Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Mission of God's People - Chapter 1 Part 1.4 Yesterday, we began looking at the Lausannne Covenant  that states in part, "World evangelization requires the whole Church to take the whole Gospel to the whole world" and we began to look at the idea of the "whole world." Today, we'll only begin to look at the "whole Church." 

We should start by stating that the "whole Church" is to participate in "world evangelization." That much is clear. But what is the Church? That seems to be a question many are asking today.  If you ask 10 people you might get 10 different answers. You will still find at least a few who says it is the "building" that they go to on Sunday morning to attend "service."  Others might say it is "the people" which is certainly truer but what people are we talking about? Is it just anyone who attends the "church" building on Sunday?

Question: How have you answered the question - what is church? 

Why are there so many different answers? Maybe because the Bible simply doesn't give one clear definition while using the word "Church" over 114 times (NIV 2011). One thing we can know for sure is that the church is not an inanimate object like a building. Another thing that becomes clear is that the church does center around meetings at part of its life (Romans 16:5, 1 Cor 16:9, Philemon 1:2). We also find the Church isn't confined to a single meeting place but is often referred to as a citywide or regional expression (See Revelation Chapter 2&3). And, we must understand that no mere human is the head of the Church but Christ himself sovereignly rules over his Church (Matthew 16:18, Ephesians 1:22). That the Church is the people who meet together, geographically, the "Head" of whom is Jesus Christ, only begins to tells us something of what the Church is, or at least what's it's supposed to be. But we need to go deeper if we are going to live sent today.

The word "Church" is from Greek "ekklēsia" which is derived from two other Greek word which translated as "call out of" and is defined as "an assembly of the people convened at the public place of the council for the purpose of deliberating." One natural questions that we might want to ask then is "what is being deliberated?" One answer should be apparent by now - the mission of God. But how do we answer this questions in light of our "sent-ness" and the expanse of what is "missions"? No easy formula will do.

Here Wright has a caution for us.
"There is a danger in that the expression "the whole Church taking the whole Gospel to the whole world" turns the church into nothing more than a delivery mechanism for the message. All that matters is "getting the job done" - preferably as soon as possible."
I have long thought that was a good thing, "finishing the task" seems to be the top priority, or is it? "Get er dun"may require some additionally thinking in light of the mission of God's people. If the Church in "finishing the task" becomes so "mechanistic" that we neglect other aspects of our "sent-ness" we may hinder the knowledge of the glory of God from filling the earth as the Lord desires. Then we might well be seen as "unChristian." Wright adds...
"...there are a range of questions we need to ask about the "whole Church" that have to do with such things like integrity, justice, unity and inclusion, and Christlikeness." 

The Church is to be more than just a "delivery mechanism" or "postal service" delivering a message. Certainly the message is key but if we are sent in the same way that Jesus was and "...our mission is to share good news" then  "we need to be good news people..." What then are we deliberating as "good news people?" Wright suggests that the answer to that question is "the embodiment of the message in life and action."Accordingly, the Apostle Paul helps us to grasp the "whole Church" when he writes about the "ekklēsia" as,  "the fullness of him who fills everything in every way" (Ephesians 1:23). As the "called out" ones, what that means I think we may discover in our pursuit of living sent today. 

Question: how would you describe the "fullness of him?"

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