Lessons from a Missing Sign

Presently, the road in front of the Creekview church building is under construction, and the sign that was in front of the building has been temporarily removed.  When the sign was in place, we used it to display messages for drivers who passed by.  These messages communicated little bits of wisdom and lessons from the word of God.  Now that the sign is gone, its absence may communicate some wisdom and lessons to us.  Letís learn a few lessons from a missing sign.

Lesson 1: Let us be careful not to make ourselves into a denomination.  The banner at the top of our sign reads "CREEKVIEW Church of Christ.Ē  This is necessary to identify who we are collectively as a congregation, but we should not allow the words on the sign to put us into a denominational box.  A denomination is an organization of local churches that all wear the same name and uphold the same doctrines.  Each denomination exists to preserve a peculiar, extra-Biblical doctrine that is associated with it and is designated by a specific name, such as Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc.  All denominational churches are separated by their peculiar doctrines and their specific names, for their names (denominations) indicate their unique practices.

Let us understand that the term "church of ChristĒ is a description and not a denominational title.  These words simply mean that we are a local church that belongs to Christ.  The Lord said, "I will build My churchĒ (Matt. 16:18), and we at Creekview are a local assembly of the church that Christ built.  The Scriptures say that Christ purchased the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28) and that the church is His body (Eph. 1:22-23; 5:23; Col. 1:18).  We designate or denominate (name) ourselves as a church of Christ only as a way of identifying ourselves as a local manifestation of Christís church and body which was purchased with His blood.  It is not our purpose to identify ourselves with any other organization by using the description "church of Christ,Ē nor is it our intention to promote any extra-Biblical doctrine by this name.  The term "church of ChristĒ (Rom. 16:16) is a sound, Scriptural designation for Christís church, but so are "church of GodĒ (eleven uses in the New Testament) and several other descriptions.  Any Biblical designation of the church is good for us to use, and therefore we should not stubbornly cling to only one description as if it is a denominational name.

Lesson 2: The church is not the building in which we meet.  Our sign has been temporarily taken away, but we are still a local church of Christ.  Likewise, if we somehow lost our building, we would still be a church.  Unfortunately, meeting places and signs have become status symbols for churches.  Newly formed congregations often feel that they havenít arrived as a church until they have a respectable building with a proper sign to declare their existence.  Sometimes the acquisition, maintenance, and expansion of a churchís meeting place can consume a churchís resources and efforts.  Yet the New Testament does not give any emphasis to the places in which churches met.  Some of the various meeting places of churches mentioned in the Bible are the temple of Jerusalem (Acts 2:46), synagogues (Jas. 2:2), an upper room (Acts 20:7-8), and houses (Acts 12:12).  The meeting place of the church was not significant, for it did not define the church.  The Bible says to Christians, "Now you are Christís body, and individually members of itĒ (1Cor. 12:27).  Despite our modern expectations, the body of Christ may exist without a designated "church building,Ē for it is the members, not the building, that form the Lordís church.

Lesson 3: The local church is for the local members.  One of the functions of a sign at the churchís meeting place is to declare who assembles there and when they assemble.  This is done primarily for outsiders and visitors who would not otherwise know these things.  Of course, we are pleased to have God-fearing visitors in our assemblies, but let us remember that we assemble for the purpose of worshiping God and edifying one another (1Cor. 11:17-34; Eph. 4:11-16).   Our assemblies are not designed for the accommodation of visitors, but rather they are for the members of the local church to fulfill their obligations and privileges in the service of our Lord.  Likewise, our assemblies should not be altered in anticipation of what a visitor might want or expect.  Visitors who want to offer worship to God in spirit and in truth are welcomed and encouraged to join us in all that we have planned to do according to the word of God.  However, the services of the church must not be redesigned to please men as a way of drawing visitors into the assembly.

Lord willing, when the construction in front of our building is finished, the sign that is now missing will be replaced, and our messages to the passing traffic will resume.  In the meantime, letís keep in mind these lessons regarding the church, for they transcend meetings places and locations and apply to congregations of the Lordís people wherever and whenever they meet.  The true sign of the Lordís church in every place and every age is the belief, preaching, and practicing of the word of God.  Letís make certain that this is the sign that truly represents the Creekview church.

Stacey E. Durham