Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Real Church as Body-Building Community

Redeemer community

At Redeemer I'm preaching through the Christological passages in the letters of Paul. This is a multi-year project (5 years, at least). This follows the 6 1/2 year project of preaching through, verse by verse, the four Gospels. Brick-by-brick we are laying a Christological foundation for our people in the midst of a Jesus-illiterate culture.

Currently we are in Ephesians, which is about unity and Real Church as Community. Christ, on the cross, destroyed barriers of relationship and dividing walls of hostility between people and God, and between people and people (Eph. 2:14). Religiously and culturally disparate people groups such as Jews and Gentiles have been brought together in one "new humanity" (Eph. 2:15) Therefore as a Jesus-follower I am: 1) a new creation in Christ; and 2) a "member" of One Body, with Christ as my "Head." This has been God's plan from the very beginning; viz., to develop a tribe, a people group, a community that knows and loves God with all their being.

In Ephesians we are told that, when Christ ascended, he dished out heaven-forged serving grace-gifts to his followers. These gifts, to include the grace-gifts of people (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers) are given to build up the body of Christ. As Derek Prince has written, these gifts are not toys, but tools.

On occasion I have met someone who tells me "I'm a Christian, but I don't partner with the church. I worship alone, in the woods." Can a Jesus-follower worship alone in the woods with the same results? The answer is: No, they cannot. When Jesus told us "I will build my church" he didn't add "I'll do this by instructing my followers to disconnect from one another."

New Testament scholar F.F. Bruce, commenting on Ephesians 4:14-16, writes: "The higher reaches of the Christian life cannot be attained in isolation from one's fellow believers." (Bruce, The Epistle to the Ephesians, 87)

My friend and former professor, Mennonite scholar David Augsburger, writes: “The natural habitat of any true disciple of Jesus is community. Those who seek to know Christ know that he is most truly known in community.” (Augsburger, Dissident Discipleship, 65)

Unified, Jesus-centered community is more powerful than discrete, discontinuous individuality. If your arm is in the woods alone, disconnected from the rest of your body, this is not good. 

God's aim is to Build Church, as a Body, through which he will display his glory on earth and throughout the universe. (Ephesians 4:10)