I belong to a people who believe the local church--congregation--should demonstrate life in the universal church in practical ways. The New Testament reveals glaring short comings, such as Paul encountered at Corinth.
So, where does any congregation fit into God’s universal church? This question deserves more attention than it receives, and being of utmost importance that every congregation fulfill its God-given mission. If it does not purposefully strive for that, it has no reason for existence.
When Paul addressed his letter to the Church of God at Corinth, he was not writing to the universal church, but to the congregation located in Corinth. When John wrote to the seven churches in Asia, he seems to address seven distinct congregations of that area. Most of them had various spiritual shortcomings that disturbed John. Consequently, he warned them of impending judgments unless they corrected their vice and evil-doing.
Whether they were seven churches, or seven thousand churches, is immaterial; they did not constitute the whole (or universal) church. They totaled a group of congregations related-to the universal church. This suggests the vital importance of a local congregation and its role in God’s plans for His Church.
H. C. Heffren concluded you cannot put the whole ocean in a tin cup, but the water in the cup remains identical with the ocean water. Likewise, you cannot pour the universal church into one congregation, or into any group of congregations. The quality of spiritual life and doctrine in each congregation should, however, be representative of the whole (universal) church.
The purpose of a congregation is not to organize the universal church but to REPRODUCE it. In other words, each congregation should demonstrate the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The characteristics and principles of the universal church are--should be--native (congenital) to the local congregation. If it is Christ’s Body, it will follow in His steps and pursue His redemptive work on earth. Only then is it truly His church.
Acts 2:47 reports “the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Pastors are not celestial census-takers or church policemen; they are ambassadors that God calls to “preach the Word.” Christ is the census-taker; he admits “saved” people into his church. The Spirit of God becomes the policeman (the umpire) keeping our conduct harmonious with our calling. When we as ministers faithfully do our part, Christ does His part.
What is our message then? Acts 8:1-4 directs us: “Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church (congregation) which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles . . . THEREFORE, (resulting from Saul’s havoc) they that were scattered abroad went everywhere PREACHING THE WORD.”
We need only note here that when the Jerusalem congregation faced persecution’s havoc, the fire of Pentecost scattered in all directions, wherever the witnesses fled. In this way, the Kingdom of God spread. Verse 12 notes, “when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the KINGDOM OF GOD, (*the Kingdom was not postponed) and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized.”
The result of Philip’s preaching the Kingdom of God, and its relationship to Jesus Christ, caused churches to spring up (were established). Verses 5-6 add this important principle: “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ, (Messiah) to them.”
Consequently, “the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.” The effective gospel message comes with HEARING AND SEEING and the Book of Acts begins with this: “the former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all the things which Jesus began TO DO AND TEACH.” Luke 8:1 suggests Jesus came PREACHING AND SHOWING the glad tidings of the Kingdom of God.
The gospel message offers concrete appeal--oratory and ACTION. Christ’s Kingdom produces PROCLAMATION with DEMONSTRATION. When Paul spoke of taking the gospel to Thessalonica, he reported that he brought the Word of God with POWER on the day of Pentecost.
It attracted and amazed the multitude, but it perplexed them, then convicted them of their sin. This resulted in their mass conversion. When they first came together they asked, “What is the meaning of this?” Hearing and seeing what was taking place, their question changed to, “What must we do?” Thus, their spiritual needs were answered.
Proclaiming and demonstrating the Kingdom of God in this manner in our communities will result in revival. Nothing less--and nothing else--will produce such results. Note: Philip preached Christ (The Messiah) unto them (v.5). Verse 12 says “they believed what he preached concerning the Kingdom of God.”
In other words, preaching Christ is announcing the Kingdom of God. As we faithfully proclaim this message, Christ builds HIS church.