How to Talk About Church with Your Church

Tony Merida | June 1st 2021

I have the privilege of talking with pastors from around the world on a weekly basis. Every context is dealing with Covid differently, but very many pastors have described to me the need to “re-launch” or “re-boot” their churches. After so many months of restrictions on church gatherings, they want to call people to re-engage. In my own context, too, we’re preparing to do a sermon series on the local church which will explore what the church really is—and emphasize its glory. 

As we prepare for this kind of “re-launch”, I and many other pastors have been asking this question: how can we talk about the church with our church—in a way that isn’t domineering or self-serving, but life-giving and sanctifying?

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Talk Biblically 

We need to help people understand the church from Jesus’ perspective. Often, we judge the church by what has happened to us in it, instead of by what the New Testament says about it. Of course, experience is important—and we grieve negative ones. But having an elevated concept of the church means seeing it biblically. As we look closely at the church revealed in Scripture, we gain a good grasp of what the church is and isn’t. It’s not a building you visit, nor an event you attend, but a redeemed people to whom you belong (Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9-10). We’re also reminded of the nature of servant leadership and the importance of the church gathered in worship and scattered in mission. 

Further, a biblical look at the church helps us establish proper expectations. The New Testament doesn’t convey the idea that the church will be perfect on this side of heaven. “I wish we could return to the first-century church,” people often say. But when you look at the churches in the New Testament, you find they had problems, too! Yet Jesus never tells us to give up on the church. This sober understanding of life in the body is important for helping people kill the “wish dream”, as Bonhoeffer called it: that is, an unrealistic expectation of church life. 

Talk Passionately 

Paul exhorted the Roman Christians, “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord” (Romans 12:11). But just before this, he wrote similar words specifically to leaders—urging them to use their spiritual gift “with zeal” (12:8). If leaders aren’t passionate about the church, why should they expect others to be? There’s only one way to lead like Jesus, and that is with zeal.

Talk Affectionately 

One thing I’m struck by in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians is how affectionate he is toward them, even when correcting them strongly. After defending his ministry and urging them to not put up with false teachers, he says, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls” (2 Corinthians 12:15). He can be both bold and gentle (10:1). This, too, is the way of Christ, and of true Christian leadership. One pastor told me he once wrote at the top of his sermon notes, “Love the people.” As we talk passionately about the church, let’s display pastoral affection.

"As we lift up the church, we must lift up the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:18). A proper understanding of the church magnifies his salvation, his authority, his life-giving power, and his mission. After all, it’s his church."

Talk Practically 

If we give a great vision for the church and inspire people, but don’t give them pathways into the church, then they will be frustrated. And rightly so. We need to lead with the Word, but we also need a plan to help people to join our fellowship and a plan to involve them in serving. These ideas can be dripped into corporate gatherings so that people are regularly hearing what their next steps are.  

Talk Illustratively 

It’s important to highlight the ways members are flourishing and blessing others in the church, to help others envision what this may look like. Simply recognizing acts of service—caring for children in the church, babysitting for single moms, taking food to the grieving, praying for the hurting, financially blessing the needy, serving refugees, or listening to the wounded—can be very impactful. Drawing attention to these simple yet meaningful stories helps others imagine how they, too, can help “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2) and fulfill the other “one anothers” in Scripture. 

Talk Christocentrically 

As we lift up the church, we must lift up the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:18). A proper understanding of the church magnifies his salvation, his authority, his life-giving power, and his mission. After all, it’s his church.

In Revelation 2 – 3, we see Christ offering the ultimate evaluation on the church and promising to bless her for following his Word. Jesus is “the one who walks among the seven golden lampstands” which represent the church (Revelation 2:1). Where is Jesus? He is with us, among us. And this is why we don’t give up on the church and why we want our lives to be intertwined with our brothers’ and sisters’ lives. Christ is still the Shepherd, the Head, the Vine, The Foundation, and the Husband. He is building his church (Matthew 16:18) and we have the thrilling privilege of being part of what he is doing. 

To further conversations with your church about church, we recommend reading Love Your Church by Tony Merida. There’s a FREE kit to go with the book, which includes worksheets, a discussion guide, and introductory videos for each session. You could use this kit for book club, church-wide reading, or small groups. Ministry Partners get 50% OFF when ordering 30 or more copies. If you’re not a Ministry Partner and you order on behalf of a church or ministry, join today

Tony Merida

Tony Merida is Pastor for Preaching and Vision of Imago Dei Church, Raleigh, NC and a Council member of The Gospel Coalition. He is the author of a number of books, including Love Your Church, Ruth For You, The Christ-Centered Expositor, and Ordinary. He and his wife, Kimberly, have five adopted children.

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