Wednesday, January 6, 2016

What is Church?

 
As we enter the year 2016, some will consider attending a gathering of the church as a resolution for the new year. Some may decide to attend a church gathering more regularly. In this post I am assuming that there are many valid forms of church gatherings. Jesus Christ, who is the head of the universal Christian Church, is in perfect communion with the Father, and Holy Spirit in guiding His Church. There are church fellowships suited to unique settings in the world and valid forms include (but are not limited to) house churches, church plants in school gymnasiums, gatherings that meet in historic liturgical buildings in city cores, clandestine church gatherings that avoid the scrutiny of government officials, mid-sized churches, simple churches, organic churches, small churches, mega-churches, multi-site churches, and missional-communities. We may be prone to ask, “What is church?” It is an easy question to ask - and hard to answer! In this year of 2016 I plan to write a few posts addressing various aspects of the answer to this question. I offer humble research, opinions, and assessments, not definitive, or complete answers. For “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” (1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT)

The first topic I will address is that “the church gathering is a place where we search for God.” Of course, we often attend church after we have had an encounter with God; yet, there is another sense in which we continually search for the God of the universe and for His communication to us. Furthermore, we want to make our church gatherings a safe place to search for God.

How do we make our gatherings a safe place to search for God? One way will be that we will stop being certain that we have already found God in all of His mystery and magnificence. 1 Timothy 3:16 reminds us that God has revealed Himself to us through Christ and yet there is still great mystery in understanding this faith which we now proclaim.
Without question, this is the great mystery of our faith:
Christ was revealed in a human body
    and vindicated by the Spirit.
He was seen by angels
    and announced to the nations.
He was believed in throughout the world
    and taken to heaven in glory
(NLT)
 And Proverbs 25:2 (NLT) says,
“It is God’s privilege to conceal things and the king’s privilege to discover them.”
God has not totally revealed Himself to anyone. Some, like Moses, Solomon, Paul of Tarsus, and John, the Beloved, have been taken deeper into the mystery of Christ than any others. Yet, even they did not receive a perfect picture of the God of creation, the Son, or the Holy Spirit. We cannot expect to fully understand God this side of heaven.

So, a gathering of believers that recognizes they do not have all of the answers will be a place in which there is less argument and more grace; less protection of the past and more protection of the future of God’s Kingdom on earth. We will never achieve perfection in this area but let us aim for greater unity despite our diversity of opinions. There will be times when we will be convinced that we have the full truth in some aspect of our theology and, it is just possible that, in some narrow area of theology, we might be right. Still, our churches need to be places in which a person is free to dissent from the majority opinion and seek a greater understanding. That is the kind of church of which we would all be proud.

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