My Facebook friends have been informed that I have been rereading Charles Colson’s book ‘The Body’, a hefty treatise on the nature and purpose of the church. And if you read my article on the Todd Bentley scandal you will know I talked at length about the church. All that talk about church made me hungry for some meditation on the subject from minds more enlightened than mine. Evangelicals, where church is concerned live in a continuing tension ; we do not all belong to one behemoth of an institution like say the Roman Catholic Church, yet we are meant, differing movements and all, variegated ministries and all to function as one body, what we call the Church universal. If it is not materialized by a building, by a denomination, then what is it?
That may be one of the greatest weaknesses of the evangelical, charismatic wings of the church, that understanding of what the church universal is, how it is to fulfill its purpose, what is my role in it, and in what way does my life advance or hinder it? We tend to suffer from acute myopia and see things exclusively from the perspective of our particular movement, ministry, local haven or those of our friends. When their interests tally with those of the church universal, then all is well, but quite often, they do not, and without a solid theological understanding and passion for the church universal, we make decisions which seem totally right in our eyes but only serve the purpose of our particular movement, ministry or men while being deleterious to the church as a whole.
It is for that reason that aside from studying scripture extensively for a solid grounding in the word, I like to stick my neck outside of the narrow confines of the movements I am involved in to benefit from the wealth of understanding that God has bestowed on others. That fellowship, in person or in books awakens my understanding of the church as a corporate spiritual entity, that one that Jesus said He will build, not my particular ministry, even if I am convinced that I am the woman of power for the hour. It encourages humility, it brings our fellowship down to the basics Jesus Christ and Him crucified, not visions, not angels, not even tongues (sounds like heresy to my charismatic friends), but Jesus.
The church is the community of ones who have turned their lives over completely to God in Jesus Christ and live exclusively for His glory. Colson puts it this way ‘we are the community that shows the world what heaven will be like’. A community where holy character is developed in the fear of the Lord; a community led and directed by the Holy Spirit, where men meet God and the truth of God.” It stands to reason, that the higher my view of church, the less I will tend to champion causes that though convenient for me personally put a blot on that image of the church.
Church, according to Colson should be distinctly countercultural.
“Of course our fellowship must be loving and attract those who hunger and thirst. But we must never forget that the early church did not explode because it accommodated the culture’s values. The early church turned the world upside down because the believers confessed that Jesus, not Caesar, was Lord. They didn’t embrace the culture; they scandalized it.”