These days, emphasizing the concept of “church” is not a priority. A website on “Biblical Studies on the Mission & Worship of the Church” would probably not be the web’s fastest growing site.
Many of the fastest-growing churches today accept members regardless of their doctrinal beliefs. Although their members have come out of fellowships that taught radically different doctrines about the church, little time is spent analyzing those differences biblically since ways of “doing church” are thought to be matters of personal taste and judgment. And in a day when people are bored by anything that smacks of “doctrine,” doctrines about the church hold little interest.
So I would like to write more often in this blog about the church, but some say that would be offering more information on a topic most people would like to hear less about. I’ve been told that emphasizing “church” is impertinent (and even dangerous), so here’s my defense.
It’s important. God’s plan involves not only the inward relationship that redeemed individuals have with Him but also a more outward relationship that such individuals are to have with one another. This “together” aspect of life in Christ is important, as we see in Acts and all of the apostolic writings after Pentecost. The “church” is a biblical subject. We dare not minimize it or fail to understand it correctly.
It’s controversial. Church history is fraught with division, and much of the division has been over worship, organization, etc. Today, many of the familiar norms of the past are vanishing, and the religious landscape is fragmenting in an unusual way. Choosing our response may be perplexing, but one thing I know: we must not ignore questions about the church as if they didn’t matter. The truth is, these issues matter more now than ever before. We have no choice but to roll up our sleeves and get down to the business of serious study.
It’s beneficial. In His plan to redeem us from our sins, God meant the church to be a blessing to us, and we are edified when the church worships and works as God planned. So the church itself is beneficial. But I would like to suggest that the act of studying the church is also beneficial — if we study it with reverence and gratitude. I once knew a fellow who told me that late one night he was studying something about the church in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. “It was so good,” he said, “I just had to get up and walk around, I was so excited.” I know what he meant. I’ve often had to “get up and walk around” myself.
So will you dive into a study of the church with me? If we are rightly motivated, it can be a positive experience. Dangerous trends need to be identified clearly, of course, and some may not approve of my candor. But if we’ll keep a proper perspective, I believe that improving our concepts of the church can be enjoyable as well as helpful.
Gary Henry — WordPoints.com + AreYouaChristian.com