Families That Neglect the Church and The Great Commission
July 1, 2008
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061

“But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).

While the family is the foundational unit in the church and society and is very, very important, I believe it is possible to turn it into an idol when it is emphasized beyond biblical bounds and when it becomes an end unto itself.

Christ’s Great Commission is to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth and to plant churches that are discipleship centers, the pillar and ground of the truth, where believers are trained in the service of God and in the work of world evangelism (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:17; Luke 24:46-48; Acts 1:8). This is what we see lived out in the book of Acts and it is a program that is to be perpetuated until Christ returns.

Parents who are committed to Christ will have this Great Commission before them at all times as they raise their children.

To raise wholesome, talented, law-abiding, hard-working citizens is not enough, because it falls short of what Christ commanded.

I believe home schooling is by far the best way to educate children. That is how our own children were educated, but within some home schooling circles there is neglect toward and misunderstanding of the New Testament church.

For example, on my last preaching trip to Australia I met some godly families in one of the churches. The children play various musical instruments; they have a wide variety of interests and talents; they have serious goals in life; they are getting a wonderful education; they are separated from the wicked things of the world. There is nothing wrong with any of this, of course. It is a great blessing to see close and godly families in this wicked age. The problem is with the emphasis and balance. These families do not place the church and the Great Commission in a Scriptural priority. They attend services only once service a week, forsaking the other services for “family time,” in direct contradiction to Acts 2:42 and Hebrews 10:25. They brazenly neglected the special services that the church was hosting and thus gained no benefit from the visiting preacher. Their lives could have been challenged by that preaching, but other things were more important to them.

These parents are teaching their children many good things, but they are wrong in teaching them to slight the church.

My friends, the Bible plainly states that it is the church that is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15). Why doesn’t it say that the home is the pillar and ground of the truth? And this is not some vague “universal” church. The context is a scripturally organized assembly that has pastors and deacons (1 Tim. 3:1-14). The believer’s service to the Lord is to be in and through such a church, in submission to God-ordained pastors and elders (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; Hebrews 13:7, 17).

Any family that is not in proper relationship with and submission to God-ordained church authority is not in the will of God (unless, of course, no such church exists in the area). I say this on the authority of the Scriptures. I would ask such a family, “Who has the rule over you?” If the reply is, “God does,” I would rejoin that God Himself says that church elders are to have the rule over us (Heb. 13:17), not as lords over us but as under-shepherds who must, in turn, give account to the Great Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:1-4).

I understand all too well that pastoral authority has been abused at times and that this is an hour of great compromise in churches, but that is no excuse to reject it. Husbands and fathers have abused their authority at least as much as pastors have abused theirs, but that does not mean that we are free to reject them. The Lord Jesus Christ said, “I will build my church” (Mat. 16:18). It is His plan and program, and it is not to be despised.

There is nothing wrong with a “house church” as such, if that church is scripturally organized, but a loose knit gathering in a home is not necessarily a church, and a father of a family is not a pastor unless he is qualified and called and ordained (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-11; Acts 14:23).

Paul wrote to Titus and informed him that he was to “set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city” (Titus 1:5). The thing that was wanting, or lacking, was for the new converts to be organized into proper New Testament assemblies, and this required the ordination of qualified, God-called elders (Titus 1:6-16).

This is the pattern that we see in the first missionary journey. After Paul and Barnabas had preached in many places, they returned to each place and organized the new groups of believers into churches and ordained elders in each one (Acts 14:23).

A home Bible study, a home prayer meeting, a loose knit group of home schoolers, is not in itself a proper New Testament church and has no scriptural authority to replace such a church.

Some complain that “church today is not a sanctuary from the world nor is it a ‘holy’ place.”

While I agree that too many churches are worldly from top to bottom, meaning that even the leaders and workers are worldly, it is equally true that a scriptural New Testament church will never be completely holy. If a church is reaching the world for Christ as it should, there will always be unsaved and newly saved people in attendance who are not very holy, to say the least. In fact, if we were to be honest with our own hearts, we would admit that there is plenty of unholiness in the most mature of saints, as even the apostle Paul lamented in regard to his own life. “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Rom. 7:18). And the apostle John added his Amen to this when he said, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:9).

The New Testament church can never be a complete sanctuary from the world or a perfectly holy place for the simple fact that it is made up of sinners who are in the business of reaching sinners. Paul referred to the unsaved who attended the meetings of the church at Corinth, and said nothing to discourage the church from having the unsaved in attendance but rather encouraged them to live in such a way that they would reach the unsaved for Christ (1 Cor. 14:23-25).

A church that is busy reaching the unsaved will not only have the unsaved in attendance at services and events but will have new believers in attendance, as well, and these will be far from “entirely sanctified” and separated from the world.

I remember when I was first saved and joined a fundamental Baptist church in central Florida. I was saved; I knew the Lord; I had truly repented; but I was still a mess! I still had hair down to my shoulders; I still smoked and listened to rock & roll and attended worldly movies. Yet the church members were so patient and kind to me, opening their homes to me, spending time with me, discipling me; and it was this that helped me to grow and to begin shedding the things of the flesh and the world and putting on Christ.

The man that led me to Jesus Christ had the same attitude. He was not ashamed to spend four or so days traveling with me, living with me, enduring my foul language and disgusting habits and vain arguments against the truth.

The apostolic churches that are described in the New Testament scriptures were far from sinlessly perfect. Consider the seven churches of Asia Minor addressed in Revelation 2-3. Most of these apostolic churches had serious problems. The church at Ephesus had left its first love. The church at Pergamos allowed false teachers in their midst, including the false doctrine of Balaam that was associated with idolatry and fornication. The church at Thyatira allowed a false prophetess to teach worldly heresies. The church at Sardis had a name that it lived but was dead. The church at Laodicea was so lukewarm that Christ warned them that He would spew them out of His mouth.

Consider the apostolic church at Corinth. This church was established by the apostle Paul himself, but it was a genuine mess! The members were carnal and divided (1 Cor. 1-3); they did not discipline even the most glaring sins (1 Cor. 5); they took one another to court (1 Cor. 6); they fellowshipped with idols (1 Cor. 10); they grossly misused the spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 14); they allowed false teachers in their midst, even those who preached false christs and gospels (2 Cor. 11:3-4) and denied the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:12).

The church at Philippi was an excellent church, but two women in the congregation were so at odds with one another that they had to be corrected by Paul in a public letter (Phil. 4:2).

The apostle Peter played the hypocrite and Paul had to rebuke him publicly (Gal. 2:11-14).

Even Paul and Barnabas had such a “sharp contention” that they could no longer work together (Acts 15:36-40).

None of this is an excuse to think that it does not matter what type of church we attend or how we live, but it is a fact of Christian living and church life that we must understand and learn to deal with.

For more on this subject search see our eBook, “Keys to Fruitful Church Membership”

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