I'm opening this discussion for conjecture and edification. [for us to discuss and grow in understanding].
How do you read it? Please give scriptural explanation, not merely personal opinion.
What has taken place? Please share personal experience and historical evidence, not just theory.
Does The Church have a place in your life?
Has anything changed in the world, for how God wants to use The Church today?
Regarding your question/post I think it is important to identify what Scripture recognizes as the church. The church is not the location or building. Both are simply the place where the church gathers, whether it be a particular city or a particular building within a city. When Paul speaks of the Church at Corinth or Ephesus he is not meaning the structure or physical location. He is referring to the people. Thus, the Bible identifies locations but is referring to the people in that location. The Bible recognizes the local church and the universal (whole) church, which is made up of all children of God on earth. Another point I think worth making is that we are the church, but nowhere does the Scripture refer to the singular person as the church. The church is referred to in Scripture as the literal representation of Christ on earth … the church is His body (1 Cor. 12; Eph. 3:6, 4:4-16, 4:25, 5:23, 5:30 and Col. 1:18). This representation is seen through the local body and the universal body a previously mentioned. The church is not meant to be all about me, but rather for me to become part of the body of Christ and to live out the life of Christ as He lives in us and through individually and corporately.
You asked “What is the purpose of the church?” Again, we need a little detail to help explain this purpose. When we begin to understand that the church is His body on earth and that though there are local representation there is still only one body, we can then ask what would Jesus do if He were here today. The Bible gives us some important information regarding how the body is supposed to interact in order to be healthy, but I want to focus primarily on the outward action. I want to point to two things.
1) The church, as His body, has been authorized to operate in His name and in His power (not that all, or any fully do this). Jesus gave the disciples their marching orders in Matthew 28:19-20 were He told them that He had all authority and in essence was bestowing that upon them (representing the church). We see further expansion of this in John 14:12 where Jesus talks about the fact that He will be going away and that they would do what He had been doing and even greater things. Again this given to the disciples is a directive I believe applicable to the church down through the years. Jesus gives a third piece of instruction regarding this in Acts 1:8. They were not to do this on their own. They were to await the empowerment by the Holy Spirit. 2) The mission is laid out in several parts as well. We see it in what we call the Great Commission (Mat. 28:19-20) and His command found in Acts 1:8. He also gave instructions for worship found in John 4:23-24, Matthew 22:37-40 and other various verses. The Bible gives us of how the early church functioned (Acts 2:42) as well as instructions regarding how it was to operate as seen in First and Second Corinthians, plus other books throughout the N.T..
The primary often is stated as we are called to worship, but I think that is an outflow of the direct relationship we have with Christ. I believe the primary purpose is “to be” the body of Christ on earth, the one body with many parts that all need each other.
You asked “What has taken place?” That is a big question with 2000 years to cover. I will save that for another time.
You asked “Has anything changed in the world, for how God wants to use The Church today?” I don’t think so. I think our call regardless of what era we live is to be the body of Christ in this generation. Neither the mission nor the message has changed.
These are my thoughts on this.
LT, I guess what I'm looking for is more personal testimony than 2000 years of church history. (LOL). Although, I have recently been going through the life of Martin Luther again. Very interesting and helpful stuff to see how he handled himself during a time of incredible corruption and autocratic control over people.
Again, I'm not looking for some "new mission". That's a given - the mission has never changed. But, what I'm looking to understand is what others are seeing God doing TODAY. Where and how is He at work NOW? Again, borrowing from Luther, i'm wondering if anyone is seeing a new movement, new area of growth, areas of renewal.
I have recently been attending a new church. I'm seeing some very healthy things that I thought nobody was doing anymore. (I may relate later). It has been helpful to me, during a time of great upheaval in my personal life, to see that God is doing something very very neat in a little church on a hill in the countryside.
Hmmm. I don't think that each fellowship must be a replica of the whole body of Christ. I think that God puts whom He wills where He wills to meet the needs for that community and occasion. I think it's important to see ourselves not as the entirety of Christ, but each group as cells or organs within that body. We do not comprise Him in totality except in our own totality.
Seek, I sense your discouragement about the 90% that seems to be missing - and I understand it. However, a major part of why we do not have that 90% (I believe) is that most Christians are not involved, engaged. We are more spectators than participants, which is not what God intended at all.
"But how can we proclaim God's love if we can't show it to our own brothers and sisters? How do we show it to a sinner?"
To answer your question(s), I think you just do it. You make the conscious decision not to wait for someone else. You and I have to make the decision to engage in the process and not wait for some program or policy. We are the body. We must do it.
Edmund P. Clowney wrote, “The Bible does not present an art of prayer; it presents the God of prayer.”We should not decide how to pray based on the experiences and feelings we want. Instead, we should do everything possible to behold our God as he is, and prayer will follow. The more clearly we grasp who God is, the more our prayer is shaped and determined accordingly. Without immersion in God’s words, our prayers may not be merely limited and shallow but also untethered from reality. We may be responding not to the real God but to what we wish God and life to be like. Indeed, if left to themselves our hearts will tend to create a God who doesn’t exist.