Wednesday, January 26, 2011

3D Church (1) The [undercase c]atholic

The question that church planters need to ask themselves—even before they debate the dubious validity of that title—is: what exactly is church? This is one of those questions that have multiple answers, and multiple ways that those answers can be found. There are dozens of books on the topic, there are studies upon studies made of the things claiming to be church, but the best way to understand the nature of church is to look in the Bible. That being said, the clearest answers in Scripture describe what church does more than what it is. In reflecting on the nature of church revealed in the pages of scripture, there are basically three dimensions of church, and the best one—the one with the most depth and meaning in the believer’s daily life—is the most misunderstood one.

The first dimension of church in scripture is the most abstract—the Church universal, or the catholic (little c) church. This is the definition that simply encompasses everyone anywhere who has ever become a child of God. There the simplicity ends. How are two people from opposite sides of the planet and separated by centuries of time a part of the same people? Anyone who has met a fellow believer from a different culture understands right away how believers have a connection, a commonality that ties them together. However, anyone who has then spent extended time with such a person, or even someone from the “church” across the street, knows that there are tremendous differences. This is where the many passages calling on Christians to preserve the unity, to love one another, are revealed to be so important. There needs to be a unity in the diversity of the Church. This is the first dimension. Call it the lines within which we color this thing we call “church.”

(On a separate note regarding the Church and unity, the area where compromise for the sake of unity cannot be made, but where most people are looking today, is in the area of Doctrine. Not methodology, modes of expression, or perimeter curiosities, but how we understand Scripture.)

(part two)

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