The Essence of the Church – Part 2

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Last week I began to set out some principles which are at the heart of the Church – the Church is God’s construct, He is its founder and sustainer. The Church is God’s special treasure – the habitation of His Spirit here on earth – His Temple.

The Church is not God’s second best, it is His perfect plan for His people to represent Christ’s name in the world, the vehicle through which He continues His mission to the world establishing Christ’s Kingdom reign among the nations.

The Church is imperfect because it is made up of imperfect people like you and me, but it is perfectly designed to take into account those imperfections and yet fulfil God’s purposes through it. We should never speak ill of His Church, because, in spite of human weakness, He counts it as His perfect Bride.

The Church, through all its genuine local fellowships and expressions, still works and is growing across the globe – even in spite of the impact of Covid-19.

Definition

The Church is built upon Christ Jesus the Cornerstone, with the apostles and prophets – His word, and His Spirit the central characters in it. The Spirit is the life of God that animates His Church. A people who forget the Spirit’s central place are destined to turn their church into a religious institution – those who seek to be led by and walk in the Spirit, filled with and obeying His word, will be fruitful and represent the life and call of God to salvation, in Christ, to the world.

His Spirit, His word and His people make up the Church. In its teaching and practice, and its New Covenant standing before God – the Church is a powerful force for salvation, redemption, discipleship, truth, peace, righteousness and justice in the world. Denominations, Movements, Traditions and Expressions are all elements of the Church, but they do not constitute the Church, they are the human forms which allow people to engage and connect with God’s pure, holy Church.

Any Movement or Denomination that loses its connection with the Missional heart of the Spirit, whether in its teaching or practice, also loses connection with its life source in the Spirit, Bible and empowered believers; that Movement or Denomination may continue for many years, and there will always be local expressions that buck the trend, but it will slowly deteriorate exchanging Christ the Cornerstone for another cornerstone that will ultimately give way to the world and Satan.

Evidences of the True

Covenant

There is a unity between the Old and New Testaments in that covenant is at the heart of God’s relationship with His people. In the OT, it was with Israel and the Jewish people established by Promise, Law and Sacrifice; although there were several instances of Gentiles accepted because of their faith. In the NT, the Church was established by Christ inaugurating the New Covenant, and includes all who repent, believe in and follow Him, whether Jew or Gentile.

Covenant is not simply a theological construct, it is God’s divinely inspired and initiated means of connecting with people. That connection is built upon promise and sacrifice – redemption and full salvation the blessings that flow from it. Without covenant, the Church would be another religious institution, but because of covenant, it is filled with the power of Christ’s victory and life of the Spirit.

Covenant began in the Garden of Eden and finds its completion in the life, ministry, suffering, Cross, resurrection, ascension and heavenly ministry of Christ.

Mission

I also said last week that the Church is to be Missional – participating in God’s mission in Christ, through the preaching, teaching and living out of the Gospel, to the world. If we forget that the Church is to be missionally minded, then we end up disconnecting with one of the foundational outworkings of the Spirit’s presence in it – to empower God’s people to be witnesses to Christ.

In the book of Acts we see the early Church living out mission in the reality of the life of the Spirit in it. It was not made up of perfect disciples but a community of believers, worshipping, living and doing life and mission together in the Spirit. They were enabled and empowered by the Spirit – His filling made them mission minded – transformational missionaries transforming their families and communities.

Vibrant Life

Churches are to be places where worship, service, mission and care are outworked – places filled with thanksgiving, prayer, praise, preaching and service fully expressed in Christ-honouring ways. Local, ordinary churches may not have all the gifts or capacity of large churches, but they nevertheless are filled with the love and life of the Spirit, and can be very effective in making disciple-making disciples.

Acts 2:42-47 (CSB) ‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.’

It would be wonderful if our local church could reflect something of the missional heart and vibrant life of the early Jerusalem Church as presented here.

Conclusion

The essence of the Church is its people who meet and worship in places full of God’s love, life and light, relevantly incarnating the Gospel Good News of Jesus.

Local churches are called to help disciples grow in the unity of the Spirit allowing for the diversity of the Spirit’s gifts and operations in its people. This type of Church has the power to redemptively transform local communities because it is filled with missionary disciples who worship, grow, witness, serve and care for the people around them.

The Holy Spirit is Lord, and I believe, He desires to empower us afresh for mission and evangelism, to open doors of opportunity, and to provide what is needed as we step out, in faith, in God’s mission to the world in Christ. We are in a partnership in the Gospel that gives evidence of our love for one another, and the reality of God as people are saved and disciple through our missional ministry and service.

For a church to thrive in its vision and mission, it needs clarity of purpose in what it we wants to achieve. If our aim is simply to create a nice setting for people to meet together – then it is nothing more than a good club; if it is to create a missional centre filled with inspired and motivated missionaries – that church will grow and change its communities in Christ-honouring ways.

Each person in God’s church is called to lay their lives down as a living sacrifice before Christ, and be good news to those around them.  It would be wonderful if our church developed into a fellowship of believers who are known as a people who love God, love Jesus, love one another, and love the communities He has placed us in.

Prayer

Father, we pray that our church would live out its mandate to be a missional centre part of Your wider body, bride, army and family!  A church where the life of Your Spirit and understanding of the Word are present. Christ’s church growing and flourishing – as it does so, becoming even more established in Christ, fruitful for Christ, and honouring to Christ. Amen
God Bless
Pastor Leslie