Comfort for Christians Without a Sound Church

Perhaps you have found that sadly there is no good church to attend in your area, that is, one that preaches the true Gospel, administers the sacraments properly, and exercises Biblical discipline. Perhaps you also have decided, Biblically and prayerfully, that the only course you feel at liberty to pursue is to meet separately without a pastor/elders. I want to give you, my brethren, first a word of comfort and secondly a couple of directions/cautions that God may bless to your benefit.

C. H. Spurgeon wrote this in his Cheque Book of the Bank of Faith for July 18th:

'I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her' (Hosea 2:14)

The goodness of God sees us allured by sin, and it resolves to try upon us the more powerful allurements of love. Do we not remember when the Lover of our souls first cast a spell upon us and charmed us away from the fascinations of the world? He will do this again and again whenever He sees us likely to be ensnared by evil.

He promises to draw us apart, for there He can best deal with us, and this separated place is not to be a Paradise, but a wilderness, since in such a place there will be nothing to take off our attention from our God. In the deserts of affliction the presence of the Lord becomes everything to us, and we prize His company beyond any value which we set upon it when we sat under our own vine and fig tree in the society of our fellows. Solitude and affliction bring more to themselves and to their heavenly Father than any other means.

When thus allured and secluded the Lord has choice things to say to us for our comfort. He 'speaks to our heart,' as the original has it. Oh that at this time we may have this promise explained in our experience! Allured by love, separated by trial and comforted by the Spirit of truth, may we know the Lord and sing for joy!

I would further apply this passage and these thoughts to your situation of being "churchless". In many ways God has drawn you aside from what may have been a joyful experience in a once sound church into a seeming wilderness. Take comfort that Christ has commanded this providence for your benefit! He has brought you to a place calculated to make room for HIM. Being in this wilderness "devoid of the normal supports and comforts" is like the situation of the disciples in the boat on the sea in the great storm (John 6:15-21). In this "wilderness" of great trouble and affliction of soul Christ heightened their appetite for HIM: "But He saith unto them, 'It is I, be not afraid.' Then they WILLINGLY RECEIVED HIM INTO THE SHIP" (verses 20-21a). What better comfortable words can the Savior speak to humble souls than "It is I, be not afraid"? May God bless all of you in such a condition of not having a sound church, with His Words of comfort.

I also need to give a few brotherly directions and cautions to you. Please remember that though you are the Church even if you only have two or three Christians gathered in the name of Christ. That is, you constitute a real assembly of Christ, yet you are not to suppose that you are in the most beneficial existence for a church. What I mean is this: More than one Christian gathered in the name of Christ to learn his doctrine and worship his person is in essence a church, a place where Jesus has assured us of his presence! In this condition you are essentially a church. However, you do not have a minister, elders, deacons or the sacraments. Thus you do not exist as beneficially as you have a right to. Christ gave to His church these officers for "the perfecting of the saints" (Eph. 4:11-15). There will be a "lack" in not having a minister and the other offices of the church of Christ. This then is a lawful but not ideal situation for you, my brothers and sisters.

Two things I would speak to you:

First, pray for a good, organized church to be raised up in your area and give of yourselves to help in it.

Second, pray for a humble heart to be able to sit under a faithful but imperfect ministry when God sends one. This is important, for the temptation is in listening to preachers on Sermon Audio, etc., or in reading the great old preachers' sermons (Calvin, Spurgeon, etc.), to think that unless they preach as good as they did or are seemingly as 'perfect' as they were, you cannot learn from or submit to them.

May the Lord use these thoughts from his Word to comfort and direct you in your walk with Him.

Pastor Joel Pankratz

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simul iustus et peccator

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