Many of us are familiar with Henry W. Longfellow’s words in his poem entitled, “Paul Revere’s Ride.” It was the signal orchestrated by Revere at the brink of the American Revolutionary War. This secret signal’s purpose was to warn the patriots of which route to anticipate the arrival of British troops.
Where could these lanterns be seen by everyone, but yet remain undetected? A common architectural feature of churches is the Lantern Tower. The Old North Church in Boston had just such a feature.
Churches with a lantern tower often have a floor plan that resembles a cross (called "cruciform"). The lantern tower is positioned at the junction where each branch comes together. The lantern tower of First Baptist Church Mount Sterling is separate from the steeple and rests above the church’s lobby (precisely at the intersection of the cross floor plan).
The purpose of the lantern tower is two-fold. First, it allows light into the building. It is a symbolic picture of emphasizing the importance of the cross by “shining light on the cross.” Second, the lantern tower shines light into the community, a symbolic picture of the church’s role in “shining the light of Christ” into a dark world.
Architecture has always been important to me. I appreciate the great symbolism that architects incorporate into their designs. However, I must continually remind myself that the “function” of the church is more important than the “form” of the church. May the symbols be reminders of our purpose. We must never think that the lantern tower can replace our responsibility to illuminate the cross in our own lives. Furthermore, we must never think that the lantern tower can replace our duty to spread the light of the Gospel into our community. If given a choice between maintaining a “lantern tower” or equipping people to be light in our community, may we always choose the authentic over the symbolic.
As I was reading through the book of Acts, I wanted to identify the “irreducible minimum” of the church. Here’s what I mean by that term. The irreducible minimum is a philosophical term used to define the least amount of attributes necessary to maintain function and identity. For example, consider the parts of a tree (i.e. leaves, branches, trunk, roots). Can the leaves be removed and still have a tree? Can some or all of the branches be removed and still be a tree? Can the trunk be removed and still be a tree? It seems reasonable to say that once you chop the trunk away, you no longer have a tree but you have a stump. Therefore, you cannot remove the trunk without changing the very essence of the tree.
In a similar way, there is an “irreducible minimum” of characteristics that define the church. If we neglect or cease to demonstrate that particular characteristic, we cease to be a church. As you read through the book of Acts with this particular lens, you begin to notice the first characteristic (i.e. irreducible minimum) is the church’s focus on Jesus. The church must remain focused on Jesus. If a church loses focus of Jesus, it has ceased to be a biblical New Testament church.
A terrible spiritual disease has crept into the church body. It is what I call “Muscular Dystrophy of the Church Body.” If you are familiar with the disease Muscular Dystrophy, it is a disease in which the body has all of the proper equipment (brain cells, neurons, dendrites, muscles), but they are not functioning in unity with one another. In fact, the brain operates perfectly fine. It sends signals/messages out to the rest of the body. The problem is found between the nerves and the muscles. The nerve conveys the message sent from the brain, but the muscle is unresponsive. Clearly, Christ is the head of the church and no fault can be found in His message to the church. Unfortunately, some within the church have developed a spiritual Muscular Dystrophy and have become unresponsive to His call to serve.
Ephesians 4 offers a snapshot of the treatment to cure or prevent this spiritual disease.
I. The “Who” of equipping and church ministry. (Eph. 4:7-12)
Christ has gifted the church with leaders who are to equip the saints for works of ministry that will bring glory to God and build His church.
When the church has been properly equipped for ministry we will be unified in our focus on Christ, we will become more like Jesus, and our beliefs will have stability on the word of God.
Truth spoken in the context of loving relationships is Christ-honoring.
The more equipped we are as a church the more we will look like Jesus and the more effective we will be in ministry.
Dr. Chris Dortch has been in vocational ministry since 1993. His blog is aimed to "equip the saints for the work of ministry."