Thursday, June 28, 2012

Concerning the Church – Part 1

When it comes to discussions concerning the church, too often the nature of the church is skipped in favour of discussing the organisation and ministries of the church. Perhaps everyone understands the nature of the church or perhaps differentiating between the nature, ministries, and organisation of the church is considered semantics. Maybe the essential nature of church has been forgotten in amongst the many choices people can make about church. These choices being on one hand brilliant, although on the other, at least potentially misleading.

We need variety of expression, flavour, tone, style, culture and characteristics when it comes to church. This is a healthy “consumer” choice. When we lose sight of the essential nature of the church in favour of her many characteristics though, it is possible that rather than allowing the Church to shape and demand something of us, we allow our expectations, demands, and tastes to become things that instead shape and place demands on the church. "Either put on something we want to consumer or we’ll go somewhere that does." This isn’t the way it is supposed to be, this is consumer choice gone too far.

So when it comes to talking about the church it is essential that we begin by talking about the essence of the church or the nature of the church rather than about the programs, ministries, and organization of the local church.

Walter Brueggemann writes that Christians are those that have responded to “God’s call to disengage from postures, habits, and assumptions that define the world of power and injustice that is so devoid of mercy and compassion in every arena of life. The call is away from ordinary life, ordinary possessions, and ordinary assumptions to a way of life that the world judges impossible. Thus the call is, indeed to an impossibility.”[1]

The church is by nature the gathering and scattering of those who have responded to the call to follow Jesus. Those that have committed to an “alternative” way of living in the world.  Those that, in faith and repentance, have pledged their allegiance and worship to God revelled in Father, Son and Spirit.

The church are those that have turned from false gods, from idolatry, from self governance, from self rule and have determined to follow Jesus as Lord and as Saviour.

The church is a community of atheists in regards to any other gods so often worshiped, pursued, and lived in allegiance to in our day and age...

Individualism – worship of self as the centre of the universe.
Consumerism – worship of consumption, self gratification, the need to posses, the idea that one is what one owns.
Relativism – worship of all truth being equal and that universal truth is unknowable.

The church is all who are ‘in’ Christ, i.e. submitted to the Lordship of Jesus and also more specifically or locally the church is the gathering of those that are in Christ.

The church may own property but she is not a building. The church may gather but she is not an event. The church may minister but she is not a program. The church is a body of people united in baptism and communion - the church is a community.

[1] Walter Brueggemann, The Word That Redescribes the World: The Bible and Discipleship (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2006), 95.

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