“Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:14-15).
In my last note I wrote about the life-cycle of a church, how that, inevitably, it will die. But no one should read those words as if that truth is inconsequential. When a church dies, it is very consequential.
When a church dies, because it is the presence of Christ in a community (remember, the church is the “body of Christ”), it means that Christ no longer has a presence there or, if the congregation is one of several, the presence of Christ is diminished. It is through the work of the church that the knowledge of God and salvation through Jesus Christ is to be made known in a community (see Ephesians 3:10-11). When a church dies the means of this knowledge is also diminished.
Note our text: The church is the “pillar and foundation of the truth.” The phrase is significant. The church does not “originate” truth. Truth comes from God and is found in His word. But that truth is supported by and rests on the church – the family of God. Without the church, God’s truth is but an idea – perhaps an ideal. But in the church, that idea comes to life, is seen to be real and seen how it can be real in the lives of people. God’s truth is lived, proclaimed, encouraged, and supported by the church and when a church dies, that fleshed out image of God’s truth dies too.
It is a truth, churches die. But it is important that they not die, that they be kept alive (but not on life support), vibrant, healthy, growing as long as possible that the truth of God might not just be proclaimed, but seen in a world that desperately needs it. By the way, none of that happens unless those members who make up the church actively, intentionally, and faithfully, make it so.