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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Reflections on Church

Today, we moved beyond looking at the Spirit to considering the church and the sense in which God created the church to be on a mission. I've had so many different ideas for a blog, that I decided to just jot down some of the basic insights I have found challenging and refreshing. Feel free to respond to anything you'd like- I love hearing from you!

1. God's mission in the world is NOT to save people. God's mission is to create a new humanity- the people of God. While it is accurate to say we must all choose Christ, it is not accurate to call our faith personal. The idea of a "personal faith" is not only foreign to Scripture, but to the first 1500 years or so of Christian tradition. To be saved is to be brought into God's family, the church. Only as part of God's people are we able to experience his plan for us.

2. Being the people of God has less do with behavior and more do with relationship. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, the ultimate falling was a loss of relationship with God. As a result of the fall, they gained the knowledge of good and evil. This was not God's intent! God desired a people that lived only on His word; knowledge of God and not knowledge of laws/rules! To become the people of God is to come under the rule of God in our lives by re-establishing relationship with Him through Christ.

3. Salvation is more than a moment. From a Biblical point of view, salvation is the process of coming completely under God's rule and living in His Kingdom. While this process must have a beginning, it will not find completion until we enter heaven. In other words, we should place a little less emphasis on "crossing the line" and a little more emphasis on continuing to place our lives completely under His rule.

4. We gather in community because of our bond as the new humanity; the people of God. “The community is not to be visualized basically in terms of ‘natural’ bonds of gregariousness but in terms of God’s act. Before we say any of these terms we should first think: God’s purpose, his promise, his calling.” (Minear)

5. Following Christ means NOT that Jesus exists for us, but that we exist for Him. We have created a kind of faith that says Jesus is here to make my life better. Sorry, but that's not true! Jesus is here to make you and I into a new kind of people. This will only happen as we re-orient our lives around Him and His word.

6. There are times when the church needs to close the doors. Luther once said, "God doesn't sleep with his bride in public." In other words, there are times when the church needs to gather in intimate fellowship with only the church "membership" (those who are committed to Christ). It is through these times of intimate worship that the church can be formed and strengthened to have something to offer the world. (I think our new worship nights have become a beginning expression of this.)

7. Churches lose sight of love over little things! Did you know that the largest split in church history (catholic and orthodox) occurred over one word- filioque? The word means "of the son" in Latin, I think. Basically, because the Catholics added the word to their creed, the Orthodox church took off. Now, I know that some theologian will explain exactly why that was such a big deal (as we spent a good hour on it in class), but my point is obvious. If we are to be a witness to the world of a new humanity that has been transformed by relationship with God, then we have to get over our pettiness! We need to be on a mission- in our own churches! We need to strive to BE the people of God so that the world can see the Body of Christ. This is the heart of true evangelism.

Well, there ought to be something there for you to chew on! I just summarized two days of theology, so you should thank me. :-) No, seriously, I hope you'll push back on anything here that strikes you as unique.

May you be willing to THINK on your journey today! God gave you a brain- so use it! When we begin to understand faith and church from God's point of view, it really makes sense. You have a reasonable faith- get to know it! Blessings-



Nate said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nate said...

Hi! I love your bio and how you describe living-out your faith as a lifestyle!

I have just moved to SoCal from IN with a group of friends/pastors as a launch team for a new church in Northern San Diego county, called The Branches. We'll begin holding services in December. So, with my mind constantly on what it means to be a church right now, I really enjoyed this post! Especially your stress on community, relationships, love, and existing for God (instead of the other way around!).

Thanks for sharing! Hope you stop by my blog sometime!

Anonymous said...

Thoughtful comments. I think we too often think individually, not as a family, a community.


Anonymous said...

There is much too much to comment on. But you know me...I'll do it anyway :D

First though, I wanted to comment on your editorial comment at the bottom about thinking...I couldn't agree more. Sometimes I think that I think too much, but I guess I'd rather have it that way than to just take in and regurgitate the same thing back without digesting it. O.k...gross analogy, right?? Soooo...I'll move on...

1. Doesn't it have to be BOTH personal and corporate? If I don't know Christ personally and intimately in my own way, then how do I share that? Or is this more in reference to people like my brother-in-law who say, "I know God. I believe in Christ. But I don't need to go to church. I pray on my own." ?

2. Relationship vs. rules?? Thank God (literally) it's not about behavior because I am such a loser when it comes to following the rules. What's awesome though, is that the more I dig in to my relationship with Christ, the more I naturally tend to follow the "rules". Funny how that is...

3. I think you've been doing a good job of making this point of late. If I think about a junker car just sitting in a junk yard or salvage yard, I don't think that the car has truly been salvaged just because someone bought the car and took it home to their shop. It's only once it's been worked on - bent, shaped, welded, patched, had parts replaced, engine overhauled, and repainted that I truly think it's salvaged. Besides, it's of no use to the owner if it's been reclaimed from the junk yard, but sits in the shop in the same condition it was found.

4. I like the word "gregariousness" -- I think it's woefully underused :D I agree with the statement though...can't really add to it.

Anonymous said...

Part 2 -- See, told you this would be long! Blogger wouldn't accept my full comment :D

5. You know, it's so easy to say that when life is good. When life is really crappy though, it's hard to keep that in perspective. I agree with the statement, but I can also see how easy it is to lose sight of the truth.

6. I missed the last worship night. I was so bummed :( I agree's valuable to close ranks from time to time. I think that since the start of those worship nights that I've seen a more freely worshipping church body at EHA.

7. Why is it that I hear lots of pastors/churches SAY this, but I don't actually believe that they believe it?? I'm not saying that about appear to truly find it annoying and worthless to bicker over stuff, it just looks like we're still the same old denominations doing our same old thing and rarely coming together as one body. Heard an old Disciple song while I was running the other day (o.k...shuffling along quickly) called "I Just Know". Here's a cut and paste of some of the lyrics:

what makes you different from one another
why do you argue about who you follow
there is no man that you belong to
there's only one God that can claim you (1 Corinthians 3:5-7)

I don't care if you don't speak in tongues (1 Corinthians 13:1)
I don't care if you're into submersion (Matthew 3:16)
what does it matter if wear a liturgical robe or prophesy
and say God said so (1 John 4:1)

I just know Jesus is the way
I just know Jesus is the truth
I just know Jesus is the life
I know that Jesus is my God (John 14:6)

do you serve your name or do you serve mankind
would you feel the same if they took down your sign
could you sit next to me if I was Baptist or Presbyterian
or do I need to be a charismatic or Episcopalian (Acts 2:17)

I don't care if you drink grape juice or if it's wine (Matthew 26:27- 29)
and I don't care if you get out of church on time
what does it matter if you praise God with music in your church (Psalm 150)
or you burn your dead or bury them six feet in the dirt

I don't care if you clap your hands (Psalm 47:1)
I don't care if you get out in the aisle and dance (Psalm 149:3)
what's it matter if someone lets out a hallelujah shout (Psalm 100:1)
have we forgotten what praising Yahweh is all about

WHEW! Did that just drive you crazy or what?! Sorry to ramble on! Carry on, carry on...

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I love the part about closing the door periodically and I do agree that the worship nights are a good start. I feel like, as a church, we do some stuff that's "just for us", but we can do better. I am all for reaching out and being God's hands and feet, of course! But we also need to take care of ourselves and our own (church) family. Just as we take weekend retreats or family vacations, to renew, refresh and be better moms, dads, Christians, etc., church families also need to disconnect from the outside and reconnect with each other occasionally.


Nick said...

Thanks for the comments all! I appreciate your willingness to interact with what it means to be a church. One thing is clear- church cannot be a place we go, or else we have misunderstood what Jesus came to do.

Britt- thanks for taking up each item line by line! You are a dedicated reader and responder. That's a great song, by the way. Is that a group- Disciple? Haven't heard of them. Does that make me a loser?


Anonymous said..., not a loser. They are a pretty hard rock Christian band. Think guitars and screaming ;-) I guess I just never outgrew my love of that kind of music from way back in the day. :D

Anonymous said...

Hello Nick,

Thank you for the thought provoking post.

You wrote "We need to strive to BE the people of God so that the world can see the Body of Christ. This is the heart of true evangelism."

Yes! In my experience, I have found people need to "see" a person living their faith before they can "hear" the Good News.

Looking forward to seeing you Sunday,