The Universal Church


John Fawcett is a name you may not immediately recognize. In the late 18th century, Fawcett pastored a small, poor church in Wainsgate, England, where his salary was only 25 pounds a year.

In 1773, Fawcett was invited to become the pastor of a much larger church in London. Initially, he accepted the new position. But as his belongings were being loaded for the journey, the people from his church came to bid him farewell.

The tearful goodbye was so moving that John’s wife, Mary, cried out, “John, I cannot bear to leave!” “Nor can I,” he responded. “We shall remain here with our people.” Their belongings were taken back off of the wagons, and John Fawcett remained in Wainsgate for the entirety of his 54-year ministry.

Years later, as he reflected on his decision to stay, Fawcett penned the words to his most-well-known hymn: Blest Be the Tie That Binds. The familiar words of that song resonate with the loyalty and love that characterized the pastor who wrote them.

Blest be the tie that binds

Our hearts in Christian love;

The fellowship of kindred minds

Is like to that above.

Before our Father’s throne,

We pour our ardent prayers;

Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,

Our comforts, and our cares.

Fawcett’s story illustrates the legacy of long-term commitment in pastoral ministry.


My theme and challenge today is:

Jesus established the church, the church fathers guarded the church, we must defend the church and participate in the church.

The church is Jesus’ community to reach the lost, nurture faith and meet family needs.

Read with me Matthew 16:18:

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

  1. Let’s start by talking about the beginning of the church. Jesus established the church.
    1. We see in the passage that I read that Jesus said “‘I’ will build ‘my’ church.”
    2. But let’s go back. Jesus renames Peter in this passage. He was called “Simon” and now Jesus says that he is “Peter” which means “rock.” Jesus uses a play on words to say, “Upon this ‘rock’ I will build my church…”
    3. Why does Jesus do this?
    4. Let’s read verses 13-18 and see this in context.

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

  1. Jesus acknowledged who Jesus was. Peter confessed Christ.
  2. So, the question debated is what rock is the church built upon? Some say, the rock is Peter. Peter was the first one to preach at Pentecost (Acts 2). Others say the rock was Peter’s confession that Jesus is Lord. Others say the rock is the Messiah Jesus Himself. I can see a strong case for all of the views. I believe it seems like Peter’s confession and Jesus being the Rock, go hand-in-hand. The Old Testament prophets likened Messiah to a Stone (Ps. 118:22; Isa. 28:16), and Jesus claimed to be that Stone (21:42). Peter himself identified Jesus as that Stone (Acts 4:10-12; 1 Pet. 2:5-8), as Paul did (Rom. 9:32-33; 1 Cor. 3:11; 10:4; Eph. 2:20). Second, this interpretation explains the use of two different though related words for “rock.” Third, this view accounts for the use of “this” since Jesus was present when He said these words. Fourth, the Old Testament used the figure of a Rock to describe God (Deut. 32:4, 15, 18, 30, 31, 37; 2 Sam. 22:2; Ps. 18:2, 31, 46; 28:1).[1]
  3. The church belongs to Jesus.
  4. Jesus further says that the gates of hades, or hell, will not overcome it.
  5. Listen, the church is secure.
  6. We may say that the church is falling apart in America, but know that the church is growing in China. The church is growing in Africa. The church is healthy.
  7. When I talk about the church, I am talking about the universal church. The adjective “catholic” mean “universal.” The catholic church really, originally, meant “universal church. John Wesley would write about the catholic church and that is what he meant.
  8. It is true that there are many churches closing in America every year, thousands, but this is not an emergency in Heaven. Jesus is watching over His church. The gates of Hades will not overcome it. Remember Jesus is great, the devil is small. The devil will not hurt Jesus’ church. The devil tries, but he will fail. The devil’s future is hell. Jesus’ future is reigning eternally. The church is in Jesus’ hands, He is the Lord of the church. The devil is like a swimming pool, but Jesus is the ocean. Jesus is so much greater and bigger and wiser and more powerful than the devil. There is no threat to God and there is no threat to the church. I actually believe that we are ripe for revival in America and even if not the church will not die. The church has faced this before.
  9. Jesus established the church.
  10. The church belongs to Jesus.
  11. Jesus is Lord of the church.
  12. Jesus is the Chief Shepherd of the church.
  13. The church is Jesus’ community to reach the lost, nurture faith and meet family needs.
  1. The church Fathers protected the church.
    1. In the early church there were many church councils. These councils were watching over the church.
    2. The first council was the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15.
    3. These ended with about seven church council between AD 325 and 787.
    4. The church council happened because the church fathers defended the church. Why did they defend the church? They did this because Jesus built the church and we are called to be a part of the church. The church is Jesus’ community to reach the lost, nurture faith and meet family needs.
    5. In the early creeds we see the value of the church. The Nicene-Constantinople Creed it reads: In one holy catholic and apostolic Church….[2]
    6. They believed in a holy, universal, church.
  • Jesus established the church, the church fathers guarded the church, we must protect the church and participate in the church.
    1. Do we care about the church?
    2. Are we participating in the church?
    3. If you are a Christian are you giving to the church? I am not asking about tithing, I am asking about giving?
    4. Are you being a disciple and discipling others?
    5. Are you really involved, I mean involved?
    6. Are you praying for the church and the church leaders?
    7. Do you care?
    8. There was study done on church commitment. In the 1980’s people were asked about church commitment and they thought they were committed if they attended about three times a week. That would be Sunday morning, including Sunday School, Sunday night and Wednesday night. Now, people think they are committed if they attend three times a month. You see how far we have fallen. And those attending three times a month are oftentimes leaders. Often times the leaders don’t even value discipleship. YET, and this is a big YET, the church is secure. The church is protected by the King.
    9. The church is here for evangelism, discipleship, worship, ministry and fellowship.





On a dangerous seacoast notorious for shipwrecks, there was a crude little lifesaving station. Actually, the station was merely a hut with only one boat . . . but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the turbulent sea. With little thought for themselves, they would go out day and night tirelessly searching for those in danger as well as the lost. Many, many lives were saved by this brave band of men who faithfully worked as a team in and out of the lifesaving station. By and by, it became a famous place.

Some of those who had been saved as well as others along the seacoast wanted to become associated with this little station. They were willing to give their time and energy and money in support of its objectives. New boats were purchased. New crews were trained. The station that was once obscure and crude and virtually insignificant began to grow. Some of its members were unhappy that the hut was so unattractive and poorly equipped. They felt a more comfortable place should be provided. Emergency cots were replaced with lovely furniture. Rough, hand-made equipment was discarded and sophisticated, classy systems were installed. The hut, of course, had to be torn down to make room for all the additional equipment, furniture, systems, and appointments. By its completion, the life-saving station had become a popular gathering place, and its objectives had begun to shift. It was now used as sort of a clubhouse, an attractive building for public gatherings. Saving lives, feeding the hungry, strengthening the fearful, and calming the disturbed rarely occurred by now.

Fewer members were now interested in braving the sea on lifesaving missions, so they hired professional lifeboat crews to do this work. The original goal of the station wasn’t altogether forgotten, however. The lifesaving motifs still prevailed in the club’s decorations. In fact, there was a liturgical lifeboat preserved in the Room of Sweet Memories with soft, indirect lighting, which helped hide the layer of dust upon the once-used vessel.

About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast and the boat crews brought in loads of cold, wet, half-drowned people. They were dirty, some terribly sick and lonely. Others were “different” from the majority of the club members. The beautiful new club suddenly became messy and cluttered. A special committee saw to it that a shower house was immediately built outside and away from the club so victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming inside.

At the next meeting there were strong words and angry feelings, which resulted in a division among the members. Most of the people wanted to stop the club’s lifesaving activities and all involvements with shipwreck victims . . . (“it’s too unpleasant, it’s a hindrance to our social life, it’s opening the door to folks who are not our kind“). As you’d expect, some still insisted upon saving lives, that this was their primary objective—that their only reason for existence was ministering to anyone needing help regardless of their club’s beauty or size or decorations. They were voted down and told if they wanted to save the lives of various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own lifesaving station down the coast! They did.

As years passed, the new station experienced the same old changes. It evolved into another club . . . and yet another lifesaving station was begun. History continued to repeat itself . . . and if you visit that coast today you’ll find a large number of exclusive, impressive clubs along the shoreline owned and operated by slick professionals who have lost all involvement with the saving of lives.

Shipwrecks still occur in those waters, but now most of the victims are not saved. Every day they drown at sea, and so few seem to care . . . so very few.

Do you?[3]

Do you know Christ?

Luke 9:23

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s