The title above is the notice on the bulletin board of a non-denominational church in our city. Though we do not know what this church claims as its noteworthy difference, we commend its frankness.
Nevertheless, that description loses some of its originality in the general religious climate of our day, for if the measure of a church is determined by its faithfulness to Holy Scripture, a “different kind of church” has become all too commonplace. We are more concerned about being faithful than being different. However, if remaining faithful identifies us as different, we are in good company, “for you have a little strength, have kept My Word, and have not denied My name” (Revelation 3:8).
A faithful church respects the Triune God and acknowledges no god besides the God defined in Scripture as a “jealous God,” the holy God who punishes those who love sinning. Conversely, it acknowledges and proclaims the God of mercy who has compassion on all who repent of their sins and trust in the Savior who died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6) and gives eternal life to all who believe in Him (John 3:16). With this foundation, a church deserves to be called Christian.
A faithful Christian church does not compromise these fundamental truths to win friends, attain popularity, or gain followers. It draws its doctrine and practice from the divinely inspired and inerrant Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16); it does not tolerate or promote the theory of evolution concerning the origin of the universe.
A faithful Christian church is also a compassionate church. Consequently, it not only proclaims the law of God to expose sin in order to save precious souls from the consequence of dying in unrepented sin—it also proclaims the love of God in Christ (the gospel) in order to comfort the hearts of those who are troubled by their sin and through the Holy Spirit are anxious to turn from sin and reflect the new sanctified life in Christ.
A faithful and compassionate Christian church assures the repentant sinner that Jesus Christ died for all and reconciled all unto God (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). It assures repentant sinners that the shed blood of Christ has washed away sin and its remnants and that the precious gift of life is the present and future inheritance of everyone whose trust is placed in the Savior who died for us and rose again.
A compassionate and faithful Christian church is one that has the mind of Christ and therefore cares for the well-being of the neighbor as well as the welfare of the nation. It prays for all—the widow and widower, the fatherless children, the sick and the needy, as well as the forsaken and distressed. It remembers and prays for those who place themselves in harm’s way to secure our safety and security. It has concern for all, especially for those of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10).
In all this the faithful, compassionate Christian church never abdicates its prime purpose of preparing redeemed sinners for a glorious departure from this vale of tears to heaven. Determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2), it prays for the heathen, that the door of faith be opened to Israel and all who are outside the kingdom of God. Therefore it takes seriously the commission to “go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:16).
From our Lutheran perspective, a faithful Christian church is one that holds fast to Holy Scripture as the norm and source of all doctrine and faith, and with its faithful forebears confesses the doctrines of Scripture as set forth in the Book of Concord of 1580. The faithful Lutheran church takes seriously the exhortation, “stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you shall find rest for your souls…” while it laments those who disagree, saying “We will not walk in it” (Jeremiah 6:16). Therefore we do not adapt its message to the times but proclaim the faithful Word of the faithful God to bring hearts under its influence. “And he who has My Word, let him speak My Word faithfully” (Jeremiah 23:28).
Our God does not change. His Word does not change, and neither does the Savior God’s desire for the salvation of souls change. Therefore, the gospel which is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16) does not change. Consequently, in all the changing scenes of life, we are bound by the Word—and our consciences are bound to that Word—not to reconfigure our purpose nor to change our message.
The faithful, compassionate Christian church is described in the book of Acts: “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). That is the kind of church we desire to be and remain.
On today’s church scene and in the religious confusion of our age, we are the genuinely “different kind of church” as we hold fast to the Word and apostolic teaching. That lays a responsibility upon us, one that we take seriously and with appreciation, because only as we continue in the Word will we remain such a church of God!
“God, be with us, and keep us faithful! Surely without Your gracious presence and help we cannot stand. Amen!”