Developing a 2020 Vision for the Church:
The Nature of the Church

by Dr. Bob Young
Thanksgiving 2017

Note: On the first Sunday of January 2000, I presented in a combined adult Bible class a list of items to be thoughtfully addressed if the church were to be a viable voice in the new millennium. I was asked to expand the list from that Bible class presentation into a series of bulletin articles. Those articles are still available on this website: Foundations Series.
Almost 20 years later, it is definitely time for a rewrite. The question is still valid: how can the church be a viable voice in the contemporary world? What questions must we address? What understandings are essential for Christianity to survive and thrive in the world we know today? This new series is again being written as articles, but it is expected that the articles will also be useful as outlines for sermon series or seminar presentations.
In this new series, I write to set forth a 20/20 vision, so that we might see more clearly, and to set a goal to be accomplished by the year 2020. The next two years will fly by quickly. Will the church learn anything from what it has experienced? Can the apparent decline in Christianity be reversed? Will the church find renewed strength and resolve to present God's truth with boldness, daring, and sensitivity so that a new generations of Christians learn to live in the world without becoming worldly, to understand the call to unity and diversity, to renew the mission so the primary message is always one of eternal hope? Now is the time to begin working toward the reality God desires for his people.

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| Introduction | #1: Truth | #2: Bible Inspiration | #3: Bible Interpretation | #4: Church | #5: Unity | #6: Worldliness | #7: Christian Experience | #8: Mission | #9: Hope | #10: Human Nature | #11: Christian Living |

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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 the Bible, that is, the nature of truth and the relationship between Biblical truth and human thought, (2) Biblical inspiration, and (3) Biblical interpretation. The challenges that are continually presented to the church in these three areas 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. (1) What is the nature of the church? (2) What is a proper attitude toward unity, and what is a workable process that 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?
These are things the church must address corporately in an attempt to reach a shared understanding of basic issues that threaten to divide God's people.

What is the nature of the church? What is the nature of the fellowship shared in the church? What does it mean to be koinonia? Especially in today's society, it is easy, and tempting, to hold a separatist ecclesiology and to withdraw from any community, people, or individual person who does not agree in every particular with our own doctrinal position. Is it possible to maintain the doctrinal (and ethical!) purity of the church while questioning whether perfect agreement can be attained in this world? If such doctrinal agreement is humanly impossible, what should be my attitude toward someone who acts incorrectly, or toward someone who thinks incorrectly (according to my understanding)? The balance between discipline and tolerance is not easy to find. How shall I understand others who are also 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; they will not be satisfactorily addressed 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 November 23, 2017