How to Strengthen the Church Internally
Wherever you find the Church, the question will be asked, “How Do We Strengthen Ourselves?”. For ease of examination the question can be broken up into two major areas: External Strength and Internal Strength. Authority for how this is done is found in the Bible as given by God. Study will show that the Church of the first century was strengthened in the same way the Church of today is strengthened.
Externally, the Church reaches out to the world to strengthen itself (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Acts 2:47). There are many authorized ways to “Go”, but going must be a united effort. Going is done with a united message. Going is done with a united motivation. Going in the proper way builds a strong Church in which the building never stops. Going done right builds one strong church, Christ’s Church, and no other. If it is not built upon the Rock of Christ, it will not be strong.
Internally, the Church examines itself to make certain it is indeed the pure and holy Bride of Christ, serving Him only. Is the worship the best it can be for God? Are the Children of God mighty in His Word? Do the Christians love one another? Are the Christians working to present themselves unstained by the world? Are they disciplining themselves so they might be strong? These internal areas are what this discussion will now focus on.
The Church gathers every Sunday to worship God (Acts 20:7). From early in scripture (Leviticus 10:3), God has commanded that He be approached in worship as holy and honored. Christians demonstrate their love to God in worship by obeying His instruction on how to worship (John 14:15, Colossians 3:17, John 5:19, John 8:28-32, John 4:24). If man decided to bring in worship practices not authorized by God or leave out practices He has authorized, regardless of the good intentions behind them, God will not be treated as holy or honored. The Church will be displeasing to God. The Church worship will tear down its relationship with God rather than strengthen it. A Church strengthens itself by teaching God’s Word, His authorized path of salvation (I Corinthians 1:21). Not only in the spoken word is the Church strengthened, but the singing of God’s word to one another provides instruction and caution in living a Christian life (Colossians 3:16). Through the Lord’s Supper, properly worshipping Christians remember the triumphant life of Jesus and the establishment of His covenant of forgiveness (I Corinthians 11:20ff). Recalling this victory, Soldiers of Christ find the courage to march on in this world of temptation. In the gatherings of the early Christians, prayer and giving was practiced (Acts 2:42, I Corinthians 16:2, 2 Corinthians 9:7-15). Both of these actions allowed the worshipper to glorify God with appreciation in their hearts and alternatively provided confidence that God does and will provide. Strengthening a church begins with proper worship.
In order to strengthen the Church, truth must be taught from within. God’s words are truth and when practiced, truth separates the Christian from the rest of the world (John 17:17). While the Church is certainly the bearer of truth to the world, it must continually teach itself. Pulpits are the most visible source of the sharing of the truth. Paul warned Timothy that there would be times when men would desire to hear something other than the truth (2 Timothy 4:3). If false words come from the preacher, then the entire congregation can be led astray. Critically, the pulpit cannot continually teach simple beginning concepts (I Peter 2:2, Hebrews 5:12-6:2). Many congregations composed of those who have been Christians for decades are spiritually starving. After such a lengthy time, they have a blank stare when asked to summarize what each book of the Bible is about. Elders and preachers are to blame for allowing this to happen. However, they are not responsible for the majority of this blame. Individual Christians need to be searching the scriptures daily, scholars of the word, watchmen who are able to defend and share the truth of the Bible, and continually growing ( Acts 17:11, 2 Timothy 2:15, Matthew 28:18-20, Ezekiel 33, I Peter 3:15, 2 Peter 3:18). Equipped in this fashion they should be demanding more from the pulpit and from each other. It is this constant feeding from the Word of God that will strengthen the Church (Psalm 119:25-28).
The Church is strengthened when Christians choose to love one another. Being a Christian is choosing to be servant to God and others. The household of faith is where this must begin (Galatians 6:10). The worship aspect of giving not only glorifies God, but it communicates to those Christians in need and the minister who relies upon the generosity of the saints that they are loved (I Corinthians 16:1, I Corinthians 9:1-14). The expression of Christian love can only in a small way be described by financial support. Its true expression is seen in the behavior of one Christian to another. Do you have members who have no transportation? Are you reaching out to make sure they have a way to come to services and to other critical life activities? Are you contacting those who are sick asking what you can do to help them? Are you spending time with the widow or single parent? Are you praying for them? Do you search out why someone missed the assembling of the saints? Do you reach out to those brothers and sisters who have moved? You can write them or call them. Encourage them and ask about their well being and their spiritual life (Hebrews 10:24, Acts 15:36). Don’t allow a sheep to wander from the flock because it was neglected and ignored. Giving love, kindness, comfort, encouragement, and the fruit of your physical blessings strengthens the Church.
From the formation of the Church Christians spent their time together (Acts 2:42-47). They left the world becoming a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). They wanted to show obedience to God and not return to the former associations of their life (I Peter 1:14-16, I Corinthians 15:33). The Christians resisted Satan and the evil things of this world (James 4:4-7). A strong Church seeks out pure relationships, pure recreation, and pure entertainment in its daily life. This means putting away sinful association in all its many forms: Sinful relationships, corrupt television and internet, filth such as pornography and inappropriate books arousing lusts, clubs and dances, and a life surrounded by ungodly friends (Colossians 3:5-10). The Church is strengthened when Christians open their lives and homes to others of a pure mind and hope. Your spiritual brother and sister in Christ should not feel alone within their congregation. They should not feel like strangers in Christ and neither should you.
The final aspect to be addressed is the strengthening of the Church through Church discipline. A congregation will fall from the graces of God if it does not practice discipline. Whether a congregation has elders or not, they are responsible for correcting one another’s behaviors and beliefs (I Corinthians 5, Acts 5:1-11, 2 Timothy 4:2, Acts 20:27-31). Each of us has a responsibility in love (Ephesians 4:15). We have the responsibility to go to our brother when there is trouble (Matthew 18:15-17). Whether the issue is one of immorality, immodesty, practicing or teaching error, forsaking the assembly of the saints, or going back to the world in any form, we must try to correct and save them (Acts 18:26, Jude 1:22-23). Our savior has given Himself to save us and can save all who will follow him (Jude 1:24). Discipline is not a sign of cruelty, rather it is a sign of love (Proverbs 3:11-12, Hebrews 12:11-14). Christ’s church is strengthened through the kindness of discipline.
There are many theories about how to strengthen a church. Often these rely upon the wisdom, traditions, and innovations of men. However, the church which Christ established finds its strength today as it did in the first century: It follows Christ’s example and authority doing only what the Father has commanded we do and say.