Envisioning a Church
Researching into church history is often found the stories of schism, of division and the establishment of new groups that better reflect certain styles, beliefs, values, or purposes. No church, congregation or collection of people is ever perfect. In finding the best fit compromises are sometimes made along the lines of what is most agreeable to personal convictions of the Christian life. In recent years, with the emergence of the Post-Modern movement of the later 20th century, there has been a return to the basics. This has been illuminating but also very challenging. It is sometimes very clear how far off course some denominations and groups have traveled from their foundational principles or beliefs. Tides of social trends, cultural waves, and even political eddies have shifted the flow of their rivers of faith.
Current trends seem to indicate that there are some common factors in the churches that are growing and being successful in the Biblical definitions of church. These groups often share a faith handed down through the centuries, they share a faith that is felt on the personal level, they are compelled to share the Gospel with others in real and tangible ways that transform souls, lives, and communities, and they are committed to learning the Bible and using it as a 'lamp' to their daily walk with God.
So the following is a basic overview of what this author might view as a simple schematic of the elements of a denomination or a body of Christians. It might serve as a jumping off place for those struggling with defining themselves in a restructure, strategic goal or similar plan.
It is a faith handed down.
The church as the place where people who have encountered God; know they have been saved; and want to grow to be more like Christ come together as a group to worship God, grow in faith and life, and do good in every way possible. Faith, hope, joy, love, service, sacrifice, and witness are not mere words but daily parts of life. This is the 'fire' that warms the heart and is contagious. Worship is exciting, energetic, inspirational, moving, and transformative. Daily life is energized, motivated, and filled with purpose to share what we have/feel/enjoy with others. It is a faith felt.
Psalms 5:11-12 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield.
Psalms 47:1 Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!
"Evangelical Christianity, is a worldwide, transdenominational movement within Protestant Christianity, maintaining that the essence of the gospel consists in the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ's atonement." (Wikipedia) The church of "show and tell" Christian life. The church of the open invitation to accompany us and "come and see" what God is doing. The church of putting action with words to achieve specific people centered goals of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering those without a roof, and loving the unloved. It is a faith shared.
"How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!" Romans 10
"And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. ' Matthew 10
“Let me be homo unius libri,” said John Wesley, or a man of one book. He did not mean he would scorn other books but that the Bible would serve as the key and foundational work used in building his faith and directing his life. He read widely across many fields and knew well the varied viewpoints of both his supporters and those who did not agree with his renewal beliefs. Today the Bible has become on one hand a monolithic tool of dogmatic literalism that wrings from the Word of God the wisdom and the breadth of its contents. Focusing on the small gnats the great camels of grace, liberty, and possibilities go unnoticed. On the other hand, the Bible has become a quaint text out of touch with modern life, an ancient text of blood and death and the cause of great evils in society. It is a mythic writing with some good things but in no way can it lay claim to directing, controlling, or even informing modern life. Somewhere in the middle waits the Bible to be discovered, read and taught correctly, and applied with the balance and grace of its message. It is faith learned.
Psalms 119; Romans 15:4; Job 23:12
The mission of the church of Jesus Christ is to invite, introduce and involve people to share the Gospel and it is achieved through a faith passed on, a faith that is felt, a faith that is shared, and a faith that is learned.
Matthew 28:19-20 -
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."