Friday, February 29, 2008

What is the Church?

What is the Church? I ponder this question at least once a week and sometimes more. I will probably speak to this many times to come, but for today's blogging purposes I want to use a hymn that has been going through my head a lot lately. It is long but completely worth your reading of every word.

The Church’s One Foundation
©1996 Parson John Publishing (ASCAP). Words: Samuel Stone. Music: Brian Moss.
1. The church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord,
She is His new creation
By water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her
To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her,
And for her life He died.
2. Elect from every nation,
Yet one over all the earth;
Her charter of salvation,
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy Name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses,
With every grace endued.
3. Though with a scornful wonder
Men see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder,
By heresies distressed,
Yet saints their watch are keeping;
Their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
Shall be the morn of song.
4. The church shall never perish,
Her dear Lord to defend
To guide, sustain and cherish,
Is with her to the end
Though there be those that hate her,
And false sons in her pale
Against a foe or traitor,
She ever shall prevail
5. Mid toil and tribulation,
And tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation
Of peace forevermore;
’Til, with the vision glorious,
Her longing eyes are blessed,
And the great church victorious
Shall be the church at rest.
6. Yet she on earth hath union
With God the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion
With those whose rest is won.
O happy ones and holy!
Lord, give us grace that we
Like them, the meek and lowly,
On high may dwell with Thee.

foundation, her Lord, He came and sought her, for her life He died, One holy Name she blesses, And to one hope she presses, The church shall never perish, Her dear Lord to defend, To guide, sustain and cherish, Her longing eyes are blessed, mystic sweet communion, O happy ones and holy!

This entire hymn is amazing, however; these are just a few key portions that really resonate with things that Christians today could appreciate hearing. I hope this blesses you and begins to shape your view of the Church.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Making Justice "Hip"

The more I continue to follow Jesus Christ the more I find that I am constantly faced with opportunities or decisions of social justice. This is a good thing. I have found that when I am advocating for people and hopefully doing my best to love them and be loved by them that my faith grows in tangible means by great distances. As a matter of fact, if we look at Jesus and when he teaches to any large crowds we see that he is doing this normally right after meeting peoples needs and performing miracles. What a great model, huh?

So what does this mean in light of advocating social justice from our churches. Not just the social justice that gives out food or hands people money, but goes into the level of penetrating justice. This is the kind that costs more of our persons and less of our pockets. We are forced to engage and love people, and likewise let them become part of our lives. It is the kind of justice that says "I love you" and you look someone in the eye and not their hand.

Any suggestions? I wonder what it means to make social justice part of our spiritual disciplines that we practice commonly in our pursuit of knowing and conforming to Christ. How do we do this as a congregation? How do get people excited about it in spite of the fact that it will probably make them uncomfortable?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Church vs. Parachurch

Here we go, this one will definitely stir up some controversy as far as a fist post goes. I have been processing the difference between church and parachurch, to only come to the conclusion that they must be one in the same for different people, or not valid.
I want to propose this by taking the view that they are the same in purpose despite what our view of "Church" is exactly. Do I think there should be sacraments served in parachurches or baptisms performed? Good questions, wrong conversation. The point is that our current model of church is not very desirable for a great deal of people and is not going to act as a place to encounter community and the Holy. So should a parachurch be able to act as a form of church for the un-churched spiritual seeking person? Yes. This is simply to say that we do not keep God in a building, but our very selves through the embodiment of the Holy Spirit. However, with this you better believe challenges arise. What is the purpose of denominational structure. One of the bigger ones is accountability. As a person who is a member of the Presbyterian Church, trust me, the organization and accountability there are amazing and holy. If a group were to start a parachurch ministry reaching out to people of various hobbies and/or lifestyles then I would say up front, how are you going to be accountable to yourselves and the Gospel? In other words, what is going to keep you in check with making sure that what you do as a Christ embodying individual keeps solid with that of the Bible? I have so many fun answers to what that could be, but for another time perhaps. In the meantime, I want to leave with a quick summary statement. God travels throughout the world via the Church (as a body). He embodies us as a capable reproducing agents of the Gospel that can disciple anyone, on the spot. We have an amazing capacity as Christians to do this and we need the growth of each other (the Church) and God. However, a building and a denomination are perks to a long line of perseverance and structure from certain individuals that does not always seem to fit other people who are foreign and/or uncomfortable with these structures.