Dabar [theme]

He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou find refuge: His truth is a shield and buckler
Psalms 91:4

Be it ours,when we cannot see the face of God, to trust under the shadow of His wings. C.H. Spugeon

Sunday, June 17, 2012

What is the Church?

This is a question which has been circulating through the Church and un-churched community for some time now.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to speak to the congregation of my church. I was an Elder at the time and our Pastor was encouraging us, as Elders, to take on some speaking tasks. What started as a singular event, morphed into a series of talks, which at this time has not been completed. As with all Churches we were experiencing the usual discontent from certain factions within the congregation. This seemingly is not unusual, but ...

The verse chosen as the topic for my discussions was 1 Corinthians 13:13 "And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love."

I began the series speaking of faith, then hope, then there was an interruption in the series when I spoke about tithing, then a continuation with the topic of Man's love (the series would have been completed with the topic of God's love in one or perhaps two engagements).

At the end of every discussion there were a variety of people who spoke with me, what was disturbing and as a result moved me to leave the church, was the questioning of the most trivial of matters concerning what I had said, and the lack of questioning about the inherent focus of the topic. It seems true that people for the most part major in the minors and minor in the majors.

With all due respect for the intelligence of others and the lack thereof of myself, the problem could have been in the ambiguity with which I approached and directed the discussion. I have never been one to spell out for others, I prefer to allow others to grasp and own what they have gleaned for themselves.

Regardless, my intent and the subsequent questions were somewhat polarized.

What is the church?

My choice of topic, although morphed, was in effort in attempting to define or at least ask those others to define what they desired or believed the Church to be.

Even the topic of tithing fit in this discourse as an opportunity to address this issue.

"Our church, which has been fighting in these years only for its self-preservation, as though that were an end in itself, is incapable of taking the word of reconciliation and redemption to mankind and the world. Our earlier words are therefore bound to lose their force and cease, and our being Christian today will be limited to two things: prayer and righteous action among men." Bonhoeffer

There are many within the church who are concerned with it's survival, with it's message, and with it's ability to effectively deliver that message. There are many outside the church who are awaiting it's demise.

To my chagrin the most prevalent question may be What will the Church look like without a building?

We have become a social convenience for like-minded individuals to join together once a week and fellowship. A club of sorts, an association of members who share common beliefs and ideals. In this, even this, we are probably the worst of institutions, there are many social organizations from which we could take a lesson or two.

That is not all we are called to be, just an avenue by where we can network with others who think the same and act the same.

Now there is the catch.

John 17:11, "Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are."

We are to be unified in affection, will, spirit, labour, plan and purpose, expressing to the world harmony, unity, vision and love.

John 17:21, "that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me."

There is much implied in this verse, a maturity, a spiritual maturity, a focus on the goal, and an understanding of the importance of not just maintaining a stalwart confession of Christian faith and love, but a realistic application of what God's love means to each individual and each Church as a whole. For that is the message to the world, that is the testimony and witness and confession of our faith, when we dwell together in unity.

Without a doubt, strife, wrangling and division are stumbling blocks to the outside world. Romans12:5, "so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another."

Perhaps better explained as unified in love, in obedience to God and His Word and unified in a commitment to discern and live out His will for us.

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