Thursday, January 05, 2006

What is the Church Anyway?

Recently my wife was struggling with one of our sons to get him to do his homework. Eventually he had to be placed off to himself with his stack of work to complete. He did finally complete his work, but we discovered that he had mistaken his math assignment doing something like Lesson 73 instead of Lesson 23. Since he was 50 (!) lessons ahead there were several things he did not understand, but he worked through them marking some he had to skip. The last problem asked him to work with a rhombus, a shape we had never discussed to that point. In answer to the question he wrote simply:
“Wut is a rhombus in e way?”
We couldn’t help laughing at his candor.

I am convinced, however, that many professing Christians in the West today, when pressed about the importance of the church (whether concerning membership, devotion to, labor for, etc.) would respond with a blank stare saying, “What is the church anyway?” Bonhoeffer once stated the word “church” to Protestants “has the sound of something infinitely commonplace, more or less indifferent and superfluous, that does not make their hear beat faster; something with which a sense of boredom is so often associated.”

If we are going to understand the gravity of oversight and the role of pastoring, we must have a proper understanding of what the church is. However, we are often deficient in this area because for so long there has been so little attention given to the church. Many church leaders (often the ones who we hear from the most) basically suggest all of theology is clear and settled and the only thing we need to think about now is strategy and marketing. How sadly untrue this is becomes clear in seeing how radically off course we are from New Testament descriptions of the Church. Paul highlighted the connection between the identity of the church and the role of the pastor when he urged the Ephesian elders to “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).

One important Pauline statement on the identity and mission of the church is found in 1 Timothy 3:14-15: “I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.”
Here is a link to one attempt to preach on the identity and importance of the church from the incredibly compact statement of Paul in 1 Timothy 3:15.


Karen M Matthews said...

I believe that the reason Protestants are indifferent about the concept of Church dates back to the Reformation, when Protestants distanced themselves from what they understood to be the overbearing power of the Catholic Church. The Church will never be perfect, but it can be holy, because it is washed in Christ's blood.

For more thoughts on the concept of Church, read Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done

"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it." Ephesians 5:25

Ray Van Neste said...

Thanks for your comment. I differ significantly though. The poor condition of the church at the time of the Reformation and at other times has indeed contributed to a low view ofthe church, but the Reformers themselves held a high view of the church. Their writings are very clear in this area.