Monday, January 26, 2009

Identity of Church: by divine definition or human decision?

Inputs: Horrell, Viola, Isaiah 24-27, Sunday sermon 1/11

Who we are is a defined thing and the definition (laid down in the apostolic tradition comprised of the normative beliefs and practices in the New Testament) cannot be changed by our decision. It is not culturally conditioned; who we are does not change across history, country, or language. The particular suit of clothes might change with time and culture, but our identity, expressed in normative beliefs and practices, is definitional. If we step outside of that definition, we become something other than who we are. One of the key ideas, picked up by both Horrell and Viola, is the notion of communality: that God designed us to be a people, not a collection of individuals, but a gathering around a person for whose work we structure ourselves. We do his work, not our work. He comes first.

The institutional church has gotten off track by forgetting who we are and who he is. It may well be that our doctrine is in good order. It may well be that our behavior conforms to biblical morality. But if we do not express Christ and who we are in Christ, then we are not church. The uncomfortable conclusion is that many organizations, quite certain they are churches, are actually something altogether different; they are religious organizations, but they are not churches.

What do we do with that once we know the truth?

Related Posts
Being the Loyal Opposition in the Institutional Church
Among the Loyal Dissatisfied

Key Ideas from the week:
  • Christ-centered
  • part of the one people of God, distinct from but not divided from Israel
  • shaped as specifically Christian by belief and practice
  • being dancers, creating on a sure theme, rather than docents, merely relating the theme and its history

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