The community of Christ is being built

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17-19, NIV)

Continue reading “The community of Christ is being built”

The need for the Church

In my spiritual journey toward the Anglican Church, I have had for years a hunger for a better theology of the Church (ecclesiology). I tried to bring that emphasis into my ministry context as I was learning, but the overall structure I was in simply didn’t aid to that emphasis. I served in a denomination that was incredibly poor in their ecclesiology and that was a counter-weight I couldn’t overcome.

Continue reading “The need for the Church”

Theology becomes therapy

Following up on my re-read for Chan’s book Liturgical Worship has come my re-visit to Harper and Metzger’s book Exploring Ecclesiology. 

Written by evangelicals, it is an excellent tool for me as I re-think ecclesiology in my own life.

In the chapter dealing with “The Church as a Serving Community” they still bring forward the evangelical concern of “preaching the Word.” Their conclusion, though, is that even though we’ve called ourselves “evangelical” based on “preaching the Word,” for several decades now we’ve done everything BUT preach the Word. We’ve slid into preaching self-help.

The ultimate consequence of Christianity centered on personal issues and self-improvement is that theology becomes therapy, the search for righteousness is replaced by the search for happiness, holiness by wholeness, and truth by feeling, and God’s sovereignty is diminished to whatever it takes to have a good day. Christians become consumers who shop the church like they do a shopping mall, delighted to find something to meet every felt need.

There is a serious need for an increase in biblical teaching and literacy. And it’s not just an evangelical problem anymore.

The immense value of the Church

I am enjoying a bit more time for reading, so this summer I am revisiting some recent gems I’ve read on ecclesiology. I walked through Simon Chan’s Liturgical Worship last week. This week it is Exploring Ecclesiology by Harper and Metzger. Chan is a Pentecostal while Harper and Metzger are evangelical. Their journey helps me frame my own journey.

In my own “tribe” we are poor on ecclesiology. The church has become something that caters to my needs. As I pastor, I am supposed to go find out what people outside the walls need in the way of a service (and services) to come darken the doors of my church building. If I, as a believer, don’t find a church that “meets my needs,” I am free to wonder on to the next one.

The church as a unit, a body, a family, just simply has escaped us as evangelicals. Maybe we like our church, meaning the one we try to get to on a Sunday, but often we have no idea what it means to love the Church, the Body of Christ. As a matter of fact, if we can somehow detach ourselves from it, and then make fun of it, all the better. The more angst driven we are about the Church, the better it plays on social media.

But we need the Body. Just as we need the Head, the Head needs the Body. You don’t get to worship a “head” sitting on a table.

So, as I work my way through Harper and Metzger’s book, I will probably put up some interesting quotes from them.

For today:

The church becomes the new family unit because it is God’s family unit, God’s household, and God dwells in its midst… Jesus shares his name with us and makes the church a dwelling place in which God dwells through his Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16).

The church is into mass production rather than fine art

I am working my way again through Simon Chan’s marvelous book, Liturgical Theology. As a Pentecostal scholar who calls us back into the deep “traditions” of the Church, I have found this book to be a refreshing read over the years. Chan doesn’t pull punches.

He wants us to return to Cyprian’s goal of saying one who doesn’t have the Church as their Mother cannot call God their Father. Bold stuff for a Pentecostal.

The current “thought of the day” out of this book is his reminder of “mission.” We have been preoccupied with numbers, so we forget our mission. We think our mission is soul-winning. It is not. We are the Body of Christ demonstrating the power of the Kingdom in this world. It is far beyond counting noses at an altar call.

Worship should mark us as different. Worship should look different. It’s not about the entertainment factor. We are called to worship in spirit and in truth.

Mission does not seek to turn sinners into saved individuals; it seeks, rather, to turn disparate individuals into a worshiping community. The preoccupation of the modern church with numbers often misses the real goal of mission. Instead of turning out find works of art, the modern church tends to model its mission on the mass-production factory. The church becomes an efficiently run factory. We then market the megachurch as the model of a successful church. Is it any wonder that grandiose strategies of winning the world for Christ have produced a bloated church whose ways and values are not very different from those of the world? The ministry becomes departmentalized… mission is left to church-growth specialists, counseling is done by professionally trained counselors, and the pastor serves as CEO. (p. 45)

Let us worship. Let us produce pieces of fine art in this world… and leave the mass production to the cheap tricks of this world!

The Church Forward and Backward

I wish to speak in favor of the Church. Warts and all. Mistakes and all. Crazies and all.

I wish to speak in favor of the Church because it is the body of Christ and he is the Head. I do not wish to worship a bodiless Head.

I wish to speak in favor of the Church because it is human. When one part is “attacked” with some angst-filled rage in hopes of getting noticed on some angst-filled site like the Huff and Puff Post… that attack is against me… and against people I know and love. People I don’t know yet, but I know Christ loves them and by that relationship, I find a way to love as well. People I can’t actually stand, but because they’re family… I have to find a way… Oh, you get the picture.

The Church as a whole will have a look of constantly being “out of step” because it is out of step. It is at once forward in its look and action… quite ahead of culture… and also backward in its look and action… because what is “forward” in a culture isn’t always Kingdom.

When we fill a post with angst filled rage against “the Church” it’s not because we’re actually angry and “the Church.” We’re angry at our sliver of the Church. It’s probably legitimate in some way.

But I wish to speak in favor of the beautiful Bride of Christ. It is a glorious Church and will be grand one day. There are moments when parts are grand today. It IS a glorious Bride our Bridegroom is making ready. HE loves us… and I wish to follow my Lord in that love as much as I can stand it.

It is the Church… out of step… forward in so many ways… and backward… Beautiful… Loved by her Savior… walking toward him as best she can.