Friday, May 25, 2012

What Is a Church?

"Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to Christ's institution, there, it is not to be doubted, a church of God exists." - John Calvin

At Launch Conference this past week I heard one of the speakers make reference to this quote, suggesting that this really isn't what a church must be.  The thought was that this really doesn't represent who Jesus is.  And, as I posted earlier this week, knowing who Jesus is becomes essential for us defining what church is supposed to be.  Our Christology defines our Missiology which then in turn defines our Ecclesiology.  Because this is true, a church must be much more than a place with has the Word and Sacraments.

But what was Calvin actually trying to accomplish?  It's amazing when we begin to study history the amazing impact Calvin had on the church.  I would argue that his impact rivals that of Luther because of his concern over helping the people find an identity outside of the Roman Catholic Church.  The RC's had been not just the religious identity, but the complete identity of so many people for generations, and now that they were leaving them, it was hard to know where to go.  This is where Calvin stepped in.  While I don't always appreciate his theology, it's hard to deny the impact he made on the Church as a whole.

I say this because it is easy to look back at this quote, and others like it, and say that Calvin had it wrong.  Perhaps he did, and there should have been more added to this statement.  On the other hand, getting critical of those who were striving to steer a ship on the right course while plugging all the holes is probably not the wisest thing to do.

So what is a church?  This, then, becomes the question.  If Jesus is the image we are meant to reflect, and the church He was building the one we are to look like, this should point us in the right direction.  It is Jesus we must look to in order to define who we are.

And what about this one?  Jesus goes to places no one will go in order to reach the people no one else will reach.  These are the stories which tell us who He was.  

We find Jesus washing the feet of the Disciples, serving those who came to be with Him.  Are we serving those who come in our doors?  Are we loving them this way?

This, then, is what we should look like.  Too often we are defined by our beauty, but Jesus was defined by His stripes.  It was by His wounds we are healed.  His willingness to suffer like this was based on His love. Do we love this way? Are we willing to be wounded and bleeding on behalf of those who are lost?

No comments: