Redeeming Life family,
As we venture into 2015, we'll be looking at who and what kind of local church God is calling Redeeming Life to grow into and how each of us can play a role in this calling. What a fun and exciting conversation! To help us frame our thinking, I'd like to provide some Scripture as well as some overarching questions for us to consult and ponder.
First, some big questions:
1. How do individuals fit within the big "C" Church? That is, how do we fit within the universal Church of Jesus Christ, both visible and invisible?
2. How do we relate to others within the big "C" Church?
3. How does Redeeming Life Church, a local church, fit within the big "C" Church? What is a local church in light of the big "C" Church, anyway? What does it mean to be a local church? And what kind of local church should Redeeming Life does God want us to become?
4. How do we as individuals fit in Redeeming Life Church? What gifts, talents, and skills do we bring and how can we use this gifts, talents, and skills in conjunction with Redeeming Life?
Now, on to some Scripture and thoughts for you to examine and think about:
5. How doe we relate to others within Redeeming Life Church?
6. What level of commitment are we willing to give to unity in our relationships, mission, doctrine, and growth as both individualizes and a local church?
In Matthew 16, Jesus declares that he will build his Church. Through the rest of the New Testament, we can glimpses of this Church. We also get glimpses of the local churches functioning within the Church. But what is the big "C" Church? As you think about this question, please examine Ephesians 2:13-22, Acts 20:28, Romans 12:5, Ephesians 4:1-16, Hebrews 3:5-6, Ephesians 1:22-23, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, and 1 Peter 2:1-12. Of course there are other verses that give us a picture of the Church, but these should serve as a good starting point.
The big "C" Church is, in part, an expression of God's Kingdom on earth. When we place our faith in Christ, repent and submit to Jesus' lordship, and are baptized, we become citizens in God's Kingdom. While some day (according to Revelation 21) God's Kingdom will have physical borders, it presently does not. And because we are citizens of a Kingdom without borders, Paul says we are ambassadors. (See 2 Corinthians 5:11-22 and Ephesians 6:18-20.)
As we function as ambassadors for God's Kingdom in this foreign land we gather in local churches. These local churches serve like embassies of the Kingdom. Reading the Bible, it becomes very clear that no ambassador functions apart from a local embassy. (See 1 Corinthians 5:4, 1 Corinthians 14:23, and Hebrews 10:25 for some examples of local churches coming together.)
The New Testament provides a number of glimpses of local churches in that day. These local churches, or embassies, are simply assumed, as is their function. As we think about this, notice how the Epistles are written to the church in this place or the church in that place. Notice how ambassadors, that is, Christians, are given letters to take to other local churches so they are encouraged to welcome them into the new fold. (See Acts 18:27, Colossians 4:10, Romans 16:1, and 2 Corinthians 3:1-2.) This is in part because one local church, functioning in the role God has given to the local churches, is to affirm Christians, members. As they were keeping watch for those who may sneak in and teach false doctrine, these letters say, "Hey, these Christians are really with the Kingdom. You can trust them and welcome them into your local church." And notice in Acts 2:41, Acts 2:47, Acts 5:14, and Acts 16:5 how they knew who and how many were being added to their numbers (how else would they know who to count?)
The local churches also act as an arm of the Lord in the administration of the ordinances, that is, Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Each local church should also be on mission to evangelize the community where the church is located. As people come to submit their lives to the Lord, the ambassadors usher them into the Kingdom (in part through performing baptisms, among other things). As each of these embassies serve as they are called upon to do so, they provide the world with a small glimmer of what Heaven will be.
We also must think about who is a part and who is not. How do we know?
For one, the Bible charges some to be leaders and the local church to submit to those leaders. How does the leaders know who they are responsible for within the local church? How is an individual within the big "C" Church to know which leaders he or she is to submit to? As you think about these questions, please look at Acts 20:28, 1 Thessalonians 5:12, Hebrews 13:17, and 1 Peter 5:1-5. As we seek to understand 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, 1 Timothy 5:20, Titus 3:10-11, and che matter of church discipline in Matthew 18, we probably need to know who the local church is. How can one be put out of the church if we can't identify who is inside the church?
Another feature of the local church is mutual edification. We are to help build up one another. (See Hebrews 10:24-25, 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, Romans 12:6-8, and 1 Peter 10:11.) How are we to build up the local church if we have no idea who is a part of the local church and who is not?
Paul, John, Peter, and Jude--inspired by the Holy Spirit--warned the local churches to be on guard for false teachers and bad doctrine. (See 1 John 2:18-19, 2 Timothy 4:3, Jude 1:3-4, 2 Timothy 3:1-8, Colossians 2:8, and 2 Peter 2:1-22 for example.) This would suggest that the church and the leaders of the church knew good doctrine. This further suggests that they were in unity over their doctrine, which would make it easier to identify false teachers who were not really with the local church or even the big "C" Church.
As ambassadors of the Kingdom, we are card-carrying citizens. This much has nothing to do with which local embassy we are connected with. But how we faithfully serve the Kingdom will be greatly affected by how committed we are to serve on the team of the local embassy. The local embassy, that is, the local church is important.
Please be thinking about these Scriptures. Please be asking yourself some of these questions as we begin to look at who and what God is calling Redeeming Life Church to be. I look forward to a great conversation in the coming weeks and months!
Soli Deo gloria!
P.S.> You can listen to a sermon on this same topic by clicking here.
* Photo used in this post is in the public domain.