I watched an interesting sermon the other day, Mark Driscoll, speaking at the Advance ’09 conference, on the topic of “What is the Church?”. Growing up an atheist, I never entered a church voluntarily until my late teens, attending my first Alpha Course in the 1990’s. At the time, although I was unaware of it, there was much talk across the West on how to do church. It turned out that not all churches were organised in the same way and this was happening not just in the MANY different denominations, but within denominations themselves (and the so-called “non-denominationals”). There were all sorts of models of how to do church springing up, from the small house church structures to the large mega church models. And each of these models was seemed more of a reaction to someone else’s way of doing church rather than a well thought through model based on Biblical principles from the whole counsel of Scripture. No matter what the starting point or model, the church would inevitably end up with a central pastor, elevated by choice or put there by the congregation, doing all the work. Sometimes this would be due to proud pastors who enjoy the status/position, or sometimes it would be due to consumeristic congregations who were unwilling/unmotivated to get on mission.
And the other thing I noticed: Where were all the men? The male: female ratio was skewed and the churches were full of “spiritual” women while their “pragmatic” husbands stayed at home (or went to the football).
So these were my notes from the talk:
Dictionary definition of church: a sacred building – Wrong.
In order answer the question, “What is the Church?” we need to back up and ask “who is Jesus?” in order to avoid theological confusion:
Genesis 3:15 Proto evangelion – messiah is coming
Old Testament – looking for the messiah
New Testament – messiah humble incarnation = Jesus sent as a missionary, dies as our substitution, rises, conquering Satan, sin and death and reconciles us to the Father, gives us the Great Commission to continue Jesus’ ministry on the earth, but tells us to wait for the Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit commissions the church in the same way He commissioned Jesus’ ministry at Jesus’ baptism. So the church is doing what Jesus did by the power of the Holy Spirit; it is the result of the work of the Holy Spirit for those who belong to Jesus.
Acts 2:14-47: Peter preaches with authority through the Holy Spirit and the church is born; everything flows through the correct preaching of God’s Word (= preaching about Jesus risen and in glory as He is now, not the humble Galilean peasant as He was), ALWAYS AND ONLY ABOUT JESUS, not 7 steps to a better you, be all you can be, not as a means to an end but AS THE MEANS AND THE END
“We are a band with one song, and we play it till we see Him!”
Fear of preaching =Fear of man issues: results in either no preaching or preaching ineffectively (mere suggestions not commands);
Greek word for church: Ecclesia = assembly or gatherings
“The local church is a community of regenerated believers who confess Jesus Christ as Lord. In obedience to Scripture, they organise under qualified leadership, gather regularly for preaching and worship, observe the biblical sacraments of baptism and communion, are unified by the Spirit, are disciplined for holiness and scatter to fulfil the commission as missionaries for the world for God’s glory and their joy” Driscoll & Breshears, Vintage Church
From this statement, they get 8 marks of that distinguish a church from other gatherings:
1. Regenerated Church Membership:
Non-christians should be welcome to participate in the life of the church but official members of the church (servants, leaders, those with varying degrees of authority and responsibility for representing God as His people) SHOULD BE REGENERATED BELIEVERS. Regeneration is the key mark of a believer. Justification is Jesus work for us (2 Cor 5:21). Regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit in us: New life, new heart, new nature, new desires, new passions, new pleasures, new Lord, a new creation. Regeneration is the opposite of religion. Religion is what you do for God; regeneration is what God does in, through, for, with, and in spite of, you.
2. Qualified Leadership:
Peter is always listed first among equals in Scripture when it lists the disciples who shepherd the believers. In the Trinity, there is equality but functional authority/submission between the Father, Son and Spirit. All of God’s people are equally God’s image bearers, but there are leaders, those who are in authority, to shepherd believers in functional submission. Authority can either be sinfully and cowardly diminished\relinquished; or it can be abused by sinful overbearing (1 Peter 5:1-3). Qualified leadership is humble, male elders/pastors with male & female deacons. 1 Tim 3 & Titus 1 lists the CHRIST-LIKE QUALIFICATIONS OF CHARACTER, COURAGE, AND COMPETENCY OF THESE MEN TO BE SELECTED.
3. Gathering for Preaching and Worship:
God’s Word should be preached and JESUS SHOULD BE THE CENTRE-PIECE OF EVERY SINGLE SERMON. No differentiation between sermons which are evangelistic and those which equip the saints. If the sermon is about Jesus then it’s good for everybody. Scripture should be the final authority. We should receive before we go out. We stop doing and receive what Christ has done, and then, out of love for God and thankfulness, not to earn it or act out of fear, we go do.
4. Sacraments (Communion & Baptism) rightly administered
Communion every week? If it takes too long, is there really a problem with taking the time to gather and receive from Christ? What is our priority? Again, we should be gathering to receive from Christ before we go out.
(to be continued)