Saturday, July 07, 2007

Why the Church?

An excerpt from "It Takes a Church to Raise a Christian". By Dr. Tod Bolsinger. Pastor at San Clemente Presbyterian Church

For most Christians, the local church is usually regarded as nothing more than a personally helpful but basically benign reality. Oh, sure, we honor the Church the way we honor our Mother’s on Mother’s Day or Veteran’s on Veteran’s day—because we have some genuine affection and mostly because we think it is the right thing to do. The more traditional of us, may even use exalted language in declaring it a "means of grace." But most often we think of the Church as nothing more than an optional "strategy" or a "system" for local evangelistic efforts, social change, or a dispenser of resources to help the individual on his or her Christian journey. Churches are offered like different shops are offered at a mall. Indeed, the largest churches offer themselves as a kind of spiritual mall in itself, bidding the seeker: Come here and choose from our wide array of Christian classes, teachings, activities, that which you need to live out your individual Christian life.

In this model the church is a repository of spiritual goods that assist the individual Christian. It is a vendor of religious services. It is The Home Depot for the spiritual do-it-yourselfer who wants to build a Christian home.

But that is not the Church of the first century. The Church of the first century is “a people.” And the transformed and transforming quality of “the people” serving as the flesh and blood witness to a life-transforming God is the point. As 1 Peter 2:9-10 says:

"You are a chosen people. You are a kingdom of priests, God's holy nation, his very own possession. This is so you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful life.

Once you were not a people;
now you are the people of God.
Once you received none of God's mercy;
now you have received mercy." (NLT)

This is what the Bible teaches: The Church is God's incarnation today. The Church is Jesus' body on earth. The Church is the temple of the Spirit. The Church is not a helpful thing for my individual spiritual journey. The Church is the journey. The Church is not a collection of “soul-winners” all seeking to tell unbelievers “the Way” to God. The Church is the Way. To be part of the Church is to be part of God—to be part of God’s Communion and to be part of God’s ministry. To belong to the people of God is to enjoy relationship with God and live out the purposes of God. This is why the Church is the only true means to be transformed into the likeness of God.

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