Millions of Churches or One…His?
Devotional/Discussion of the Day:
9 After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. 10 And they were shouting with a mighty shout, “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!” Revelation 7:9-10 (NLT)
“Also they teach that one holy Church is to continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. Nor is it necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere alike. As Paul says: One faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, etc. Ephesians 4:5-6.” — Augsberg Confession, The
I am in on ongoing discussion, that concerns me greatly. It is about the church and how it ministers in a community that is diverse. both in terms of ethnicity and in terms of generations. As I occasionally do, I challenged the unexplored presuppositions, and commented about whether the church has to focus ministry one way, or the other – why can’t the church just reach out to everyone, and what you end up with is a multi-cultural church, one that very well may resemble the church described in the red letters above.
I was surprised, because of the push-back I got.
It’s only experts who can pull that off, it can’t be done, the big churches have tried, etc, etc. etc. They talk about the nature of a church denomination or the, “it was tried once”, or “the people have to have that call” and a number of other things that I disagree with, simply because there is no scriptural basis. Indeed, the early church was multi-cultural – because their communities were. And the zeal to see people freed from the bondage of sin, the oppression of satan, and the anxiety of death is overwhelming, when we actually realize it ourselves.
The answer isn’t in planning to have a monoethnic church, nor is it to plan to be multi-cultural. Simply put, the plan is to be the church – the CHURCH described in the founding document of the Lutheran Church – the Augsburg Confession. Interesting that we usually think of the CHURCH as in denominations finally getting their act together, finally uniting in mission, in the apostolate given to us by God. But the CHURCH is a body that transcends everything that could describe us, as we are united in Christ. Our people have to realize that – the grace of God is communicated through the church, through its members/the priesthood of all who trust in Christ. It is heard as the scriptures are explained, as we witness people receive God’s grace through the sacraments God ordained.
It’s His church, His people, and the way to be the church is not to plan which group we are to reach out to, but to reach out to the people that are around us, realizing their need to know Christ. To get to know them, to show them the love of God.
George Wiegel, in a book on the changes in the Roman Catholic Church wrote this… which still sticks with me…
What is at stake in the demand for doctrinal clarity (and for the clarity of Catholic identity that follows from doctrinal clarity) is not a matter of winning an intellectual argument, which is how self-absorbed intellectuals often understand it. Rather, doctrinal clarity is a matter of equipping “the saints,” the men and women who have entered into friendship with the Lord Jesus, to become his witnesses in the world and the servants of those who most need to see the face of the Father of Mercies. (from Evangelical Catholic)
For a parish, for a congregation, it is essential that they grasp how incredible this message of God’s love is, that God will remember their sin no more, that He has freed them from guilt and shame… and as they do – as they begin to treasure that their sins will not be remembered anymore, as they begin to explore the breadth and depth, the width and hight of God’s love, revealed in Christ – they will reveal that – as those God sent into their neighborhoods, and their businesses, into the places they shop and eat….
And the church, if in a multi-cultural area, will become multi-cultural… it cannot help but to do so…
Lord may we see the mercy that you have for us, as you reconcile us to you, that we may plead with others to become reconciled as well….