Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Why Church, II: Living “Church” on the Ground

No Christian is an Island

Pauline language does not lend itself to a “Jesus and me” theology of the Christian life. It’s not about me “pursuing” God, or me getting holy or me being restored or even me getting saved. We are baptized into the Body of Christ. Becoming Christ’s own means being joined with other Christians. Christ ransomed a Church, not a disparate group of individuals that keep going their own way. Being New Testament Christians means dedicating ourselves to one another as the primary way we dedicate ourselves to Jesus. One cannot love Jesus in a general, abstract sense. One loves Jesus in specific ways to love him at all, and those specific ways have faces.

Church as Witness

Jesus said the world would know us as his disciples by our love for one another. Christians are meant to bear witness to the reality of the Risen Christ and the reign of Yahweh in a broken world. This isn’t done thorough words, words, words. The redemptive power of the Holy Spirit is not unleashed by the intellectual assent to doctrinal propositions. Only a life lived with Christ, in the community, broken but being redeemed, put out there for outsiders to see (through relationships, not the religious exhibitionism that passes for evangelism) can come close to bearing witness to the reality of the Risen Christ in his fullness. People aren’t going to believe he’s redeeming the world if nobody sees him redeeming us.

Church Causes Growth

Modern day evangelicals have thought that the primary means for spiritual growth is more information. So we create, disseminate and consume vast quantities of religious informed designed to improve our individual spiritual lives. And somehow end up more impoverished than before. We were meant to live together and grow up into Christ together. There is nothing more than this, and nothing less will sustain us and make us complete in Christ.

What it looks like

Mind you, I’m not saying that this is what those buildings with church in the name are all about, or that the people who frequent them to produce and consume religious goods and services believe in these things. But that’s the DNA of Church as I understand it. So here’s what I think someone definitely needs if they’re going to be serious about being a Christian and being Church with other people:

  • Read scripture and interact on it together
  • Study the history and theology of the church and interact together
  • Celebrate the sacraments together (lord’s supper and baptism, at least) as well as various disciplines that can stretch us and support us in our growth into the Christlife (confession, guidance, obedience, etc.)
  • Pray alone, pray together, pray for one another and pray for the world
  • Be with one another in a creative variety of ways that will deepen and express the reality that you’ve dedicated yourselves to loving one another well, and being agents of change and redemption in the lives of one another.
  • Be with non-Christians in a creative variety of ways that will deepen and express the reality that you’re dedicated to loving them and prophesying in word and action that they are deeply and passionate loved by Jesus Christ who wants to restore their lives pour his spirit into all of the broken and dry places.
  • In light of these two points, I consider hospitality to be foundational to evangelism.

At this point, I think those things are really it. I probably sound like a minimalist with extremely high standards, but that’s okay.

Part I: "Church in the Scope of God's Big Plan
Part III: What About Churches That Don't Get It?

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