Equipping the Church Militant
Dearly loved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
There are a lot of threats to Christians in this world. There’s a good reason that the church on earth is called the church militant. We’re on guard and prepared as we await the day of Jesus’ return or his call to eternal rest, when we become the church triumphant. That militant preparedness is needed when you face “the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming” – as Paul mentions in Ephesians 4.
The need to be watchful, to be prepared, has sunk in this fall as we’ve worked our way through Revelation 2 - 3 in our PM services. Those messages to the church reveal how much pressure there is on the Church.
Jesus corrects the church’s theology & attitudes and encourages the church to stand strong when facing persecution & when facing false-teaching inside the church. Of course, the encouragement comes from recognizing that Jesus supports his church and knows what’s going on. Still, these messages make us sensitive to the dangers that face believers who profess faith in Jesus and gather for worship and service as the Church.
It’s a danger well known throughout the history of God’s people. We’ve seen in recent sermons on Exodus and Deuteronomy how the Lord God has provided guidance and instruction for his people. The commandments of God were given at Mt. Sinai so that the chosen people of God can enjoy God’s presence in all of his righteousness, holiness, and glory.
The Lord recognizes that temptations will come from within and without the covenant community, enticing people away from walking in faith with him. So the Lord gives instruction to Moses on how his Chosen people should live. The Commandments and the rest of law are given at Mt Sinai.
God’s rule for holy living is not something remote and obscure. The Lord’s instructions were meant to be accessible to all the people, from the youngest to the oldest. Moses makes that clear when he writes:
These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
These instructions are also given for children. Parents are given the first responsibility for teaching God’s ways to their children. This teaching happens in our homes.
It’s a demanding task that God gives parents and grandparents – but it isn’t supposed to be too onerous or even too structured. We’re not talking about scheduling hours of classes in your homes every day.
Take the opportunities that are available to talk about God’s instructions for holy living:
· As you sit in the family room or living room, comment on the portrayal of family life, marriages, values in the movies, TV shows and books you read together.
· As you drive down the street or the highway, talk about love and respect for your neighbour, about the words and songs you hear on the radio, about hopes, dreams, expectations.
· As you get up in the morning, talk about what it means to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” in the activities you have planned for today.
The idea is not to make the whole family sick and tired about talking about the Bible, but to recognize that God’s instructions in the Bible are put into practise by our everyday actions and attitudes.
Christianity is not something we just do on Sundays or in devotions once-a-day. God’s Word disciplines us throughout each day. We are disciples of Jesus 24/7.
Our children are mentored in their faith as they see their parents and grandparents and family friends applying and explaining God’s law to them in practical, timely ways. Seeing God’s Word put into practise is the best way to impress our children of the importance of walking closely with the Lord of our world, the Saviour of our lives.
Now it’s obvious that within our community we have different gifts and abilities to teach. Some parents find this easier than others. Some grandparents find this kind of mentoring relationship easier or enjoyable than others. We recognize that there are reasons of distance or broken relationships that interfere with our ability to disciple kids or grandkids.
But you’ve heard the saying before – probably it’s overused – that “it takes a village to raise a child”? It’s a cliché that gets overused because it is true – especially when it comes to teens and young adults. There is something about the growing independence of teenagers that makes it more difficult (not impossible, just more challenging) for parents to guide their teens without the support of a community.
As a general rule, the Reformed family of churches has supported each other in marvellous ways. We have a wonderful heritage and method of working together to teach and disciple our children in the faith.
Within the Church we have nursery provided during AM and PM services, Little Lambs for teaching the children of Coffee Break attendees during the week, Sunday School each Sunday, GEMS, Cadets and Youth Group during the week. It is neat to go paintballing with the Cadets and see counsellors demonstrate justice and kindness on the competitive paint-ball field.
Or to face and discuss the realities of lifestyle choices and homelessness with the youth group as they supply a meal for the RAFT or move furniture for the YWCA. These are opportunities we’ve planned to walk and talk together about the community we live in and the call God has on our lives.
As a congregation we also have Bible studies, Coffee Break and Faith Grow Groups. When our committees meet (like Council or Worship Committee) we spend time in devotions: reading and reflecting on a Bible passage so that our work as a church is shaped by God’s Word.
Devotions are not just a formality. It’s an important part of the meeting. It’s a time when God’s Instruction lays claim to our thoughts, guiding discussion and shaping our church.
Within the community, we’ve taken God’s call to discuss and implement his Word every day even further:
· Our community has established Christian schools serving JK-8, highschool, undergraduate, and graduate studies – learning shaped by the confession “this is my Father’s world” because God made it and redeemed it through Christ
· Living in the shadow of Brock University, we’ve seen the value of having a Reformed Christian chaplain on campus: to instruct and challenge, to ask questions and bear witness to the rule of Christ in every area of life.
· Our community has established Shalom Manor and Holland Christian Homes, in order that the life-time habits can continue: meal-time devotions and talking about faith when we sit or walk, when we rest or enter eternal rest.
These institutions are a blessing, a way for us to be faithful as a community, walking with the Lord in the light of His Word.
Walking in God’s way takes discipline and instruction. Parents have the primary responsibility within their families of teaching, instructing, discussing our Christian walk and lifestyles. But as a church family, it’s a responsibility we share.
We are our brothers’ keepers. We are our sisters’ keepers. We’re called to use the gifts we’ve received for our neighbour’s good, including gifts of training, insight, and time.
God’s Word makes it clear that God is the source of these gifts. It is clear that God calls us to use our gifts for the benefit of the whole community, when Paul writes:
It was [Christ] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.
A whole variety of gifts and wide variety of tasks, but each one aimed at the same goal: “that the body of Christ may be built up.”
As we’ve said several times in the last number of weeks, we’re on a journey together. As a congregation, we’re headed toward the Kingdom of God. But we don’t go alone. We pray for God’s presence among us, to lead us, guide us, and shape us to live as people after his heart.
AND we journey together as a community. We use our gifts and skills for the benefit of our church family. The goal is the Kingdom of God – but also for each member of the church family from the youngest to oldest to: “reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining in the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
Our desire as a congregation is for each member to grow in their faith. Children are wonderful – but every parent wants to see their children grow up. Same thing in the church, we eagerly desire to see members of our church family grow mature in their faith. To be able to step out in faith – to rely on the presence of God’s Holy Spirit – and to make wise choices and decisions on the basis of God’s Word.
There are a lot of challenges and dangers in our world. The evil one is powerful and seeks to take our attention off of Jesus. But Jesus is more powerful and has given us families and a church family in which we can grow up and be equipped for the battlefield.
My brother-in-law is in the military – the Air force to be specific. Over the last year he was trained for his tasks in air defence, guarding Canadian airspace. Now that he’s experienced, it’s his turn to teach, instructing and equipping rookies so they can share the work he does.
I find it extremely exciting as we commission leaders this year that we have Sunday School teachers and other leaders who range in age from 10 years old to their 70s. As you have learned and been discipled in the church, you also take a turn discipling others in the faith.
But you’re not there alone. Along with the whole community of believers, you’ve been given gifts and faith to share by Christ himself. What you’ve received, you also pass on to others – “so that the body of Christ may be built up.”