A La Carte Christianity
To those of you in various parts of planet Earth that want to consider again the meaning of “Church” from God’s perspective, the following is taken from an editorial article in World, a news magazine...
How do people today view their involvement in an identifiable local assembly of christians, a church?
1. Some think of our relationship to Christ in an extremely individualistic way, “What counts is my personal relationship with Christ; the church may be helpful, but it’s not necessary.”
2. Some would desire to define the word “church” in an extremely loose way: “The church is all the christians in the world and comes to concrete expression when some perhaps, decide to associate together.”
3. Some view deep, daily involvement in a visible church in an extremely independent way: “I have a right to join the church of my preference, and I also maintain the right to make personal decisions about how involved I become in worship, fellowship, and service. I decide.”
Like lovers who see no need for vows, they see little necessity for abandoning themselves in the life of a Church. They must stay in the “driver’s seat,” free to control the flow of events and their opinions.
There are unconnected christians. Like the fellow with many girlfriends who appreciates each for her special qualities, but will not make a commitment and thereby lose his “rights” of fun and independence....
There are uncommitted christians. Like the couples that marry, but maximize “individual freedom,” some will “belong” to a church, but maintain a personal veto over what they will and will not do as members.
The Apostles and the early Disciples had another view entirely. They believed that the Church Jesus died for and promised to build is a visible, cohesive, identifiable entity in a community. “The true Church engages in propagating God’s Counsel in the world and within His Family. It practices discipline for the correcting of faults. In short, it governs itself according to the pure Word of God, rejecting all things contrary to it and holding Christ as the Only Head.” They believed that, when the Church faithfully teaches and applies the Word of God to people, it exercises the keys of the Kingdom, including or excluding from the realm of Salvation, in accord with God’s Verdict.
To quote the Holy Spirit of God, through Paul, “Christ is head of the Church; the Savior of the Body.” The Savior of the BODY, the CHURCH. This is not far removed from writings in 1561 and 1647, “We believe that this holy assembly and congregation is the gathering of those that are saved.” “The visible church... is the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God.”
The Church is unique. No other organization has the same relationship to Christ, the saving relationships committed to it by Him, or the spiritual authority to exercise on His behalf. That is why meaningful, totally connected, mutual life is mandatory. Even to hint, “I have no need of you” by the choices we make, the attitudes we carry, or the lack of surrender is to invite a challenge from God as we do not “discern the Body.”
What to do? Again, from 1647, “Discern diligently and very carefully by the Word of God what is the truth. All groups in the world today claim for themselves by wearing the name of ‘the church.’” Once you’ve found a true expression of Church, embrace it, enthusiastically support it, allow your heart to be opened “daily,” welcome its oversight, and help maintain its purity and unity. Don’t expect to receive or grow in salvation outside of the Church. It is “the pillar and foundation of Truth”—that only entity against which “the gates of hell cannot prevail.”
A helpful reminder, I thought of the essentiality from God’s perspective of the Organism of the visible local Church. As the wise men once said, “We hang together, or we hang separately!” and, “None of us have it all together, but all together we have it all.”
Be a giver today : )