How does the church all fit together?
Where does God really want us to be?
As said earlier our function is to represent the Kingdom of God and promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If those who claim to speak up for us are not doing this faithfully, then it’s time, perhaps, that we decided that they don’t stick up for us anymore. This means that you will no longer have to be tarred with the same brush and have to explain to non-believers the latest proclamations from the established Church.
So, how will this work? Only God knows these things and His plans for us all may be very different. Here are some scenarios:
- You are happy and content in your local church. It is a Bible based fellowship, linked to a local network and concentrates all of its efforts on the Gospel.
This has to be the ideal and the best working model in today’s world. A group of like-minded Christians, hopefully united in mind and in thought.
- You are in a local expression of a major denomination. You are happy and content as the local leadership is strong and unafraid to contradict any nonsensical or unbiblical statements made by the denominational leaders.
As long as it remains this way, then you probably feel comfortable. But you must always be wary of a change in policy if the local leadership changes, or if it changes its mind.
- You are in a church grouping that has a voice in society … and you are not sure you like what they are saying on your behalf.
This is where the rubber hits the road because you have a decision to make, along with hundreds of others too. Do I stay or do I go? Only one Person can help herebecause it is not do I want to leave the church, it is rather, where does God want me to be? It can be no other way.
Here is the reading at my baptism that has really defined my life, correcting me and blessing me:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
It must ever be this way, otherwise you are just following your heart, your feelings, your instincts, all that veers towards the subjective. And we must never forget that leaving a fellowship will always involve other people, real flesh and blood people who can be hurt. And, after all, the shalom of unity is really about other people, as we shall now discuss.
It is back to form and function. Our form is ekklesia, the “called out ones”, not the called out one, but a joint enterprise with others, some of whom will be very different to you in terms of background, experience, age, culture, race and so on. But we are all connected by this invisible thread, like a loosely-stitched garment, with a shared function to represent the Kingdom of God and promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Now, before we move on, create a mental picture of the following, of how Paul describes us in Ephesians 2:20-22 … also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Forget all of the foibles of the past and the present and instead think of the possibilities of the future. Forget the church politics, pew fodder, enforced tithing, unspoken anti-Semitism, power structures, ecclesiastical hierarchies, more tea vicar, church steeple appeals, Christian aid, yoga in the vestry, marathon heavy-rock worship, robes, bells, smells, choir boys and all other incidentals on the church landscape and … instead … think of:
Being members of Christ’s household
Being part of a holy temple in the Lord.
Being a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
All else pales into insignificance and, if it distracts from this noble purpose, may deflect you from your true function. We are now reminded of the passage that illustrates the shalom of unity that we should all aspire to:
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14)
One God, one Saviour, one Spirit, one Body. Mark this in your mind, one Body. Not 40,000+ bodies, all working independently, each with its own network of its own bodies, also mostly working independently. There’s too many of us, you declare, how on earth can we make up just one body?
Here’s where we are meant to be different from the world. Secular corporations run on acknowledged hierarchies and chains of command and an intertwined complexity of systems, covering finance, sales, marketing, resources, production and so on. This enables the man at the top to control his board, which in turn controls their departments, all the way down the hierarchy to the humble and most expendable employee.
This is an extract from the book, Shalom, available for £10 at https://www.sppublishing.com/shalom-239-p.asp