In April 1979 I attended the Pastors’ Conference held at St Andrew’s Cathedral Sydney, which coincided with the Billy Graham Crusade being held at Randwick racecourse at that time.
One of the speakers was John Stott, and I remember him saying that if he were going into ministry at that time he would spend the first year preaching on the doctrine of the church.
Much has changed since, but the vital relevance of that doctrine has become more apparent. Post Covid, our people have become more used to staying away from the Sunday gathering and following church online, either our services or someone else’s. Social media has done little to relieve loneliness—“I have 1000 followers but no friends”.
Society has become more overtly anti-Christian, it is not cool to be seen as part of a church or carry a Bible; multiple alternative sports and entertainments provide an attractive alternative to church; contemporary church models are on offer which compete with our traditional Bible-centred gatherings.
For all these reasons and probably others I haven’t thought of, I think a series on the Church has become vital.
A suggested 10 week series on the Church
Week 1 The most vital gathering—Exodus 19-20 and Hebrews 12:18ff.
As Israel gathered to hear God’s word at Mt Sinai, so we gather, convened by Jesus, gathered around him in the heavenlies, a privileged gathering. The gathering of the first-born, redeemed, called-out ones, around the mediator of the new covenant. There can be no more pressing engagement for us.
Week 2 The Prototype Church—Acts 2:42-47 and 11:19-30.
Our mother church, the first Gentile church. Stott’s description of the Church in Acts 2, sharing in, with and out, is helpful.
Week 3 The Church as she will be, the marriage supper of the bride and her groom, the Lord Jesus—Revelation 19:1-10.
In the first 3 weeks then, we see the church as she was, is and will be.
Week 4 The church in a chapter—Ephesians 4.
4:1-6, Her Unity.
Week 5 Her diversity and purpose—Ephesians 4:7-17.
Week 6 Her holiness—Ephesians 4:18-5:2.
Week 7 The Church as antidote: To Uncertainty—Matthew 16:13-20.
Week 8 To Loneliness—Ephesians 2:19-22.
Week 9 To Purposelessness—John 15:1-11.
Week 10 To Hopelessness—Ephesians 5:25-27 and Revelation 21:2,9-10.
Our people may not give priority to the Sunday meeting because they don’t understand what it is, the value of this series is that it is based in both the Old and New Testaments.
Knowing the Who, What and Why of our meeting will become more vital and precious as we negotiate life in this perilous age.