Mature Saints, Strong Families, and Strong Churches
by Duane Gallentine
A serious student of the Bible can not help but see that the late 20th century Christian church has conformed itself to the mega-mall mentality. With the ever increasing prevalence of the "social gospel" and human wisdom dominating the mind of progressively liberal Christian leaders, churches look more and more like shopping malls. We are here to serve you: The bigger the better.
Whatever one thinks that his or her needs are, or the needs of their families might be, find a mega-church, walk in and feast upon the variable menu of classes, courses, different age groups, the plethora of activities, even selecting that special preacher which fits your personality. The mega-mentality views large, well-financed, "busy" churches as inherently possessing the means whereby God, by those things, will produce that desired spiritual strength within.
With the confidence that the "blessing of God" is upon and evident within this mega-ministry, the participant's personal life and family life will soon reap the result of personal maturity in the things of God and a stronger family capable of handling life for the glory of God.
No doubt the sincerity of the faith of such a participant is genuine, but having the goal of faith unfeigned was not of man's origination. It was and still is God's desire that his creatures possess genuine faith. In writing to Timothy about believers, Paul the apostle charges or commands his son in the faith to teach no other doctrine, but rather teach for instruction within the Body of Christ the Gospel of the Grace of God and the full knowledge of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the Mystery. Paul wrote:
"Now the end of the commandment [Paul's charge to Timothy] is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:" 1 Tim 1:5 [my clarification]
Sincerity alone is not the measure of a genuine faith.....a faith that has been built up by godly edification which strengthens believers. What is the measure of faith unfeigned is accuracy! Accuracy to the written doctrines of the Word of God's Grace which is able to build-up the believer--Acts 20:32.
The sincere but spiritually empty mega-participant comes to the mega-well expecting to draw upon it for perceived needs. But this is flawed in several ways; one which is that the participant lacks spiritual discernment concerning things taught or preached. It is as if he opens the mind and they fill it up. God's wise counsel is to have an open Bible studied rightly divided so that a believer can listen through a house of doctrine which has been built upon the foundation of his soul's eternal salvation.
In other words before there will be spiritual strong churches there must of necessity be mature believers who have vested personal time in diligently studying the sound doctrine of the Pauline revelation--Romans through Philemon.
Some might object to the teaching that sound doctrine is only found in Paul's thirteen epistles. Some might ask, "Isn't it true that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine?" We say a resounding "Yes, 2 Timothy 3:16 is true!", but are we going to be sincere or accurate? The fact is that God uses the phrase sound doctrine only in Paul's epistles. The remaining 53 books of Scripture contain doctrine, but these are not classified by God as sound doctrine. Would you sincerely argue with God about this or would you rather have faith that is accurate according to His Word? Would you rather stand by faith in the Word of God, knowing exactly what God says about these things, or would you rather take a position derived from human wisdom and be contrary to His written Word?
Most professing Christians, including those promoting or participating in the mega-mall church mentality, are ignorant of the Word of Truth rightly divided. Timothy was charged with adhering to the Word of Truth rightly divided, making known to the believers in Ephesus the differences between sound doctrine and other doctrine--1 Tim 1:3.
Most Christian churches teach doctrine, teach a homogenized gospel, teach traditions, teaching from a Bible, but there is a failure in communicating the distinct revelation of Paul's gospel of Grace and the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the Mystery--Romans 16:25/Ephesians 3:1-10.
Since God himself designates only Paul's thirteen epistles as sound doctrine, and in the Lord's design only sound doctrine has the spirit capacity to produce mature saints, then the conclusion is that being filled with other doctrine can only produce a lack of maturity, unsoundness of spirit, and weak, carnal believers. And in reality, the mega-church is judged by God's Word to be a mega-mess impotent of producing mature, strong believers and strong families.
An example from Paul's ministry might be appropriate at this point. Paul, in his apostolic journeys, traveled to Thessalonica--Acts 17:1. There he preached his Gospel of the Grace of God and many were saved. These people gathered together in their newfound faith and are addressed by Paul in his epistles to them as "the church of the Thessalonians".
Due to many in Thessalonica not believing Paul's message of the Gospel of the Grace of God, opposition arose causing great trouble coming upon Paul, as well as to their own countrymen who accepted his message. Those who became Paul's brethren in the faith, immediately sent Paul away. But the persecution intensified, even to the point that some of the believers died for their faith in the persecutions and tribulations that followed.
Now here is a "church", not of today's mega-variety, but one that was in deep poverty (2 Corinthians 8:1-4), and yet this church was sounding out Paul's message of gentile Grace beyond their own city into the regions of Macedonia and Achaia. No wonder the Adversary struck!
Paul, in his absence and in his tender care for them in their afflictions, wrote two letters to them. Utmost attention should be given to what the Spirit of God had Paul write in the first chapter of 2nd Thessalonians verses 3-4 and 11-12:
"We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth; So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:"......."Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ."
Faith grew exceedingly within each believer as he or she accepted by faith the form of doctrine Paul delivered (1 Thessalonians 2:13 cf. Romans 6:17). Sound doctrinal faith touched families. Their families suffered loss; their loved ones were killed for their stand in the Grace of God. Yet, the assembly ("every one of you all toward each other", Paul wrote) abounded in the things of God to the point that the name of the Lord Jesus Christ was glorified in them and with them.
Now, was it that the church made the believer mature and strong, or that the mature saints made the church strong? Is there any doubt that the "church family" was strong due to "strong families"? And after all, what kind of a mega-church was this, surely not one tailored after the modern Christian phenomenon, but one that was abounding (mega) in faith and charity, having good remembrance of their apostle Paul; holding fast the doctrines of his apostleship, Message, and ministry.
In closing, Paul writes to Timothy who was ministering at the city of Ephesus:
"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
Timothy's ministry was with a local gathering of saints in Ephesus. Paul instructs him that the church of the living God right there in Ephesus was to be the pillar and ground of the truth. I say "was to be" because Paul left Timothy in the city to minister the truth to individuals who were being subverted from Paul's message by other doctrines taken from the Word of God.
If the local assembly left the sound doctrine of Paul's revelation, which is the Truth of God for this present Dispensation of the Grace of God, then the local assembly would be contrary to God's design and purpose. They would not be the pillar and the ground of the Truth, but would be teaching error...other doctrine. The point is that before the local assembly could be what God intended it to be, each participant needed to be personally rooted and grounded in the teachings of Paul's Message.
Thus, it is evident that the progression is:
"Sound Doctrine produces Mature Saints"
"Mature Saints produce Strong Families"
"Strong Families produce Strong Churches"