Some months ago I was given a copy of Dr. Edward Klink’s (Hope EFC, Roscoe, IL) The Local Church – What It Is and Why It Matters. Klink’s brief book, along with a couple others, became a valuable resource for preaching on the importance of the church in this post-covid era. As I consider the Church, I am amazed at how she is a deep and gracious gift to not only the Christian but to mankind itself. The Church has proven to be essential for the Christian as well as society in general during this 2000 year tenure.

Over the years the Church has been the incubator and major source of social services such as hospitals, orphanages, adoption agencies, schools and general social care in society. The Church has also been an inspiration for art. Before books were readily available and before every man could read, the Church taught through art and helped to develop a proper worldview. Through art the Church taught society to long for what is sublime instead of grasping for what is temporal, all while depicting the beauty of God’s creation and majesty of God’s power.

The art of music has also benefitted tremendously through volumes of inspirational songs that speak bountifully of God and melodically transcends any listener to the hope we find in Christ alone. Over the years, the Church has served as a developer of culture, of moral standards and of governance. In fact, our American Constitution is heavily based on the Christian Church’s teachings. Throughout the centuries the Church has provided the definition of family with standards and expectations. She has been an incubator for philosophy and for politics. Christians, raised and tutored in the church, have contributed greatly to science. Consider Florence Nightingale, the creator of modern nursing and Werner Karl Heinsenberg, the developer of quantum mechanics. Add to the list scientists like Isaac Newton, George Washington Carver and William (Lord Kelvin) Thompson, who codified the first two laws of thermal dynamics.

There is no question that the Church has been a place where the individual and society are steadied, serving as a mooring for anyone wise enough to bind himself to her. The Church has kept us from being carried away by every new idea, philosophy or lie. She has been the stalwart of society, taking on the burly punches of secularism but remaining resolute and anchored to Christ.

Certainly, the church has failed at times over the years. But keep in mind that when the church failed, it is only because she stopped acting like the Church of Christ.

If society has benefitted so much from the Church, imagine how beneficial the local church is for the believer for whom the church belongs! John Bunyan wrote that the church is “the house built for the relief and security of pilgrims.” Bunyan’s words resonate with anyone who has found the refreshing preached-word pour from the pulpit. The church sits on God’s hill and is for the rest and refuge of those who know they are just passing through.

Paul’s Pastoral Epistles give us instructions on how to build a church. Jesus Christ did say, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt. 16:18). This is a very consoling truth. Jesus will build his church. That means that I do not need to be afraid that the Church of Christ will die and there will be no gospel proclamation in this world. The Church will last until Christ says it will last and no man will overcome her. Hell itself will not endure the pressing of Christ’s Church.

However, Christ uses us to build his church.

Paul wrote three letters to pastors on how to build the church. One blueprint was written to Titus and two were written to Timothy. These are letters written by an aging apostle who understands that the mantle is now being handed over to younger men. The second letter to Pastor Timothy will be Paul’s last letter to any pastor or church before he is martyred.

In these letters, Paul gives to these churches significant and much needed advice, instructions and requirements on how to build Christ’s church. These are clearly not “when you get a chance” or “if you think it is wise” or “this is what has worked for me, you might want to try this” kind of advice. Rather, they are detailed and clear requirements for what these pastors must do if they are going to lead in the development of a healthy and strong, God-honoring church of Christ.  

So Paul gives instructions on proper worship, correcting wrong teaching, confronting wrong teachers, qualifications for leadership and how to treat people in the congregation. Paul instructs Timothy that because of the task entrusted to him, he must be without reproach and give everyone a reason to emulate the pastor (1 Tim. 4:12). This means that the pastor will have to be a true student and practitioner of God’s word. It also means that he will have to devote himself to the public reading of God’s word, so that the church will know God’s word. As their pastor, he will have to strongly urge his people as he teaches them the word of God.

Maybe you too have noticed that the sole tool given to these pastors to build the church is the inspired word of God. Such a great task warrants just one mighty tool. The word of God will be the pastor’s plumb line, chisel, hammer and saw.

Back in 1606 William Perkins published a manual for preaching which said [in my contemporized English],

The word of God is the only field in which the preacher is to labor.

It is to be preached thoroughly and consistently because the Bible is God’s wisdom and reveals from heaven, godly truth.

Therefore, it evokes admiration because of its nature and effects.

The nature of the Bible is that it is perfect, pure and eternal.

The Bible’s perfection rests in its purity and sufficiency.

It is so complete, that nothing can be added or taken away from it.

Psalm 19:7 states that “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.”

Its purity means that the Bible stands complete in itself.

It stands without deceit or error.

Psalm 12:6 reads that “The words of the Lord are pure words,
     like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.”

The Bible’s eternity is the quality of remaining unbreakable.

It cannot pass away until all it says is fulfilled.

The Bible is the only field in which the preacher labors. If he’s preaching, it’s got to be from the Bible. If the church is learning, it must be the Bible and its application that she is learning.

In each of his Pastoral Epistles’ very first verses, Paul is clear about his apostolic authority and that he is an envoy of God.  Paul’s authority did not come from a self-imposed status. In fact, Paul himself was not a charismatic leader who could propel a church forward with his personality or self-imposed authority. Second Corinthians 10:10 describes the apostle this way: For they say, ‘His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.’”

A 2nd Century writer described Paul as “a man with small stature, with a bald head and crooked legs, in a good state of body, with eyebrows meeting and a nose somewhat hooked and full of friendliness; for now he appeared like a man and now he had the face of an angel.” Neither describes an imposing figure apt to lead by his own strength. When Paul writes on how to build a church, he is conveying instructions from Christ and dependent on Christ.

One other detail captures my attention in how Paul instructs us on how to build Christ’s church and that is his motivation.

In 1 Timothy 1:1 he writes “Christ Jesus our hope.”

In 2 Timothy 1:1 he writes “the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus.”

In Titus 1:1 his motivation is “for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth.”

Paul is moved into action by the promised hope of God to those he calls to himself. The power of this hope motivated Paul to endure being kidnapped, beaten, threatened, arrested several times, chained in dungeons, accused in lawsuits, mocked, disregarded, interrogated, flogged with 39 lashes five times, shipwrecked three times and bitten by a viper. This testifies to how genuine Paul’s hope in Christ was.

I often wonder how valuable this hope is to us. I wonder to what degree this hope is reflected in how we teach the word of God and how we read his blueprints.

So I’ll leave you with these three truths I have learned over the years:

1. Hope does not put us to shame.

2. God’s blueprint does not change: It cannot mean today what it never meant before.

3. We need to continue building his church.

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Paulo Freire

Lead Pastor at Hope Church
Pastor Paulo Freire has been shepherding the congregation at Hope Church in New Jersey for twenty-five years. He is a native of São Paulo, Brazil. As a graduate of the Moody Bible Institute, Pastor Paulo brings a love for the study and application of the Word of God into the pulpit with him. He lives in Wantage with his wife Lisa. They have three sons, Tyler (married to Jeanna & pastoring in Ohio), Micah (worship director in Los Angeles), and Elias, who is still at home, along with one granddaughter named Maggie and a grandson due any day. When he is not behind the pulpit at Hope, Pastor Paulo can be found preaching and teaching in other venues, training pastors through the EFCA Gateway program or working with the district's credentialing process and the Board of Ministerial Standing.

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1 Comment

  1. JJ Meyer on May 25, 2023 at 10:21 am

    Thanks Paulo! So glad we can labor together as Pastors and help build His Church!

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