Is a church, The Church? Why Do We Operate As If It Were So?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 Was I wrong when I humbled myself and honored you by preaching God’s Good News to you without expecting anything in return? 8 I “robbed” other churches by accepting their contributions so I could serve you at no cost. 9 And when I was with you and didn’t have enough to live on, I did not become a financial burden to anyone. For the brothers who came from Macedonia brought me all that I needed. I have never been a burden to you, and I never will be. 2 Corinthians 11:7-9 (NLT)
212 Hominem non habeo— I have no one to help me. This—unfortunately!— could be said by many who are spiritually sick and paralytic, who could be useful— and should be useful. Lord: may I never remain indifferent to souls.
Last night in our Bible Study, we talked a great deal about the verses that are listed above. It was a pretty stimulating conversation, and it had me thinking last night, and this morning while I worked out, and into writing this blog today. Recent conversations about the church here in the USA as compared to what we consider the mission field, also entered the thoughts. So to the talks about the rise of both denominationalism and congregationalism that I’ve given in the course I am teaching presently.
The conversation last night wasn’t about the church in Corinth and the issues where Paul had to correct their errant thoughts. Instead the conversation ended up focusing on the sacrificial attitude of those churches, and that of Paul himself. Because they gave, not of their abundance, but rather before they thought of their own needs. To help another congregation, another “church”. But why? The Corinthians had everything in abundance, they had more money, more “names” (look at the discussion about all the ministers that had worked there!) The churches that gave? They had little.
But they still gave, that others could minister to the church in Corinth.
Because of the gospel, because of the love of God was the answer, after a couple of moments of thought. Because they saw a brother in need, and knew the power of the gospel and the change it would make in the life of the Corinthians. That the church in Corinth needed Paul more than they did, and they saw that need and met it. Even though it meant they would do without. Paul would go on his journeys, knowing that he could be beaten and tortured and eventually would be killed.
For the sake of the church. That people would know the joy of God’s presence, the exhilaration that comes from knowing you are loved.
Corinth needed that, they needed to know God in the way the other churches did. Those churches who didn’t see the church as their congregation, but considered the church as those who make up the entire family of God. That is why they could sacrifice for people they didn’t know, That is why they would respond to meet Paul’s needs, knowing the effect of Paul’s ministry there. Knowing how Paul taught them, as he wrote to the church in Ephesus,
3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all. Ephesians 4:3-6 (NLT)
Let’s face it – denominationalism and congregationalism are “isms”, (no matter how they are justified by other titles, like brotherhood, association, the label – “non-denom” or my own group’s “synod”) Although often started with a major issue, rather than resolve it, we just get comfortable in our “group” and shut out others. When we get comfortable there, when we use our separation to justify our in-action, our hoarding of our own gifts and talents and abilities, Please don’t get me wrong – there are times where, because of the gospel, because of those who would pervert the grace, mercy, and peace of Christ – there is a separation. But to allow that separation to become the status quo, to isolate ourselves into smaller and smaller groups, behind this leader or that, is wrong.
Last night, we primarily talked about this, not in view of denominatalism, but in terms of congregational autonomy. We aren’t separate from our sister churches in the area, we need to work together, even if it begins with only us. To work with those we are in fellowship with, to work with those who will work beside us, to test doors to see if they are open. To pray for the doors that are slammed in our face, grieving over them.
TO see the church, not as just our congregation, but as His one, holy, catholic (universal/united) apostolic (misisonal) Church.
And to plan or prioritize and work with the spread of Christ’s saving us from sin, and making us holy as the core of what we do.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1095-1098). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Posted on May 15, 2014, in Devotions, The Furrow and tagged congregational autonomy, congregational supremacy, congregationalism, Creed, Denominationalism, doctrine, faith, One Church, People of God, St. Josemaria Escriva. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.