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While the COVID crisis is tragic and extremely disruptive, it has served to reveal what our culture thinks about church and faith. When the COVID virus appeared, it was practical to take reasonable precautions to mitigate its spread until more was known. Therefore, it was perfectly reasonable for churches to close temporarily as an act of service and love for their members and the community at large.
As the data came in, it became clear to many that the reports of COVID deaths were being manipulated, seemingly to terrify people, paralyzing them in fear, closing all but essential businesses and restricting personal freedom. Local churches were confronted with a dilemma. Was the church essential to the wellbeing of the community or was the church just one more cultural preference only used by a minority of the population to express their faith in God?
This question of the essentialness of the church caused me to go to the Bible for an answer. It would become obvious even to a casual reader of scripture that the church is essential. In Acts 2:40-42, the Bible outlines a few of the essentials that only the church can do. Here is one example:
And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Act 2:40-42
The essentials that only the church can do are:
Who but the church is going to do those things? Is the government responsible for spreading the gospel? Are the schools responsible for biblical teaching and prayer? Who, if not the church, is responsible for these essential spiritual activities in our culture? The Bible makes it clear that God designed the church to not only be essential, but to be an irreplaceable catalyst for spiritual growth. The church has the responsibility for setting the example of righteousness and virtue for our culture.
After studying whether the church was essential or not, I then found myself pondering another question. Is 4Tucson essential?
The short answer is, no. 4Tucson is not a church. While 4Tucson works diligently to apply and live out biblical principles in the things we do and say, we are not a church. Because 4Tucson is not a church we do not enjoy the same spiritual authority that God gave the church. The church has been given the authority to discipline its members who do not adhere to the doctrines taught in the Bible. 1 Corinthians 5:5 and 1 Timothy 1:20 are just two examples that come to mind. 4Tucson does not have that authority. The best we can do is to ask our members to be accountable to each other. We can ask people to leave 4Tucson for not abiding by the principles taught in the Bible, but we do not have the authority to discipline them. Because church is essential, 4Tucson members agree to join a local church as a condition of membership.
Another difference between the local church and 4Tucson is the administering of the ordinances or the sacraments, depending upon your tradition. The two most agreed upon ordinances or sacraments of the church are Baptism and Communion. At 4Tucson we do not baptize new believers. We believe baptism is reserved for the local church where the new believer will attend. We also do not administer communion. When we have a 4Tucson gathering where communion is served it is done under the authority of a local church pastor. Pastors are ordained by God and have been given His authority to administer the duties of the church, and by comparison, 4Tucson staff and members are provided opportunities to fulfill a personal calling in their lives.
The last big difference between the local church and 4Tucson is in the area of giving. At 4Tucson we encourage our members to tithe to their local church. A tithe is 10% of one’s income. 4Tucson operates on the generosity of believers who give over and above their tithe to support our mission. The local church has a mandate from God that should be supported by the members who attend that particular local church. 4Tucson has a mission from God where we invite followers of Jesus to voluntarily join for the purpose of work with other Christians to address systemic city issues. We unapologetically ask our members to support us financially, but not at the expense of the local church.
4Tucson is not a church! We will never be a church!
4Tucson is a local missionary organization with the singular mission of training Christians to be missionaries in our city. We are deploying Christians into the city mission field for biblical city transformation. We are submissive to the authority of the local church. We strongly support the local church. We also ask the local church to entrust us with their members. We invite Christians from all types of churches to join 4Tucson to be trained and empowered to work in the city mission field. We serve our city on behalf of the local church.
If you would like to see the impact 4Tucson members are making in the city, click the link below: