Who is the church?
By Ron Simkins, from his teaching on January 31, 2010
In my teaching this week, I suggested that any fellowship/church that is attempting to follow Jesus must be (1) a voluntary association for participation and ministry; (2) an open table welcoming and reaching out; (3) an organization/institution; (4) a community learning to apply doctrine/theology as disciples in the real world of the 21st century; (5) a worshiping community; and (6) Jesus’ extended family of sisters and brothers.
We are each personally more drawn to some of those roles than others. As a fellowship, we emphasize some of these aspects more or less at various times. But ultimately, they are all necessary to functioning as “the Body of Christ,” and they all represent opportunities to serve and opportunities to express the gifts of the Holy Spirit in building up the body of Christ.
Of course, these various aspects of “Body Life” not only complement one another, but also are in dynamic tension with one another and pull against one another at times.
For example, being an open table community that reaches out to all who wish to be closer to Jesus can seem almost the polar opposite of growing closer in brother-sister relationships. Being a spirit-filled worshiping community can seem the polar opposite of honoring the organizational structures and time charts of the Sunday School and Nursery needs of children ready for lunch. Realizing that doctrine/theology is always in process in terms of understanding and application can create tensions between sisters and brothers in a manner that looks more like dysfunctional family relationships than like the extended family of Jesus.
It is important for all of us to understand that there is no single, one-time resolution for how to relate these dynamic tensions properly. The narratives and letters of the New Testament show us this dynamic tension at work in every church and every decade of the Biblical writings. Every new season, every new adventure, every new opportunity, demands that a Fellowship practice polarity management with empowering of the Holy Spirit. We all intuitively know that over-emphasizing one area (excepting our own favorite area, of course) to the exclusion or serious diminishing of the others leads to chaos, confusion, and often heresy.
So, in our Fellowship—and in every fellowship/church—there is always A REASON TO BEGIN AGAIN in learning to be the Body of Christ in a manner that honors all the gifts Jesus gives us. This means there is always a reason to continually pray for every area of our life together to be filled with more of the Holy Spirit, in order to “build up the body of Christ in love.” (Ephesians 4:11-16 and 1 Corinthians 12-14)
What do you think we should be emphasizing most right now? Why?