Thursday, January 27, 2011

3D Church (2) The Local Imitation

(For part one, see here)

Just as every person, while a representative of the human race is in isolation something less than human; every believer is a representative of the Church but not a church on his or her own. Thus everyone concedes that there are two dimensions of church seen in Scripture: the universal and the local. However, many interpretations of “the local” leave a lot to be desired. Like a 3D film trying to imitate depth of field, if you remove the lenses tradition has built up, you end up with a lot of fuzziness. This is the second level of church that we must address before returning to the Biblical picture of the local body.

In nearly 2,000 years of history, tradition, and multiple missteps we have added a lot to what the Word of God teaches about everything, and that includes what we understand about church.

Take size and reach, for instance. Hardly anyone argues the erroneous position that there must be one local body of believers per city, but it is somewhere between that position and a body of believers in a house on every block where we usually try to limit this concept. Where do we see the mandate that a church should own a special building in which to conduct its activity? Who determined that the best route for church growth was, well, growth and not multiplication? Why did most denominations settle into an average church size of 100 members or less, but everyone aims for “the more the better?”

Somewhere along the way, we have developed a practical definition of church that very loosely does what the Biblical churches did. They devote themselves to teaching, if by that you mean trying to stay awake for a twenty minute talk one to three times a week. They share life, at least once a quarter in a huge room in the basement instead of house to house. They break bread—well at least serve crackers that imitate bread in a sterile ceremony. Finally, they pray, or at least keep each other well informed through information chains and e-mail mailing lists.

All this is not to say that the real life of the church is not occurring today—it is. It is just a reminder that most of the real life of the church is not operating on the level that we refer to as church. That would be a hard thing to expect from any group of 100—1,000+ people. Most of what we see as church today is perhaps more of a conglomeration of many churches meeting under one roof.

What those churches within the church look like, and should, is the subject of the 3rd part of this thought process…

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