When one thinks of an institution they may think of education, government, the church, marriage, family, and even state correctional facilities. What is considered an institution? Which institution holds the most influence? Which one should hold the most influence? Each holds its importance. Marriage and family are rooted at society and carry a lot of influence but not most important. Education, good and does it molding of children and influences (negative and positive) should not be the most influential in our society. The government which has its own institutions within it, and holds power, is not the most influential.
Pastor and teacher Ray Ortland defines an institution this way, “An institution is a social mechanism for making a desirable experience easily repeatable. An institution is where life-giving human activities can be nurtured and protected and sustained.” Here there can be many institutions that fit this definition like sporting events but where more than ever can human activities be nurtured, protected, and sustained the strongest? It is the church. (The church in this meaning is the Biblical church made up of Bible believing Christians. Pastor Mark Dever defines the church as “The church is that collection of people who are hearing the Word of God, responding to it with their lives, and who have obeyed Jesus’ specific commands to be baptized and proclaim his death in the Lord’s Supper.”)
Based on Ray Ortland’s definition the church should be the most influential institution around. The apostle Paul writes to the church in Ephesus of the importance of the church, “so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places (Ephesians 3:10 ESV).
An institution is where life-giving human activities can be nurtured and protected and sustained.”-Ray Ortland
Paul in this chapter, is pointing to the great mystery of the Gospel and that the implications of the Gospel is so big that it goes unto the heavenly realm. The enemies of God have become aware of the wisdom of God. Or another way of looking at this, the church is the microphone that God uses to proclaim His wonderful and profound wisdom. Commentator Clinton Arnold summarizes this verse, “This means that the very existence of the church, the one body of Christ composed of Jews and Gentiles, reveals God’s wisdom to the powers.” This reveals to the heavenlies while also revealing his wisdom to the authorities on earth. How can the church be the most influential to society?
First, the church needs to be a light to society
What institution should do the most good for any society? It should be the church!
“When the church is the church and tries not to be like the world, the church is more effective to the world.”
What does it mean for the church to be the church? It is when the church follows and demonstrates to the world what the Bible portrays of the church. This would mean the church needs to pursue holiness. A church is holy by teaching the Word of God exegetically. The church is holy when it desires to not be like the world but to be set-apart. The church is holy when it pursues those who are hard to love because the church is full of people who are tough to love as Christ loves us.
The church needs to stand upon the truth of God’s Word which is a reflection of Christ’s love to this world. The church points to and lives out the Gospel truth that we have hope for the hurting. Life for the despondent. Joy for the crushed. This is the church that is a light to society. It is true when it is darkest, the light shines the brightest. This is the time for the church to stand with conviction and integrity and you know what this is attractive!
D. L. Moody said, “We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to their shining – they just shine.”
The same is true for the church. We need to just shine!
Second, the church needs influence and point government in a proper direction
In America, the government has power. (Though, you may want to argue that America is a democracy, so the people have the power. This is not the point to argue politics.) The government instills rules and laws that were as citizens are to follow.
There is a time, which we see today, that the church’s influence does not have influence with the government. Though not completely anti-church we see more and more opposition to the church. The Apostle Paul reminds us that God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27 CSB).
The church needs to be the megaphone for the oppressed. The church needs to be the one who demonstrates what it means to love their neighbor (Mark 12:31). The church needs to be the one who stands for unity despite diversity (Ephesians 2:11-22; Philippians 2:1-11). The church needs to lead the way in caring for widows, orphans, and the poor (Isaiah 1:17). The church leads in these humanitarian efforts because we point to not just a temporary fix, but to the eternal hope that is found in Christ Jesus! This is the way to influence government, it is by being an example of standing up for truth and doing the most good (Matthew 5:14-16).
Third, the church needs to train and equips families
The Word of God is clearly the best training ground for parents and families (Deuteronomy 6; Psalm 127; Proverbs 22:6) as it points us to the Lord. The strongest relationship for society is the strength of the family. A family is strong when each member of the family not only performs their God-given roles but realizes that each role has a specific part to play in the family.
A strong family leaves a legacy that is multi-generational. As a strong family impacts those closest to them, they also impact society. When families are strong, society benefits from that. What better place to teach families on their God-given roles than the church. The church needs to not only equip families with tools to succeed in their Christian walks but also needs to support them in the difficulties of life by pointing them to God’s grace.
This is the church shining brightly, living boldly, proclaiming Christ by obeying Scripture!