WHAT IS THE CHURCH?
A Pastor’s Response
We’ve had a tremendous amount of feedback from Tim Fellows’ recent ‘Mere Churchianity’ articles. As we expected, some of this feedback has been glowing, some hasn’t! Our heart at LBC is to challenge, provoke, inspire and facilitate the Body Of Christ in this region to be all that it can be in order to reach our communities and see them transformed by the love of Jesus.
With that in mind, we thought it may be interesting to fuel the Churchianity debate further by asking our good friend Leon Evans, Senior Leader at Zion Christian Centre in Halesowen, to write an article that offers a slightly different perspective to Tim’s.
Please have a read of it and let us know your thoughts – we love hearing from you!
The LBC Team.
If a hundred people were asked to fill in the blank we may get almost a hundred different answers!
Everyone has an opinion on the church these days whether they say they’re in or out, for or against, convinced or yet to be convinced.
As I write this article I’m sitting on a plane having spent a week visiting some of the biggest and perhaps most famous churches in a certain part of the world! I’m reflecting on what or who is this enigmatic, mysterious, at times frustrating thing called the church.
Some people say it’s merely an institution, outdated and irrelevant, others say it’s a family, eternal and essential.
Here’s the question though: What might the Founder say? How might Jesus fill in the blank?
I want to suggest 2 words He might use. The first is unstoppable!
Based on His own words ‘I will build My church and the gates of Hades (hell) will not prevail against it’ Matt. 16 v. 18
He said it, He prophesied it, He builds it, He sustains it, He owns it and one day He will come back for it! When it stops in one area it pops up in another. When it falls apart somewhere it comes together somewhere else. It’s truly unstoppable!
The second word I think he might use is the word beautiful.
The church, beautiful, really? Absolutely, you see beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What we see and what God sees are not necessarily the same thing. We see the mess, the ugliness and the immaturity that we are all prone to but He sees beyond that. He sees from completion to what will be, to what we are becoming.
Beauty is often most stunning when it emerges from brokenness. I’ve just been to a church that says of itself it’s a ‘church that never sleeps’; where every day hundreds of people head out into the streets and communities to feed the poor, serve the homeless, visit the prisoner, care for the widow and orphan and pray for the people that they meet AND invite them to a gathered worship experience. I was there when hundreds of people gathered from the rich and resourced to the poor and under-resourced. Many of the leaders were themselves at one time on the streets, drug or alcohol dependent and broken in so many ways but through the love and ministry of this church, with the life transforming power of Jesus, they are now themselves leading, serving and helping others.
In our own church we are seeing this more and more these days and just occasionally we get these glimpses of the church that can be truly beautiful!
Yet the church is not only an idea born in the heart of God, it’s an ideal that hasn’t been fully realised as yet. Here we get to the heart of what I want to say. The church is God’s idea not man. The church is in the process of becoming she hasn’t arrived. The Founder would say the Church is unstoppable and beautiful and maybe we should be careful how we speak of her, treat her and critique her?
You see there’s a big difference between being critical which is a snare and thinking critically which is a skill.
I’m concerned these days of a growing and at times subtle shift from critical thinking to pervasive cynicism. You see we all have a choice when it comes to something that’s an ideal. Do we walk away from it because it isn’t yet what it could be or do we do all we can to help it become all that it can become? Many are walking away but from what I’ve just seen this week and what we are experiencing but many are not!
I want to finish with a thought. It seems to me that many of the voices critiquing the church right now are trying to polarise the church into an either/or scenario. The church is either this or it’s that, but I want to call for a rediscovery of the genius of the both/and.
Is the church local or global? YES, it’s both/and.
Is the church relational or institutional? YES it’s both/and in the sense that there is a corporate dynamic to any group of people who come together under a common cause.
In Philippians Paul referred to Epaphroditus as his brother (community) his worker (corporation) and his fellow soldier (cause). A church is not just one of these dynamics, it’s all 3 and yes at times there’s tension there but sometimes managing the tension is what brings growth and momentum.
Is the church gathered or scattered, big or small, attractional or missional? YES it’s all of the above! Jesus was both attractional AND missional, He gathered AND He scattered, He related AND He organised, and if He embraced the “genius of the both/and”, maybe we should also?
Yes Jesus is the hope of the world but He has chosen to invest that hope primarily through His body, the church. (Eph. 3 v.10). Let’s in our deep desire to see the church become all she can retain the skill of critical thinking but resist the snare of cynicism.
Let’s be very careful how we treat what Jesus refers to as His bride. People often say to me ‘I love Jesus, it’s the church I don’t like’ That’s like saying to me ‘I like you but I can’t stand your wife…’ ouch!
Yes let’s think critically, yes let’s change, (we have to adapt or die), yes let’s go for fresh expressions – the fresher the better – but remember in doing so it’s not either/or but both/and!
I urge you to treasure what God treasures, to invest, to support, to opt in when you’re tempted to opt out and where God has rooted you dig in deep because you a part of something not only unstoppable but something beautiful!
On behalf of Love Black Country.