With passion week arriving soon, we will begin to experience the high holy days of the Christian Church. We will also experience the dividing lines along which most Christian churches fall.
You see, you can tell a great deal about a church by what aspect of those days it glorifies: Christ’s earthly ministry, His cross, His resurrection, or Pentecost.
Churches that ally themselves most with the earthly ministry identify with Christ’s love for the weak and broken people of the world and His relentless service to them.
Churches that ally themselves most with the cross identify with a lost individual’s status as a sinner, Christ’s sufferings on our behalf, and the wondrous freedom from sin purchased by Him.
Churches that ally themselves most with the resurrection identify with redemption, the new birth, and an eternity spent with God in heaven.
Churches that ally themselves most with Pentecost identify with the empowering of the new Church by the Holy Spirit to fearlessly go forth as saints to spread the Kingdom with signs and wonders accompanying.
I’ve see a lot of churches in America, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen the perfect church—one that ably allies itself with all four of the above in balance. I don’t know why that is so hard, and yet it is. We seem to like our one or two identifications, and that is about all we can manage.
I keep praying, though.
8 thoughts on “The Perfect Church”
There will never be a so called perfect church as long as we are the church…we are broken…selfish…self absorbed and mostly focused on the church as being a brick and mortar entity. When we shift the paradigm into a doing, faith engaging as opposed to a being church then we move closer to that illusive perfection…
Neat line of thought. Makes me reflect on what area I focus on more than the others and ways I could bring them more into balance.
Great insight, Dan.
Perhaps a clue for good church is found in the title of the fifth book of the New Testament. I find it revealing the book wasn’t called the doctrines of, or the decrees of, or the soaring intellectual acumen of, or even the opinions of…, etc. A big book could be written on your essay, but off the cuff: for me the church is God’s community about their Father’s business, a work that takes many forms in nuturing God’s creation, but finds its source and destination and reason for being in Jesus Christ.
Keep up the great writing, Dan.
Dear friend in Christ
I am pastor John from East Africa doing well under God’s tender care. I am really impressed and happy to write you and thank you for the wonderful work that you are doing as Jesus commissioned us. After going through your web page i was pleased and touched to contact you for a request to work together in ministry and work together as we build body of Christ, I welcome you to make a trip here in Africa and share this word that God has put in you with our brothers and sisters here. we have a small church 25 members worshiping Under trees you will be of great help to our people here to grow spiritually. People need to discern light from darkness please kindly extend that wonderful work here in Africa.and also we have the orphans and vulnerable children the basic need is education shelter, cloths, food, and bibles.so our request towards your ministries to help us to Grow spiritually so that we may reach to the kingdom of God. Hope to hear from you.
And of course we’ve seen churches of one type excoriate those of the other three as unChristian or heretical!
This is a nice set, but I personally think it best to think of number two as foundational and leading to the others, although in practice I’ve seen many churches in that second set spend a lot of time excoriating the churches of the 4th set, etc.
Which brings us to your recent post, “Better than a Beating.”
Good thoughtful blogging as usual, Dan.
I agree with you, Dan. I don’t know what denomination or affiliation you are, but for myself, I’m on the outside looking in. At the moment I’m all dressed up with a profound belief and nowhere to go. But that’s another story.
It seems to me the Church in America suffers an identity crisis. She thinks she’s supposed to be a Savior, but she’s not. We’ve already got one. She’s meant to be the Lover of the Beloved Christ. It’s a receptive role, not an assertive one or a competitive one, and her role will remain receptive up until eternity and beyond.
She is composed, constantly, ever-changingly, of immature and mature believers both. As you aptly pointed out in your post about Priscilla and Aquila, that’s why she needs to nurture her nurtuing side. This reality seems to challenge believers on both sides of the continuum of line-drawers: the Includers and the Excluders.
Some people would prefer to overlook the imperfections of the Church in favor of unity. Ironically, they embrace anyone who agrees with them, but are just as happy to toss those who fail to recognize the mystical union of the Body of Christ out on their mystical ear. I’ve heard too many times that the sick need a hospital, and that’s why they are found in Church. The unfortuate application of this aphorism implies that any and all believers have a perfect right to be constantly sick and not get any better, as long as they keep quiet about the illness they see around them.
How is this Church seeking healing?
On the other extreme are the out and out shunners–those who thrive on being right and are proud of excluding anyone who dares to hold a variant opinion. They attempt to heal the Bride of Christ by amputating any appendages they deem impure. How will this diminished, often-injured Church heal?
And both viewpoints beg the question of how the Church is to treat nonbelievers: with judgement, or mercy?
The Church is not a place with walls to keep people out. She is meant to be a Person: The Bride of Christ, A. Loving, B. Receptive, C. Nurturing, D, Inviting all. If this were a multiple choice question, the only answer would be “E. All of the Above.” But the Church is not perfect yet, and will not be until she appears unveiled in the New Jerusalem.
In the meanwhile, I believe she has been offered a remedy for her sicknesses and her self-mutilation, and I look forward with hope to the day we begin to carry it out.
The Bride of Christ will need a makeover until she examines herself in a mirror to sharpen her image. James 1
The loving Bride will take a bath to freshen up. Regularly, as Queen Elizabeth the First would say, whether she needs it or not. Ephesians 5
The receptive Bride will lift the veil that seems to hide her, (Revelation) and embrace her identity as the Lover of the Beloved.
The very human Bride needs to prepare herself to become the partner of divinity: generous with her gifts. I Corinthians 1:7
The nurturing Bride invites all who are thirsty to come and drink freely from the waters of life. The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!” Revelation 22:17
In short, I wonder if some of the more virulent leaders of the Church are living out the masculine role of the “Head of the Body” to the exclusion of their feminine role as the Bride of Christ.
I’ll probably be writing about our wallowing in continual “sickness” soon. I see a number of well-known Christian writers who seem to be stuck in “sinner mode” and cannot seem to ever tell people that their identity in Christ is as saints, not sinners. It is no wonder then that the Church in America has trouble living up to her high calling.
I look forward to it, Dan. However, you’ve neatly sidestepped the issue of the masculine/feminine role or identity of the Church, so perhaps it’s a non-issue for you. Or the subject may be difficult for a man in our culture to speak about, and if so, that may be the root of the problem. Which is why I speak about it, because culture permits me to so so as a woman.
To reiterate, the Church appears to be at her least attractive when she takes up weapons of war against herself or weapons of torture against “heretics”.
I know we are to wear the full armor, but armor is defensive, not offensive, and the early Christians had better reason than we do to think in terms of defense: risk of becoming lion food, or torch fuel, or, better, theneed for spiritual defense. Those attacking the Church from within appear to be trying to defend her, but I believe the Church is meant to be vulnerable. God is capable of defending her as long as she stays out of her own way.