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-