What Good Is the Church?

It depends. I want to give you a pros and cons look at this subject.

It is obvious by the dwindling number of church attendees that the institutionalized church is not effective in many ways. I was a part of the political machine for many years. My observations were disturbing. I was disturbed by the level of fake, the politics, and tradition-worship that went on in many churches. Please let me be clear that I met some great people in institutionalized churches who did not fit this bill. So much of this happens because people have a traditional rather than biblical understanding of “the church”.

When Jesus mentioned “the church” for the first time, it was a radical concept. He was not talking about a place of teaching, a place of worship, nor a place to experience God’s presence. The word “church” in the original Greek means “called out ones”. Jesus says, “I will build My church (army of believers who are called out of sin into His marvelous light), and the gates of hell shall not prevail against these people” (my paraphrase). 

This was set in motion in Acts 2. Verses 41-47 show these early believers living in real community. It wasn’t a production nor a well-orchestrated performance. They shared their possessions, they obeyed God, they studied His Word, and ate together on a regular basis. No steeple. No stained glass. Just real people loving a real Savior.

The writer of Hebrews later reminds these Jewish Christians why they need to get together: to encourage one another toward love and good works (10:24, 25). When you “go to church”, do you see this biblical activity going on? Or is it a mechanical process of singing, preaching, and programs?

I see a generation (mainly those in their 20s and 30s) who are longing for a real encounter with God. They do not care about business meetings and voting on things. They are not interested in denominational programs like previous generations, AND THAT’S OKAY! 

What good is the church? Once again, it depends. If it is nothing more than a religious country Club, I will be so bold as to say it’s not pleasing God. He isn’t impressed with the facade. When He sees His people doing things His way, then we can say based on the authority of Scripture that this group of believers pleases Him.

If you are a part of a group of believers that is healthy and biblical, thank God and fulfill your role there! If not, find a group of believers that is striving to be what God wants and make yourself at home.


Do I Really Love God?

I worked for a pastor several years ago who loved to assign me to visit people he didn’t necessarily want to visit. I always knew I was in for a treat when either he or the secretary contacted me to visit a particular person. I went to the local hospital to visit this lady, so I told her who I was. She was quick to say, “I’m a member at your church. I haven’t been in 20 years, but I love me some Jesus.” I couldn’t make a judgment call on her love for Jesus, but I asked myself if I love Jesus like I should and what Scripture I can use as a measurement. I shared this in our worship service this morning, and I pray it will help you ask by asking yourself these eight questions.

  1. Do I serve God (Deuteronomy 11:13)? Love is an action, so I display my love through serving God. We must be careful that we always serve out of love rather than obligation. This eventually leads to burnout, and then we have to repent and repair.
  2. Do I rejoice in God (Psalm 5:11)? I didn’t ask if you and I rejoice in our circumstances. They waver, but God is constant. If we love God, we rejoice in Him and brag on Him.
  3. Do I love His presence (Psalm 26:8)? If we love God, we love to spend time with Him. 
  4. Do I hate evil (Psalm 97:10)? Hating evil does not involve hating the person who commits it. Our responsibility there is to love the evil person to Jesus while hating what the evil is doing to him or her.
  5. Do I love God’s Word (Psalm 119:97)? I’m not just talking about reading it to say you fulfilled your duty. This verse talks about meditating on it. It will not impact us unless we get all we can from it.
  6. Do I love others (John 13:35)? Jesus said our love for others proves that we follow Him. He didn’t say that impressive buildings, rocking worship services, and big giving to religious causes was the litmus test. The real proof is loving ALL people, even the most difficult ones.
  7. Do I keep God’s commandments (John 14:15)? Jesus made it clear by saying, “If you love Me, keep my commandments”. We won’t keep them perfectly, but a true child of God will want to honor and obey God.
  8. Do I invest in others (John 21:15)? Jesus asked Simon Peter three times if he loved Him. This was after Peter denied Christ leading up to the crucifixion. Jesus’ response to Peter’s affirmative answer was, “Feed My lambs.” In other words, invest in other people. God did not put you here for you. Your story can help someone else if you let it. The bigger picture of our life is us pouring into others who can do the same. That is when we find our greatest fulfillment. 

Love is not measured by the warm and fuzzy feelings we get when we think about God. Love is measured by how we strive to know and obey Him. So, how do you score in these areas? I think we can all improve as we strive to draw closer to Jesus.

Easier Said Than Done

My wife and I were discussing something this morning that made me evaluate myself and my blogging. By nature, I love to encourage people. My writing is geared toward helping people find restored hope. The struggle I have is that I believe what I write but I have moments when my faith isn’t as strong.

I don’t believe that I am alone in this struggle. Some of you have more consistency in your faith, and you are the ones I admire and seek to learn from. I want to do my best to make it clear that I struggle just like many of you. I have days when my faith is strong and days when it is weaker. I am a student of my Savior and am learning on this journey of life.

It is so easy to give good advice. Surround yourself with people who are strong where you are weak so they can potentially sharpen you to grow in those areas. My prayer is that God would strengthen us in our weaknesses so that we can be mighty warriors for Christ who are shining examples of faith for God’s glory.

A Day of Release

On our third Sunday of Overcomers Church, I believe we experienced a day of release. I preached on the subject of “How Do I Forgive THAT Person?”. It is first an act of surrender to the Holy Spirit who will produce His fruit in us. It also requires an understanding of God’s love: an impenetrable, sacrificial, unconditional love without discrimination. The thing that convicted me the deepest as I prepared this message is the fact that God loves me just as much as He loves those who have sinned against me. Today, people were released from the bondage of bitterness to a life of love that will spread throughout their homes and communities.

People were also released to pursue their God-given potential. Most of our core group met today for lunch to discuss how we can impact our community. The discussion kept going because these people are passionate about what God can do through them. 

Sadly, some churches (some intentionally and some unintentionally) have told certain people that they were no longer useful to God’s kingdom work. Others had enough people, so the gifts of those outside the clique were out of luck when it comes to using their gifts. The most rewarding part of the day was seeing dry bones come to life. God renewed the vision of people, and they are seeing a God without limits. 

Are you bound today? God wants to set you free. Maybe you are bound by a sinful habit. God wants to release you. Maybe you have believed the lies that you can’t do something. God can do anything He wants in and through you. Be open to the work of the Holy Spirit and allow Him to release you.

Understanding God-Given Dreams

The first message I preached at our church plant was from the life of Joseph. I could relate to some principles from his life, though I never experienced the level of oppression he did. I want to share with my WordPress audience what God gave me to share on the first week of Overcomers Church.

  1. God puts a Dream within all of us. Please note there is a difference between a God-given dream and our selfish amibitions. Joseph was a guy who was living the dream, a dreamer himself, and one whose dreams came to pass. 
  2. Some people will hate you for your dream. When God puts something within you, expect opposition. For Joseph, the opposition came from his brothers. For many of us, it will more than likely come from those who call themselves our Christian brothers and sisters. Jesus promised that we would have hardship in this life, but He would overcome the world (John 16:33).
  3. Some of us experience delays in our dreams coming to pass. Joseph was sold into slavery and went through many hardships before he lived the dream. Although we hate detours, detours are always for our development.
  4. Dreams often offer a glimpse of hope followed by a setback. Joseph was promoted by Potiphar. His wife attempts to seduce him, but Joseph runs. Potiphar’s wife lies and falsely accuses Joseph, thus landing Joseph in prison.
  5. Dreams become reality in God’s time. Joseph begins interpreting dreams for Pharoah which later led to his promotion. He later reconnected with his family.
  6. Dreams accomplish God’s purpose (Genesis 50:20). Joseph made it known to his brothers that what they meant for evil turned out to be for good. We may walk through the Fire, but God has our best interest at heart.

Don’t give up on the dream God has put within you! God has a plan despite the delays and detours. Keep persevering and watch God honoring faithfulness to what He has commanded.

The Comeback Pastor

My blog name, formerly known as “Matthew Winters Ministries”, will now be called “The Comeback Pastor”. In 2013, I honestly had given up on preaching again but had not given up my call to ministry. The fire God put in me 20 years ago never quit burning, so I resolved in my heart to not allow my setback to be permanent. So many allow setbacks to paralyze them. I did that for a while. Now I am coming back and giving God all the glory. 

If you feel set back by circumstances in your life, God doesn’t want to keep you there. He is not done with you, so keep pushing forward and watch Him honor your perseverance.

It’s His Kingdom!

Amazingly, I have not had anyone negatively speak against what I am doing in planting a new church. However, I do know that the negativity exists. Sadly, many churches or pastors are trying to build a personal kingdom. That kingdom may range from a small group that doesn’t want change to a large church with large facilities and wants to have a monopoly on their region. The last time I checked, no one church can do it alone. No pastor can do it alone. It takes groups of people scattered across the world to make an impact. The beautiful thing is when these groups of believers unite for the cause of Christ despite ethnicity and manmade barriers.

My circle of pastor friends now includes those who see the big picture. They have supported my calling and have volunteered to help me in any way they can. It is more than lip service because I have tested them on this.

I know the church (called out ones, not an institution) that Jesus introduced in Matthew 16:18 was never meant to be a split and splintered group that fussed and feuded about the most ridiculous of issues. Jesus said that the gates of hell would not prevail against this army of believers. It did not take long for it to become a divided group (read I Corinthians 1). Paul had to rebuke the Corinthian church for saying they belong to a certain personality. How sad that the competition has only gotten worse since that moment!

Dear friend, please don’t get sucked up into this cultish mentality that your church is the only one that has it right. We don’t agree completely, but many of us are on the same team doctrinally. For those who believe differently than the Bible teaches, we must display love to them.  It’s time we quit building monuments unto ourselves and start building a kingdom for Jesus that transcends time, space, and will help people meet the Savior and live for Him.

The New Journey

Last Sunday, we had our first service for Overcomers Church. It was an exciting day that I have waited for longer than I realized. When you start from scratch, you never really know what shape the church will take on. All I knew is that I wanted to target those who were considered outcasts in most places. In most churches where I have served, no one knew what to do with the family with one or two spouses who had been divorced, the single parent, the grieving widow/widower, and they normally guilt-tripped those who missed a service. So far, the chemistry of this body of believers includes many who have been divorced, children who are there every other weekend due to parental visitation arrangements, etc. We have a past, but that past has been washed away by the blood of Jesus and we look to a bright future in Christ.

I told people in the beginning that I have no clue what I am doing. I have pastored an already established church, but this venture keeps me relying on the Lord. I did not have the “luxury” of pastoring a church in this area and splitting to start this. We are primarily a group that consists of those who were loosely connected or de-churched.

With that in consideration, we know that we will have a slow go but one that I trust will be steady with lasting results. My vision is not to be the biggest and coolest thing in town. We started with no financial support and have had good offerings considering the number of people we started with. We are excited about getting into the community and making them aware that a loving community of believers can exist and they won’t be judged for tattoos, nose rings, and things that many have considered ungodly. Our biggest concern is that a person’s heart is clean, and that only comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

For those who are reading and live away from us, please pray. To those who live closer and have a place where you worship, please pray for us also. To those who live nearby and felt like the church has let you down, I know the feeling. That is part of what led me to this point of starting this new faith community. I promise you will not find perfect people when you walk in the doors. You will find real people with real struggles who serve an awesome God. You will find room for you to be loved and help to move forward in life. We are casual. The worship focuses on Jesus Christ, and the preaching is biblical and will meet you where you are.

God is doing great things through Overcomers Church. We encourage you to like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @overcomerssc.