8.15.2010

Paper Pt VII: The Church

THE CHURCH: A WORKING DEFINITION

The Church is a shorthand term for an aspect of the Kingdom of God upon the earth. The common metaphor for the Church (the Body) reveals three essential realities about how the Kingdom is revealed in the Church: 1) people connect to the King just as the body connects to the head; 2) people connect to each other just as the knee connects to the leg; and 3) the Church performs the will of God just as the human body performs the will of the individual.
1) The Church is not a program, a structure, an institution, an event, a particular resource, a set of practices, or any combination of these. The Church may use these, create these, attend these, or even onfuse itself as one or more of these, but it is not. The Church is the people who are connected to God. All of those people, joined to God by the reconciling work of Jesus on the Cross, are the Church.
2) The Church is more than just individuals who are connected to God. Our connection to God becomes a connection to each other. Discipleship in the Kingdom is not something that can or should be done alone. God intends for us to know and be known, to confess and hear confession, to work together and become vulnerable before each other. Again, this is not about sharing a pew or even a cup of coffee, but about intimacy and a shared life with a common purpose.
3) The Church is more than people simply enjoying fellowship with God and each other. We were birthed out of God’s mission, and in fact exist as the means for God’s mission. If we are in intimate connection to the Messiah, then we will be engaged in His work; “as the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”18 To state this in strong and clear language; the Church does not have a mission, rather the mission has a Church. The Church is the method of the mission. The mission is central, and it is for this that the Church has been called forth as a Kingdom agent.
Therefore, our reconciliation to God is accomplished through the Cross, the “dividing wall of hostility”19 between peoples is destroyed by the Cross, and we are recreated to “do good works”20 as we are joined to the Cross; in this way we are a Cross shaped community. The Cross is the paradigm for the Kingdom, and also for the Church. We are a community created and defined by God’s Kingdom action in the Cross. We must learn how to live fully in this story, and not some other narrative.

4 comments:

Josh Hopping said...

Question: When you say that the "Church is a shorthand term for an aspect of the Kingdom of God" are equating Church with the Kingdom of God? As in, the Church equals the Kingdom of God? Or are you saying something else?

(note that I'm using the term 'Church' to refer to the all followers of Jesus and not an institution)

Steve S. said...

Hey Josh,

I would only say that the Church is an aspect of the Kingdom. It is the part of God's realm that is made up of humans who are intentionally partnering with Him and with each other, for His purposes. There are plenty of other objects within God's sphere of influence.

Here is an old post asking the same question...

Steve S. said...

I would add, that the Church plays a unique and important role within God's Kingdom. In that it is a tool God created for the purpose of expanding that sphere of influence...

Josh Hopping said...

cool. thanks for the clarification.

BTW - I like your old post with the diagrams. =)