Ecclesiology 101 (Part 2)
This week we once again turn our attention to our ecclesiology (doctrine of the Church). In a culture where nominal Christianity is pervasive and churches constantly have to come up with new tricks in order to retain their members, it is clear that many Christians do not have a robust ecclesiology. But the importance of this doctrine is not simply whether or not one attends church on a weekly basis, rather, our theology of the Church should influence every aspect of how we live out our faith. How one views our responsibility to the poor should reflect his or her ecclesiology. What we do about teen pregnancy is tied to our view of the Church’s role in society. And the best way to expand the Kingdom of Christ is inherently a part of our view of Church.
It is necessarily unnerving to try to distill such an important topic down to a few bullet points, and we are certainly not trying to be reductionistic. However, sometimes it can be helpful to begin to fill out our thinking on important issues by starting with a skeletal structure and then working out from there. This week we are going to look at five different functions that the Church plays in an individual believer’s life. The answer to the nagging question, “why should I bother with church?” is partially wrapped up in these five characteristics of a robust ecclesiology.
Worship is something we do, something we participate in, a life-style of holy expectancy. Worship is our response to God’s efforts to initiate, restore, redeem, and maintain fellowship with his Image bearers. We can worship personally throughout our day and its seemingly mundane tasks and we can worship corporately as we gather as the Body of Christ. The object of our worship is a jealous God who permanently etched onto stone tablets, “You shall have no other God’s before me” (Exodus 20:3). Praise is one avenue we can enter into worship. The Psalmist beckons to our emotions and physical bodies as a means to express our devotion and love for our God. Praise worship involves our whole being; body, mind, spirit, and emotions.
Every local church should be developing a Christ centered community that encourages genuine relationships between its members. By worshiping in community we develop bonds that encourage us along in our spiritual journey better than we could ever possibly have if we were isolated from fellow believers, in this way we “spur each other on towards love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24)
In Paul’s Pastoral Epistles one of the most important things he encourages Timothy in is his preaching of the Word (2 Timothy 4). An in-depth exposition of the Bible should be foundational for all churches. While there are many different methods and styles of preaching (i.e. expository or topical), they all should be centered on the Word of God. A weekly instuction in the Word should provide the Christian with a better understanding of who God is, and who we are in relation to Him.
The local church should provide believers with the opportunity to serve other Christians, and the world at large. By following Christ’s example of service (Mark 10:45), we put to death our pride and become more like our Savior. Serving in the nursery or serving at a soup kitchen are vital ways in which we grow spiritually.
Of all the five functions of local churches this last point is sometimes neglected the most. Similar to instruction, equipping should center on making the believer more able to demonstrate God’s glory to the world. Training in theology, apologetics, and evangelism should make Christians better prepared to have an impact on their society.