The church is…. God and His People, together
Thoughts which drive me to Jesus, and the cross:
This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: Here is the man called the Branch. He will branch out from where he is and build the Temple of the LORD. 13 Yes, he will build the Temple of the LORD. Then he will receive royal honor and will rule as king from his throne. He will also serve as priest from his throne,* and there will be perfect harmony between his two roles.’ Zec 6:12–13. NLT
16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. Colossians 3:16-17 (NLT2)
In our time we have all kinds of status symbols in the Christian church—membership, attendance, pastoral staff, missionary offerings. But there is only one status symbol that should make a Christian congregation genuinely glad. That is to know that our Lord is present, walking in our midst!…
For this reason every poor sinner should act in such a way as to hear the Word diligently and not doubt that the Father is drawing people to himself. For the Holy Spirit wills to be present with his power in the Word and to work through it. This is the drawing of the Father.
To develop the contemplative dimension of the Gospel, charismatics have only to deepen their listening to the word of God in Scripture, remembering that this word also dwells within them. There is no opposition between the outward and inward word of God
I am not sure of the sense in which Keating is using the word charismatic, whether in view of a personality or regarding the movement of the church, but either way, the point is made. The word of God needs to resonate with our souls, we have to hear the gospel with our hearts and souls, not just our ears. The word of God, just as the Holy Spirit does, needs to make its home in us. That is the same point Luther made – that through this word, God is drawing us into Himself, through the work of the Holy Spirit.
As it does, the idea of managing (actually manipulating) church growth becomes unnecessary. I am not saying the church should not rejoice in growth, or reach out into our communities and our world, but it should be what drives us. It needs to be a reaction to the word of God, tot he presence of God in our lives, right here and right now. That causes real growth, the joy of knowing we walk with God, that He has redeemed and reconciled us to Himself. Tozer is absolutely right, the only measure of a church that matters. Does it know and believe that Jesus is with every person in the church, and boding them together as one? That is the work of God’s word and the Sacraments establishing and strengthening the fellowship, the community we have with God.
Without the presence of Christ, without the word and sacrament taking root in us, there is nothing. We know that, but that same word and sacrament stays central to our lives. Word and sacrament because it is the conduit through which Christ and His grace is poured into us.
He is our hope, our joy, our life. Without him, we are nothing. WIth Him walking in our midst – we are His people – the Church.
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 652–653
Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 300.