Friday, February 17, 2006

Oh, how I love church!

It may seem funny, but I've been thinking a lot about the church lately: what it is and what it's purpose is... or, what it should be and what's it's purpose should be. Kirk Wellum is my professor of systematics at school and he's been teaching us about the church as an "outpost of heaven" here on earth.

Now that got me to thinking...

How do I think about the church? In listening to many of my friends and in reading many of the books put out in the past little while, it seems that there is a very negative / cynical view of the church out there. We tend to view the church more as "Israel all over again" than we do as an "inbreaking" of the kingdom of heaven.

The church is the bride of Christ, indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Sure there are problems in the church as it exists, but the truth of the matter is that the church is a people foreknown and foreloved by God, redeemed and made alive by God, being sustained and purified by God, in order that she might one day be presented pure and spotless to God, to the great glory of God!

All that to say, think good things of the church! She is not lost. She is not yours. She is Christ's bride and he loves her. She is his great treasure! As one who hopes to be an undershepherd for my Lord one day, may it never be said of me that I underestimated the power and value of the Holy Spirit's ability to work in the Son's bride.

If someone had nothing but bad things to say about my bride, I'd have some serious issues to take up with them.

6 comments:

TwinsK&D said...

I agree and I love the Church :-) Keep seeking Christ and delighting in Him!! I love those feet :-)

JLF said...

Ah, the 'twin towers of faith.' Yet another reason why I love the church.

Now leave my feet out of this. Talking about Nick's feet is bad enough! :-)

I_am_Batman said...

I can't believe people are talking about my feet!
Julian, you rock brother!

Rielly said...

I most definitely agree with you Julian. I was actually reminded of Pilgrim’s Progress as I read what you wrote. Specifically, when Christian arrives at (if my memory serves me correctly) the Beautiful City, where the lions are just outside…he is taken around and encouraged on his journey, outfitted with armor, shown all the artifacts of past journeymen, and then taken up to the roof of the palace where he is shown that far off country of Zion…the goal of his journey. I am captivated by that picture of the Church, and it what I long the Church to be in the 21st Century. It really stirred me when you quoted your prof as the Church being an “outpost of heaven” A-men. I am even more captivated by the concept of it being a body, where Christ is the head, and we are Christ’s extensions. However, I feel there is an important side-note to this, and it is recognizing religion from the Church…we must not confuse the two. The ‘c’hurch and the ‘C’hurch are two different things. The ‘c’hurch can either be for or against “C”hurch…and we must hate anything (as God does) which attempts to undermine the catholic Church…which includes often times the local ‘c’hurch: Evangelical, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Liberal, Sovereign Grace, or otherwise. This is what many people mean by disliking the church…but unfortunately many Christians don’t have the discernment necessary to distinguish between Christ’s bride and a failed institution, so they walk away from both.

At a former church I was working at, I was teaching my Sr. High group about basic apologetics. I asked them what common arguments were against Christianity at their schools, and among their peers. Surprisingly, they responded by saying that their friends and teachers talk about Christianity as made up of hypocrites, and a failed institution. What they were referring too was things like the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and the throngs of other violent acts by Christians…in all groups. So I began to talk about these movements, and attempted to give my students an apologetic for these subjects.

After my lesson, I was confronted by one of my staff members (a pastor) who told me that I should not be teaching about those things in the youth group. He said verbatim, “I want our youth to love the Church, not hate it.” I did not get away from the conversation without sharing my mind (as some of you would expect no different from me); I responded by saying, “Which church do you want them to love?” And that is my question to all you Christian bloggers out there, which church do you love? Because I believe some love the wrong church: You love dressing up every Sunday; you love singing a certain type of music; you love feeling righteous over the people outside your walls; you love your mega-buildings; you love your programs and productions; you love your eschatological views; you love all the clean and socially acceptable people that you mix company with at Swiss Chalet: but does that mean you love the ‘C’hurch? Is that the Bride of Christ, the Church God loves? Do we love the wrong church?

As I read your blog Julian, I wholeheartedly agreed; however, we must not ignore the cries of people Christian and non alike, that turn away from the ‘c’hurch. When you said,

“How do I think about the church? In listening to many of my friends and in reading many of the books put out in the past little while, it seems that there is a very negative / cynical view of the church out there.”

My heart dropped a tad, because although I agree that people have a negative view of the Church, there is a reason for that, and like I said, many lack discernment to differentiate between two different churches. But we do have to ask ourselves, “If the church is an ‘inbreaking of the kingdom of heaven’”, are we representing it as such? I would say that historically, it has gone back and forth, moments of glory and moments of pure and utter failure. When I say this, by no means do I mean failure by God, but I mean failure by those who claim to be ambassadors for Jesus, in the same way that Israel continually forgot God, but was still His representatives to the Gentile world. God still accomplished his purposes in Israel, and He will still accomplish it for the Church of Christ. Nonetheless, as ambassadors, let’s have the discernment to recognize there is a reason people dislike the Church, because the church has hurt them or their families…directly or indirectly…they may not be able to see the difference between the real Church, without physical walls, made up of people harkening to the spiritual walls of the kingdom of God entering into the present and future; but we can see the difference, and if we expect the institutional church to still do the work of the real Church, we must start redeeming it and answering the questions of the books and Christians/non-Christians disillusioned by our past and present ambassadors.

If I am in need of a severe rebuke, please do. Just thinking these things through.

JLF said...

Rielly... thanks for the thoughts. A helpful corrective indeed. Suffice it to say, I was intentionally vague, and you picked up on it. I wonder if I could / should post further on whether it's the catholic church or the local church that I love and why.

Rielly said: "So I began to talk about these movements, and attempted to give my students an apologetic for these subjects. After my lesson, I was confronted by one of my staff members (a pastor) who told me that I should not be teaching about those things in the youth group. He said verbatim, 'I want our youth to love the Church, not hate it.'"

Do you mind if I ask what apologetic it was that you offered to them that made others nervous that you were teaching the kids to hate the church?

Rielly said...

Jules, I would definitely be interested to hear about what church you love, the local or the catholic. I do see where you are going with that, and that is not necessarily the distinction I meant by referring to the little 'c' & the 'C' church. I mean an institution vs. the fellowship of believers. A local church may be a part of one or the other. I don't have a problem with the concept of the 'local' church, I believe it to be God's instrument in the new covenant; however, ontologically the local church is not an institution at it's fundamental core (or shouldn't be at least)...and that is the basis of my concern: Do we love the our human constructs or a local body/universal body, which is the same thing in my mind; because both are a fellowship of believers.

In terms of my discussion with that particular pastor, it was not the apologetics I presented that made him nervous, it was simply that I was informing our youth about the horrible things Christians have done over the centuries. He didn't think that they needed to know those things, and it would lead to them hating the church, not loving it. Sorry about miscommunication there.

All that my students understood was their teachers and friends talking about Christians being hypocrites, and committing violent and immoral acts in history...they were ignorant to what actually these events were. I simply told them what their teachers and friends actually were talking about. As a side note, sadly does that say something about the possible 'selective education' in evangelical churches?

It was a little while back when I taught that class, but I will do my best to remember the apologetic I offered to answer their questions.

The important point to make when talking with someone who may comment about rejecting Christianity on the basis of Christians acting immorally is one of plain/logical sense:

You cannot judge a truth-claim by its misuse. To assume that people's behaviors are confirmation into whether a proposition is true or false is pure lunacy. You have to look at what the worldview actually teaches first. Do not get me wrong, I do think the behavior of people who claim to hold to a particular view cause need to examine that particular view itself (i.e. Islam). At the same time, for someone to reject Christianity because of the behavior of someone else, and not reject it on what it actually teaches is foolishness.

The next obvious step is what Jesus actually taught: Telling Peter to put down his sword; and the humble nature of the Beatitudes for example.

Conclusion: The horrible acts of Christians in the past contradict Christian Scripture; therefore it is not a proper representation of Christianity to base acceptance or rejection of the belief.

At the moment I cannot remember the other points I made; but I thought I would layout that point to vindicate myself. I was not teaching impressionable youth to hate the church. I was simply teaching them to point people to real Christianity, and not allowing their peers to debate with them based on misrepresentations or fraudulent examples. Implicitly, I led them to understanding what it means to be a part of the true Church of Christ, and not always to equate…. church building = Church, or institution = Church.

I hope that clears things up.