I am going to do a series of writings on the church. I hope that over the next four or five weeks that I will begin to understand what I believe more clearly, and just what the church is and is going to be. So thanks for reading along with my thoughts.
First I think we need to explain just what the church is. If you went to Sunday school you know that the answer is “We are the church!” The Church is the people that make up its congregations and then the combination of all those congregations. So the Church is the total of all the different Christians around the world combined.
Today in the Student Center at IWU, I heard a conversation going on about the Catholic Church. Apparently one of the guys did not appreciate being lumped into the same category as the Catholics. I know he is not alone, because I grew up in a very Separatists community, and people who are Catholics were (and still are) looked down upon. But this is not the way that it should be. The Catholic Church is still part of the “Big C” church community.
Christ is the Greek word that means, “Anointed one”, it is the counterpart for the Hebrew word Messiah. So to be a Christian means to be a follower of the anointed one. Not a very complicated idea, and I’m sure that this makes sense. So if the Church is the collection of the followers of the Anointed one, we should be following His lead.
Second, the more that you study the New Testament, the more that you see the earliest disciples of Jesus were very subversive to the Romans. The Greek word for church “ecclesia” was actually the word used to describe the community of the Roman Empire. This must have been a totally revolutionary concept for those who heard the Gospel for the first time. Here is this religion that is proclaiming the new message, and comparing themselves to the Roman government.
This group of people who gathered together also used many of the terms used to describe Caesar. They used the names that described glory and honor to Caesar and gave them to Jesus. The book of Revelation is full of them. Even the concept that Jesus ascended to Heaven and is sitting at the right hand of the Father is imagery from the Romans. There was a story that said, Julius Caesar ascended to the right hand of the Gods after he died. So we see that even the early Christian imagery has a very Roman slant to it.
So the name and many of the images of the church have a 1st century understanding. We have adopted them in our 21st century understanding to think that they are entirely “Christian” ideas, but they are not. I have said all this to try and say we have to understand the culture of the first followers of Jesus, to understand where what we are today.
The early Christians were countercultural! They were different than the people around them, which is why they were persecuted. In Church History Class we talk about the misconceptions that people had of the Christians. They were called cannibals, immoral, godless, and anti-government. They were killed and they were maimed they were persecuted everywhere they went. This was not because they were any of these things, but because they were different.
What does the body do?
First the body meets together to hear the word explained. This is the part where the preaching and teaching happens. This is essential to teach people what they believe.
Second the Church administers the sacraments and orders itself in a proper manner. I would like to consider the sacraments larger than just communion and baptism, I believe we should include more of a Catholic understanding of the sacraments.
Thirdly keeping our community rightly ordered. This is where Christians understand of right and wrong, and how life should. This has become the primary way that we know we are Christians, and we need to be careful, but it is still an important part of Christianity.
This is a basic idea of what I believe the church to be. Everything that the church does must come through this understanding of the Church in my opinion.