Reformed Baptist Fellowship

Forget Rethinking the Church

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on January 10, 2013 at 11:10 am

Today, prodigious amounts of energy are being poured into this effort. Everything about the church must be rethought! We must rethink how it becomes successful! We must rethink it all because this is what businesses have to do! Their products are all the time dying as new niches and needs arise. So it is in the church! Rethink or die!

In my view, so much of this rethinking confuses rethinking the nature of the church with rethinking its performance. For the multitude of pragmatists who are leading churches in America today, these are one and the same thing. The church is nothing but its performance. There is nothing to be said about the church that cannot be reduced to how it is doing, and that is a matter for constant inventories, poll taking, daily calculations, and strategizing.

I beg to differ. These are two entirely different matters. We intrude into what is not our business when, in our earnest pursuit of success in the church, which we think we can manufacture, we confuse its performance with its nature. Let me explain.

The church is not our creation. It is not our business. We are not called upon to manage it. It is not there for us to advance our careers in it. It is not there for our own success. It is not a business. The church, in fact, was never our idea in the first place. No, it is not the church we need to rethink.

Rather, it is our thoughts about the church that need to be rethought. It is the church’s faithfulness that needs to be reexamined. It is its faithfulness to who it is in Christ, its faithfulness in living out its life in the world, that should be occupying us. The church, after all, is not under our management but under God’s sovereign care, and what he sees as health is very often rather different from what we imagine its health to be.

The church, let us remember, is called the “church of God” (Gal. 1:13; 1 Cor. 15:9). Churches are “the churches of Christ” (Rom. 16:16) because they are his, bought by his precious blood. Christ not only constituted the church (Matt. 16:18), but God has given us the blueprint for its life in Scripture. What we need to do, then, first and foremost, is to think God’s thoughts after him, think about the church in a way that replicates his thoughts about it. We need to ask ourselves how well, or how badly, we are realizing our life in Christ in the church, how far and how well churches stand as the outposts of the kingdom of God in our particular culture.[1]


[1] David F. Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-Lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World (Grand Rapids, Mich: Eerdmans Publishing, 2008), 222-223.

  1. something to think about and rethink. thanks!

  2. I love this! I hope and pray that we will all seek to think God’s thoughts after Him, seek to honor Him in His church, and fear Him. I’m reminded of the church of Sardis…”“I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.” Rev. 3:1a-3

  3. Mission matters but motives matter more.
    It is one of the hardest things for us to grasp.
    James says that faith without works is dead being alone.( We all respond with a hearty Amen.)
    Problem is, that’s only half of the context required for Christian service.
    The most important part is found in 1st Corinthians 13-. “Without love it means nothing.”
    The question we need to then ask is,” do I love Christ because He first loved me? Is that why I serve Him?
    Jesus is our first love.

  4. So many these days are concerned with the thoughts of building their own kingdoms (their ideas of church success), but it is Christ’s Kingdom (His thoughts about His Church) that is to be built! We cannot measure the success of the Church by our busy-ness and how many may be sitting in the pews. Christ causes His Church to be successful by His Word proclaimed, both in and out of the pulpit. We are to follow the Lord and His plan, knowing that the gates of hell will NEVER prevail against it.

  5. [...] F. Wells is Distinguished Senior Research Professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. This article first appeared on the Reformed Baptist Fellowship website and is used by [...]

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