “worship experience.” It seems that instead of the focus being on the Body of Believers offering pleasing worship in service to the God who has saved them, that the trend has become to center on making the people of God feel good about the worship that they’re experiencing. Those who have been redeemed ought to say so (Psalm 107:2), and worship their Lord in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). This is the calling of and command to every local expression of Christ’s church.
I—Instruction (2 Tim. 3:16-4:4)…The Apostle Paul had been a persecutor of the church pre-conversion. Acts 9 records Jesus graciously knocking him off his high horse (quite literally!), and opening up his blinded eyes to receive the salvation in Christ that he had previously rejected. Paul would become a mighty man of God, used to perform miracles, even the raising of the dead. He who was the utmost persecutor of the gospel became the greatest propagator of it; teaching it, preaching it, starting churches in places far and wide, and even being inspired to author 14 books of the New Testament (yes, I included Hebrews in the list). The last epistle penned by the great Apostle was 2 Timothy. He was in prison for the cause of Christ and knew that his time of martyrdom was at hand. Some scholars believe that Paul was beheaded by Nero within two weeks of the ink being dry on his last pastoral letter. What was the final charge of the Apostle to his most notable understudy? He reminds Pastor Timothy that it is God’s Word ALONE that is divinely inspired (literally “God-breathed). He commands Timothy to teach and preach this Word, for indeed it is ONLY God’s Word that can bring saving faith to an unbeliever (Rom. 10:17) and it is ONLY God’s Word that can accurately and adequately reprove, correct, train, and equip believers.
Paul goes on to tell Timothy that there will come a time when “they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” Indeed, we are in such a time now if ever we have been. Many congregations today despise even the word “doctrine”; they yawn at the reading and teaching of Scripture while they yell for more instructions on how to get a better, have a better, do a more in terms of worldly matters and for sensational accounts of alleged spiritual personal experiences. When believers come together they are to give attention to the Bible and to its accurate explanation and application. Indeed, it is the Word of God alone that will stand when even Heaven and Earth, and all the man-made philosophies, fads, and fancies of the world, pass away into ultimate oblivion! (Matt. 24:35; Heb. 12:27)
F—Fellowship (Acts 2:41-47)…The birth of the Christian Church is recorded for us in the second chapter of Acts. Peter, the disciple who only 50 days earlier had denied the Lord three times at the crucifixion, has now seen the risen Christ, been forgiven and restored, and been filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ prophecy that the former fisherman would one day be a fisher of men is coming to fruition as Peter is used to boldly proclaim repentance from sins and faith in Christ to the crowds gathered in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. Three thousand people were saved and baptized and the New Testament Christian Church officially began. Acts 2:42 delineates for us the primary activities of this new community of faith stating that “they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Did they preach? Yes. Did they pray? Yes. Certainly these are seen as spiritual activities in which believers should be engaged. However, no less spiritual is the fellowship of the saints manifested in something as simple as the breaking of bread and the sharing of meals.
It can be easy to go in and out of a church (especially a large church—and that doesn’t mean they’re all bad; if they’re preaching the gospel may the Lord bless them abundantly) and no one even know who you are or if you’ve been there in the past 3 weeks, 3 months, or 3 years. Some professing Christians avoid church altogether because they don’t want to be close to nor accountable to (or for) anyone else. This is NOT the pattern of the Christian life. We need each other. We need fellowship.
E—Evangelism (Matthew 28:19-20)…Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament records that God created all that is, including Adam and Eve. The first couple fell into sin, bringing judgment to them and all mankind who would follow. The Lord was gracious however, providing a sacrifice yielding animal skins that covered Adam and Eve’s nakedness and promising them a Savior who would one day come to crush Satan’s head. Genesis goes on to tell us that the humanity that God created to walk with Him in the cool of the day fell to such evil that they now walked with sin in the heat of the night. The Lord brings a devastating flood of judgment. But even in the midst of this cataclysmic event, God was gracious providing an Ark of Salvation to and through Noah. Mankind sins again and builds a Tower of Babel against the Lord’s instruction. Almighty God destroys the Tower and spreads humanity over the face of the earth. We now come to Genesis 12 where God begins dealing with a specifically chosen man named Abraham (Abram as he was originally known), promising to bless him with descendants as bountiful as the stars in the sky and the sands of the sea. However, this blessing would not just be for Abraham to hoard, but would be a benefit to all the world. How would this be accomplished? Through the fact that the Messiah who would bear the sins of all who put their trust in Him; from any and every race, tongue, tribe, and nation; would descend from the seed of Abraham! Matthew, though likely not the earliest written gospel, is placed first in the New Testament canon, and this is with good reason. The former tax collector was used by God to author the gospel that best shows how Jesus fulfills the multitude of Old Testament prophecies of a promised Messiah from the lineage of Abraham. And as promised, this Messiah was for all the world who would receive Him! Jesus makes this plain at the end of Matthew’s gospel in a passage known as the Great Commission where Jesus commands His followers to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations!”
There are many who name the name of Christ who are unconcerned about the lost and say nothing to them. There are other professing believers and professing churches who talk to the lost, but what they tell them is something about worldly purpose and success. We as a church individually and collectively need a passion for the lost and a commitment to proclaim to them the gospel, that is that all are sinners in need of salvation and that salvation comes only through repentance from sin and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ!