IOWA PARK CHURCH OF CHRIST 2 Timothy 2:15
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About Us

Introduction

The church of Christ working and worshipping in Iowa Park is a group of Christians whose sole desire is to follow the New Testament in doctrine, worship, and daily practice. We are interested in being simply Christians as portrayed on the pages of the New Covenant. There has been a church worshipping and working in Iowa Park since around 1904 when it had 17 members. At that time, they met house-to-house. A small building was erected and space was added several times over the years to accomodate numerical growth. Today, the church in Iowa Park meets every Sunday to worship God as commanded in the scriptures (Acts 20:7), on Wednesdays for additional Bible studies for all ages, and the ladies of the congregation meet twice a month for a special study. Currently, Bill Lockwood serves as the preacher and adult Bible class teacher for the Iowa Park congregation.

Because there is so much confusion in the world about the church, we offer this short treatise regarding the church as found in the pages of the Bible.

The word "church"

The Greek work ekklesia (ekklesia) (from "ek" meaning "out of" and "klesis" meaning "a calling" or "kaleo" meaning "to call")1 was used by the Greeks to describe a group of people gathered in one place for a common purpose. For example, it is translated "assembly" in Acts 19:31-41 to descibe a mob who gathered in Ephesus due to the behavior of Demetrius and the other silversmiths.

It is the primary Greek word used to describe the church in the New Testament. In some passages it refers to the whole group of the redeemed throughout the present era (Matthew 16:18, Galatians 1:13, Ephesians 1:22, 5:23), often referred to as the "universal church." In other passages, it is translated as "church" or "congregation" referring to a company of believers in a particular town (Acts 20:28, 1 Corinthians 1:2, I Thessalonians 1:1, 2 Thessalonians 1:1, I Timothy 3:5, Romans 16:23) or region (Galatians 1:1), often called "local churches." In the 1st century, these "local churches" met in Christian's homes or other temporary locations (Colossians 4:15; Philemon 2, Acts 19:8-9). The church is made up of the 'called out'2 (Christians), called by God out of sin into fellowship with Jesus Christ through obedience to His word (1 Corinthians 1:9, 6:9-11, Galatians 5:6). Below is a brief discourse on the membership, organization, work and worship of both the universal and local church according to God's will.

The Universal church

When the Apostle Paul stated there is one body (Ephesians 4:4), he was referring to the "universal" church, of which Christ is the head (Ephesians 1:20-23). The one church is a spiritual organization rather than a social one (Romans 14:17). While some believe the members of the "universal church" are the denominations in the world, Peter makes it clear it is individual Christians, past and present, all over the world. This has been true since the church began on the day of Pentecost when God added individuals to the church as they were saved through obedience (specifically, repentance followed by baptism for the remission of their sins) (Acts 2:38-47). Peter again exhorts individuals (never denominations or even local churches) to live holy and godly lives until judgement comes (2 Peter 3:11-12) and in that judgement, it is individuals who will be judged (2 Peter 3:5-7). Without membership in this one church, a person cannot be saved (John 15:5-6). Christians in the Iowa Park church of Christ are members of the universal church.

Name and Description of the Universal church

The Holy Spirit ascribes a number of names to the church in addition to that simple name, church (Ephesians 3:10). These names provide insight into the relationship between the church and its head (Christ) and among its members.

Prepositional phrases are used in three cases, describing ownership:

1) church of Christ (Romans 16:16),
2) church of the firstborn (Hebrews 12:23), and
3) church of God (1 Corinthians 1:2).

Other names describe the relationship between the church and its owner as well as the relationship that must exist among its members. These are:

1) temple/sanctuary of God (1 Corinthians 3:16) indicating the church is now the place for members to worship God as the temple was during the time of the Law of Moses,
2) bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:21-32, Revelation 21:9) emphasizing the monogomous relationship that must exist between the church and Christ as well as the purity to be maintained by its members,
3) body of Christ (Colossians 1:24, Ephesians 1:22-23, 1 Corinthians 12:12-27) describing the leadership role of Jesus over the church and its members' responsibility to the head and to each other,
4) kingdom of God (Colossians 1:13) showing the role of Jesus as King of the church and the members as His subjects, and
5) house/family of God (1 Timothy 3:15) indicating a relationship of love between God and the members of His church as well as among those members.

Membership in the Universal church

 As we saw earlier, John tells us that we must be a member of the church in order to be saved. The conditions by which one gains membership to the church continue to be the same as when the church started on Pentecost.

First, one must hear the gospel, then believe it (Romans 10:13-17). The gospel is the story of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:17-24). If one does not believe this actually happened, one cannot become a member of the one church and, therefore, cannot be saved.

However, belief alone is not enough (John 12:42-43). Once a person believes the gospel, one must recognize his or her sins have caused a separation from God (Romans 3:21-24). In order to be reconciled to God, repentance is necessary (Acts 2:38). This involves a change of mind or attitude toward sin (2 Corinthians 7:9) and a change in action, turning away from sin to righteousness (Matthew 21:28-32, Acts 26:20, Acts 3:19).

In addition to hearing and believing the gospel and repenting of one's sins, one must also confess that Jesus is Lord, the Son of God (Romans 10:8-10) in order to be saved.

Finally, one must be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Baptism is immersion in water. Paul compared it to a burial (Colossians 2:12, Romans 6:4). Rising from this burial, a person is a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17), added to the church by God (Acts 2:47), and wears the name Christian (Acts 11:26, 26:28, 1 Peter 4:16).

Organization, Work and Worship of the Universal church

The universal church is organized into members (i.e., individual Christians) and Jesus Christ, its head (Ephesians 4:4, 1:20-23). No work has been assigned to the universal church nor do Christians in the universal church meet as a group for worship. Work and worship are accomplished through local churches located throughout the world.

Local churches

A local church can be created any place where Christians live. The church in Iowa Park is one such local church. While God does not specify where a local church may be created, He does specify the membership, organization, work, and worship of a local church; all independently of any other local church. We in the Iowa Park church strive to follow God's instructions in each of these areas.

Membership in a local church

In the book of Acts (Acts 9:26-28) we find one example of how a person becomes a member of a local church. Here Paul wanted to join the local church in Jerusalem. In this case, the brethren in Jerusalem were afraid of him because of his past persecution of the church. Barnabas, a Christian they knew and trusted, provided a reference for him, telling them of his conversion to Christ and subsequent behavior. This provides us with a method to use; a person expresses a desire to join a local church and that local church determines whether to accept or reject the request. References from trustworthy Christians who have known him or her before can be obtained to help make this decision. Notice that no organization other than the local church was involved.

The Organization of a Local church

A local church is an independent organization that, when mature, is made up of saints, deacons, and elders (Philippians 1:1). Each has a role to play in the proper operation of the church.

The saints, or Christians, are the full membership of a local church. When saints meet together on Sunday to worhip God they are to encourage one another and "stimulate one another to love and good deeds" (Hebrews 10:23-25).This meeting is to be done properly and in an orderly manner (1 Corinthians 14:40). The saints work together with "humility of mind" and regard others more important than self, living in peace with one another (Philippians 2:3-4, 1 Thessalonians 5:13).

Some of the saints may serve as elders (Acts 14:23) of the church. Elders are also called overseers (Philippians 1:1), shepherds (Acts 20:28, 1 Peter 5:1-4), pastors (Ephesians 4:11), bishops or presbyters. There must be a plurality of elders and they must be men (Titus 1:5-6, 1 Timothy 3:1, 1 Peter 5:1) who meet the over-20 qualifications set by God (1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-10). Elders are to watch for the souls of the Christians in the local church of which they are a member (Acts 20:28-31, 1 Peter 5:1-2), knowing that God will hold each accountable not only for his soul but the souls of the flock (Hebrews 13:17). The elders are to be alert, holding fast to God's word, shepherding or overseeing the souls of the congregation by defending the truth and refuting false teaching (Acts 20:17, 31, Titus 1:9, Acts 20:28, 1 Timothy 3:5, Hebrews 13:17, 1 Peter 5:2).

Once a local church has elders, the congregation may appoint other men as deacons when they meet the qualifications God specified for that office (1 Timothy 3:8-10, 12-13). Deacon is a service position, doing work specified by the elders for the good of the congregation.

The Work of a Local church

God has given local churches three tasks to perform: edify (or build up) the saints (Ephesians 4:11-12) evangelize (teach) the lost (Philippians 4:15, Mark 16:15-16), and provide benevolent aid to needy saints (1 Corinthians 16:1, Romans 15:25-26). Each is an important part of a mature, faithful church.

Edification is defined as "the instruction or improvement of a person morally or intellectually." Since this is directed at Christians, it is intended to instruct/improve Christians in their faith in and obedience to God. It may be done through preaching from a pulpit, teaching in a class, or by talking or studying with elders or other fellow Christians. By our attendance at worship services and Bible studies, we encourage each other (Hebrews 10:23-25), thereby building each up, or edifying each. Edification may be in the form of teaching, admonition, nurturing, exhortation or reproof (2 Timothy 3:16). In Iowa Park, we employ a man, Bill Lockwood, to serve as our regular preacher and adult Bible class teacher. We also offer Bible classes twice a week for all ages on a variety of subjects at our building and the ladies of the congregation study together twice a month at the building. Private studies are also available. We also provide this website containing sermons and study guides to help edify our members.

Evangelism is the practice of preaching/teaching the gospel in order to convert others to Christ.  Jesus commanded His apostles to preach the gospel to the lost (Mark 16:15-16). Since Christians today are to follow the examples of the apostles (Philippians 3:17, 4:9), we must preach to the lost today as well. The Iowa Park church utilizes the pulpit to preach to the lost as well as offering this website. It contains sermons and study guides to help anyone lost find the saving blood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:13-14). In addition, private Bible studies can be scheduled at any time with a member of the congregation at the building or in a private home. All that is needed is a Bible as well as a desire and willingness to accept the plain truth of God.

Benevolence is the third activity God has authorized for the local church. This benevolence is directed to needy Christians rather than the world at large. Individual Christians are instructed to help anyone in need as they encounter them (Luke 10:25-37). However, the church is to focus on the family of God. These needy Christians may be part of the local church providing the help ( 1 Timothy 5:3-10, Acts 6:1-6) or they may be in far away places (1 Corinthians 16:1, 2 Corinthians 8-9). The money to provide this benevolence is to be collected on Sundays and will be discussed more fully below in the 'Worship of the Local church' section.

The Worship of a Local church

Every first day of the week (Sunday), the local church in Iowa Park assembles to remember the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ by taking the Lord's Supper together (Acts 20:7) just as local churches did in the 1st century AD. Paul describes the Lord's Supper in his first letter to the Corinthians, repeating what happened when Christ instituted it at the last supper He ate with his Apostles. Each member takes unleavened bread to remember the body of Jesus offered on the cross and grape juice to remember the blood Christ shed on the cross for all, both preceded by a prayer asking for a blessing (1 Corinthians 11:23-26, Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, Luke 22:17-20). As each Christian takes the Lord's Supper, his or her mind should be turned inward to examine self as welll as contemplate the sacrifice Jesus made for all mankind (1 Corinthians 11:26-28).

Also on Sundays, the church is authorized to collect money from its members to support the work of the local church, i.e., edification of the saints, evangelism of the lost, benevolence for needy saints. Each Christian is to decide how much to give based on how much he or she has prospered that week. It should be done cheerfully, rather than grudgingly. It should never be done under compulsion from anyone (1 Corinthians 16:1-2, 2 Corinthians 9:7), but is a private decision between each Christian and God.

Three other acts of worship by churches are found in the New Testament. These are not limited to Sunday. They can be practiced any time the church assembles. These three acts are singing, praying, and preaching.

Singing includes psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19). They should be sung with thankfulness, making melody in our hearts to God for the purpose of teaching and admonishing one another (Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16) or praising God (James 5:13, Acts 16:25). Since singing is the specific command for this type of worship rather than the more generic command of 'make music to God,' other types of music, such as instrumental music, is eliminated; i.e., our singing is to be acapella. It should also be done in spirit and in truth (1 Corinthians 14:15); that is, consider the things you sing, making sure they are in accordance with God's word.

Just as singing must be done in spirit and in truth, so must our prayers be (1 Corinthians 14:15). Our prayers are to be submitted to God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ, that is, God the Son (Colossians 3:17). Our prayers can and should be of three types: praise (Hebrews 13:15), thanksgiving (Colossians 3:17), and supplication (Matthew 7:7).

Preaching is also authorized during an assembly of the church (Acts 20:7). The Apostle Paul tells Timothy the goal of preaching should be to produce "love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (1 Timothy 1:5). This preaching must include the gospel, i.e., the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), to save the lost as well as to instruct and encourage the saints. Preaching from the pulpit may be done by men in the congregation or a local church may hire a man to serve as the preacher on a regular basis. This man goes by the title of preacher or evangelist (Romans 10:14, 2 Timothy 4:5, Acts 21:8, Ephesians 4:11). The Iowa Park church employs Bill Lockwood as a preacher as well as having visiting speakers occasionally from within and without the congregation.

Conclusion

We in the Iowa Park congregation are striving to live, work and worship according to God's commands. If you would like to learn more about the Lord's church, please visit our worship services, Bible classes, or call or email to make an appointment to study with one of our members.


1Vine, W.E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Unabridged edition. McLean, Virginia: MacDonald Publishing Company.

2Young, Robert. Young's Analytical Concordance to the Bible.


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Iowa Park church of Christ ~ 300 E Park ~ Iowa Park, Tx 76367 ~ 940-592-5415 ~ office@iowaparkcoc.org