Challenges for the Church in the New Millennium (#4)
by Robert J. Young
The Nature of the Church

Note: On the first Sunday of January, 2000, I presented to a combined adult Bible class a list of items that the church must thoughtfully address if we are to be a viable voice in the new millennium. I was asked to expand that Bible class presentation into a series of bulletin articles which were published in the church bulletin. They are reprinted here in the hope they will be helpful to even more people. These may be freely used as deemed appropriate.

| Introduction | The Bible & Truth-#1 | Bible Inspiration-#2 | Bible Interpretation-#3 | Nature of Church-#4 | Possibility of Unity-#5 | Worldliness-#6 | Christian Experience-#7 | Christian Missions-#8 | Christian Hope-#9 | Human Nature-#10 | Christian Living-#11 |

The first three articles in this series addressed concerns in the general area of Bible knowledge. If the observation that Bible knowledge, or more accurately the lack of Bible knowledge, was one of great issues of 1990s, is true, then the church in the new millennium must address at least three areas: (1) the nature of Bible, i.e. the nature of truth and the relationship between Biblical truth and human thought, (2) Biblical inspiration, and (3) Biblical interpretation. The challenges before us in these three arenas were the subject of the first three articles in this series.

A second set of issues generally relate to the church. Six specific concerns were suggested in the initial summary. (1) What is the nature of the church? (2) What is a proper attitude toward unity, and a workable process which will result in unity? What should be our attitude toward ecumenical movements? What should be our attitude toward opportunities for cooperation in areas of mutual concern such as moral issues? (3) What is the relationship of the church to the world? (4) What is the nature of Christian experience? This will require that we think clearly and restudy biblically such subjects as worship, gender roles, the value of human beings (including racial and ethnic matters), the nature of our fellowship, and biblical methods for resolving differences. We must attempt to understand the impact of culture in these areas while maintaining a firmly biblical stance. (5) What is the nature of the Christian mission? (6) What is the nature of the Christian hope, i.e. what is a proper eschatology or understanding of the last times? I believe these are things we must address as a group as we attempt a shared understanding of basic issues that threaten to divide God's people.

What is the nature of the church? Especially in today's society, it is easy, and tempting, to hold a separatist ecclesiology and to withdraw from any community or people or person individually who does not agree in every particular with our own doctrinal position. Is it possible to seek the doctrinal (and ethical!) purity of the church while questioning whether such perfect purity can be attained in this world? If such purity is not possible, what shall be my attitude to someone who acts incorrectly, or to someone who thinks incorrectly (according to my understanding)? This balance between discipline and tolerance is not easy to find. How shall I understand other firmly biblical Christians? Is the grace of God sufficient to cover misthoughts as well as missteps? At what point is a person's relationship to Christ, and thus to the church as the body of Christ, severed? We certainly cannot afford to sever relationships more quickly than would Christ himself, nor do we desire to maintain that which he would not maintain. These are not easy questions to be answered with standard answers. Addressing this question will require our best minds and our best hearts as we interact and study together.

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Last updated February 21, 2001.