Purpose of the church
For people to get their lives, the country and the church back to the original purpose of the church as directed by God, people must rid themselves of destructive pride, repent and return back by way of holiness, allowing the glory of the Lord to reign, letting their light shine, providing a refuge, a place of prayer, a place of love, a place of worship and a place of remembrance, according to Family Life Kingdom Center senior pastor Ryan Bethell.
At a recent Sunday service, he told congregants that holiness attracts the glory of God which then makes people’s light shine brighter, which he said allows those who are blind to see their way to the place of refuge, a place saturated in prayer, displaying their neverending love of God and each other.
“As a result of worshipping in spirit and truth, we will always remember to break bread together, and baptizing all in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is the purpose of the Lord’s church. And if we refuse to implement all, then we make the church our church, with no presence of God — grand, beautiful, yet meaningless.”
Bethell said the church, just like everything else on earth, has a purpose and that it is not to befriend the world, or to come into agreement with votes or popular opinions, wants and needs and desires of the masses. But rather, it is a holy institution designed and set up by the Lord.
“If holiness doesn’t exist in any church, then that church is not a church of God,” said the senior pastor at Family Life Kingdom Center, Carmichael Road and Coral Harbour roundabout. “It [may] still looks like a church, sound like a church, and even act like the church, but it is not the church, because the chief purpose of the church, from the very foundation of the church, is and will always be holiness. Just because you can preach heaven down, and you can minister in song that have people screaming and falling out, that doesn’t mean that a fiber of holiness is attached to it.”
He reminded the people that the church is not the walls, but rather the people — born again Christians who present their bodies as a living sacrifice, who live holy lives that are acceptable to God and not the world.
“We are the church, and the residents of the world. A house is just a building until somebody occupies it, just as a sanctuary is just a building, until the glory of God fills it. Without the presence of God’s glory, we can go through the motions and even use our gifts to the best of our abilities, but heaven will not come down into a place where holiness doesn’t reign.”
According to the pastor, the second purpose of the church is for the glory of the Lord to always be present.
He noted that The Bahamas of today has changed from the country of yesteryear, with church attendance dramatically having fallen off.
“Prior to the 1960s we were individually responsible for our own conduct. Our values were based on family support, educational advancement and a strong religious foundation. Individual respect was earned through achievement and not given away for political cronyism. Our schools taught us intellectual betterment and our churches gave us spiritual support and guidance. Family, school and church were the foundation of the Bahamian community which gave us a sense of being and belonging together. Since the 1960s, both The Bahamas, the United States and other western nations of the world have undergone a dramatic social transformation emphasizing social collectivization and demeaning social individualism and self-sufficiency. Over this timeframe, traditional social values, which were cohesive and held the community together, began to change, resulting in an erosion and decline in our traditional moral, cultural and spiritual values. Society became transformed and divided as tolerance for differences of opinion became unacceptable. Today, the once virtuous family unit is tragically falling apart, education emphasizes a lesser level of learning achievement and church attendance is down as it caters more to the collection plate and less to human salvation and righteousness of mankind.”
Bethel recalled a time when the church of yesteryear was filled with the glory of God. He said holiness was clearly evident amongst the church, and the glory of the Lord was rampant.
“This resulted in us being a better people which transferred over and made us a better country. We started out really well and as a result we became very prosperous. Unfortunately the prosperity of we the church, had positive and negative dividends. Our houses are now bigger, our cars much faster, we have more degrees and two … three houses, the churches are now more palatial, the pastors’ names are much more longer and eloquent, like my friend who left me a voice mail and said this is bishop, apostle, prophet, doctor so and so; but yet through all this advancement, society, including us the church, became transformed and divided as tolerance for differences of opinion became unacceptable. So inclusive of the church we conformed to the world and became transformed in our minds according to the opinions of the populous, which means that we got rid of the first purpose of the church — holiness — which then resulted in the second purpose of the church, God’s glory, leaving our churches and plummeting an entire nation into darkness.”
In his sermon, Bethell urged the congregation members to let their light shine.
“Holiness is the fuel in the vehicle, and God’s glory is the engine that powers the vehicle; our light therefore is the key that starts the vehicle and now we are able to drive all around The Bahamas giving light to all men, so they can now see our good works and as a result the inhabitants of the world would want to be a part of we the church and in turn this will bring glory to God our father.”
Modern day church and its purpose
The pastor urged his peers to live their lives above reproach, as he said people are looking for a holy church where the glory of God resides, and where the people shine bright. In many instances he said they instead encounter self-righteous, self-seeking men and women of God who will give them a word, then in the same breathe coerce them to bring a “seed”.
“Just about everything in the church has a price tag on it,” he told them. “The old church had some intercessors who would tarry all night until you got your deliverance and let you go home, drunk in the glory. The modern church will tarry with you and ensure you get your breakthrough, then right in the middle of that high service while you slain out in the spirit, the modern church will tell the ushers throw some cold water on you, because it [is] time for the third offering of the day. The newly modern transformed church will have church everyday and every week, and look at you crossed eye if you miss one service — and if you miss two, a special message is prepared, with you being the central focus.”
He noted that, unlike the old church, new churches are empty, and can’t even half fill their grand edifices. And with their two cell phones, unlimited data, Twitter, Facebook and other social media accounts, he said they are harder to catch up with than the pastors of old, who had none of the conveniences.
“The modern day church member will pass their former parishioner on the street and walk straight past them in the mall, but yet give them a big hail for all to see, while they are ushering. The church is no longer attractive and the purpose of the church has been so muddied that people actually forgot the importance of a spiritually strong life. We the church look better on paper and in stuff, but we hurt members unapologetically and wouldn’t even humble ourselves to say sorry, or even much less go and try restore them back.”
Providing refuge, he said, is the fourth purpose of the church. He said people should find a dwelling place within their church.
Prayer, he said, is the fifth purpose of the church. The sixth purpose, he said, is to be a place of love.
“We must feel God’s love in our churches. One of the main reasons church attendance and love for God is down, is people feel judged and scorned, with our better-than-thou looks and disapproving stares. If the pastor doesn’t love the members, the members will not love each other, then God is not in him or you, because God is love,” said Bethell.
A place of worship, he said, is the seventh purpose of the church, with a place of remembrance being the eighth. As for the ordinance of the church, he reminded members that it is communion which he said should be done in remembrance of God, baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and their healing and deliverance.
“We the church have wandered far away from God’s purpose of his church, and we see the results that we have gotten from our transformation from the old way to the new way. What perhaps is needed today is a new moral rearmament spearheaded by churches, schools and supported by the people as a whole. We must restore national pride and regain our international integrity. Individual respect for each other must come from our hearts and not our conflicting minds. Government must become financially responsible, leading the way for individual responsibility. We must reject social fragmentation by all of us joining hands together and again become a cohesive community united under the guidance spirit of God. Our national hope must become our national salvation,” he said. “For us to get our lives, the country and the church back to the original purpose of the church as directed by God, we must rid ourselves of this destructive pride, and repent.”