His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. Ephesians 3:10-11.
I love the Church. In fact, next to Jesus, my wife and kids, I can’t really think of anything that I care about as much as I do the Church. I’ve had a lot of experiences with churches and church people over the years. I’ve been part of church gatherings that have really rocked and some that have quite frankly made me yawn. I’ve seen living churches and others that should have been buried long ago. But how do we know which ones are which beyond just liking or disliking a style or observing external signs? I remember reading a Time Life book years ago about the Soviet Union and particularly paying attention to a section describing the Orthodox Church there. The opening caption simply read, “The Living Church.” Having lived in the former Soviet Union for a while, I really question that statement. Sure there was a lot of priestly activity going on, and incense flowing around. But does that mean it’s alive? What kind of church were they really talking about? Though the state authorized church provided ceremonies and rites under Communism, their existence resembled more of what Paul described as “having a form of godliness but denying its power.” (2 Timothy 3:5) So what is the church anyway and what’s it supposed to do?
There is a great deal being written these days about the Church with funny titles and topics. We have the Organic church and Organic church planting. Though almost antiquated, there is still some discussion on the Seeker Sensitive churches. I wonder if that’s opposed to “Sleeper Sensitive” churches. There are independent, denominational, traditional, and missional churches. There is the Post Modern church. There is the Emerging and Emergent Church. There are books on Church Planting and on Revival in Existing Churches. There are books about how bad the church is and how it got that way. Dan Kimball, who I met last year and really is a great guy, entitled one of his books, They Like Jesus, But Not The Church. I know part of the Dan’s point was to show how many people are turned off by the hypocrisy they see in churches and have been burnt by pseudo Christians with more legalism than grace. But it seems to me that if we go at the issue that way, it’s kind of like saying, “well Steve, I like you, but your wife stinks.” Obviously, I wouldn’t want to invite that guy over for Sunday brunch. I mean, she’s MY wife. And so it is with Christ and the Church. The reality is that the Church is Beautiful, Good, and Glorious. Even with all its blemishes, warts, and problems, it is still the Bride of Christ. I just believe there is something better out there than throwing in the towel on the Church.
While there are a lot of books out there on structure and strategy, our intent here in this section of Kingdomolgy is to think purposely about what the Bible says the Church is and ought to be. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not throwing water on those great resources. There is a need for all that. But in our flooded world of practice, we many times have a tendency to head off in all kinds of directions to make church happen and miss the target of the New Testament. In the age of the early 21st century, relativism seems to be just as important as relevancy. There is a danger to simply finding out what practice seems to work best and then calling that the Church whether it aligns with the Bible or not. I like big churches. I like big crowds gathered to hear the Old Old Story. That’s what I live for. But we can’t trump truth for what feels good. We can’t indentify something as being good or bad simply by externals, but rather by their alignment with God’s word. Or as Joe Ellis, one of my old professors once said, “The church is authenticated in only as it conforms to God’s paradigm.” With that in mind, the purpose of this section Kingdomology is to establish a precedent for what the Church is simply from a Biblical standpoint alone. We will examine exclusively what the Bible says the church is and should do. Through the posts of this work we will use the Bible as our text book to discover the Church Described, Dissected, and Deployed. It’s not my intent that this section be a religious tome and find itself practical for only teachers and religious junkies. But rather my hope is that this discussion can take the biblical teachings on the Church and bring them out onto the playing field for all of us who care about Christ and His Kingdom. I am firmly convinced that by understanding the simple Church in the Bible, we can then realize a whole new level of what the Church is and ought to be. Yes, I really do love the church and I pray that when we are done with this you will too.
Oh, and feel free to make comments and questions along the way. As we work this thing out together, we might just turn it all into a book someday. So here’s the deal, you don’t steal my stuff and make money off of it (I’ve got four kids to feed) and I won’t take yours without asking. Deal?