Rethinking the Church
Text: Ephesians 1:15-23
by Robert J. Young

Rethinking What It Means to be Church

Exciting times: exciting Jesus. It is a time to be creative, to escape business as usual. We want to be a point person, a change agent. We want to be a hinge. Idea people. Aggressive: change the direction of our world. Establish relationships with integrity, honesty, and trust.

Time to be bold and responsible (Ian Fair). Find and pursue God's agenda for the kingdom, stretch, and leave our comfort zone if necessary. Not exist for self, but to reach out and into the world where God's mission surely exists.

Dream for the church. Take the unchanging message to a constantly changing world. God is immutable. The Bible is immutable. God's plan for the church is immutable. But church is subject to error, because it is a divine/human enterprise. Both: Ecclesia of God, ecclesia of people. The church lives at the level of humanity. Therefore, there is a problem. As a living body, the church can thrive, can decline. Shows its human dimension.

Concerning Christ, the only way to know God ultimately is in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is God's ultimate revelation of himself. God is best revealed in personality, not in dry black and white pages. So the process of revelation is tricky, for while the Bible is adequate, perfect, complete, it is not exhaustive. The zenith of God's revelation of self is in Jesus, and continues in the spiritual body of Christ today: in the church. How is the world going to come to know God? Through the church. Church is the lived revelation of God, with Christ as our heart, and the Holy Spirit as our empowering force. So our great challenge is to so live and so embody the lived revelation.

The Bible for this is Eph. 1:22-23. This is basis for life: the church as 2nd incarnation. We need an elevated view of the church. When people see the church for what it is in God's eternal plan/purpose, they will not be dropping out like flies. They will not being saying, "Jesus Yes, Church NO!" Today, the church is most important thing in the world. The church IS the real world. This is where it is happening. The church is of eternal value, seeks eternal values.

When we think like Jesus Christ thinks, it puts us out of step with the world. The church is no second priority. It is definetly not an afterthought. The church is, has been, always has been, always will be the place where God intends the kingdom of God in this age to enter human experience.

Our great dilemma:
How can the church speak and be heard in a non-church, non-religious world? How do we get our priorities straight? How can we not get societal concerns ahead of spiritual matters?

  1. There is no place for personal agendas. Churches filled with members who have personal agendas will find a constant stream of persons entering and then exiting. Learn to deal with life realistically. Learn how Christ works in culture and how we deal with sin? (Read John 9).

  2. There is no place for worldliness. The church is isolated in lifestyle, but not in experience/relationships. the church does not need moats, but bridges. We must be light undoing the darkness: righteousness overcoming unrighteousness, calvary overcoming sin, Justice prevailing, and truth proclaiming.

  3. We need a less institutional model of church. We get defensive here because we have our have own images. But what are the biblical images.? The church is personal. It's offensive, penetrating culture, assaulting evil/immorality. Jesus Christ was always around the very kind of people we are too seldom trying to reach.

  4. What kind of body is appropriate to carry around the head? Illus: cutouts where you put head through hole. The head could move entire understanding of church. The chruch needs not just pragmatic concerns--what works? Not just individual concerns, or even corporate concerns. Not individualism, nor individual pragmatism. Not emotionalism. Not centered in humans, but in God. The church is the body carrying about the head who is Christ.

  5. We must be biblically based. What does God expect? Not what world expects! We should not begin with the felt/perceived needs of humanity, whether internal or external. The compass we seek to find direction is rooted in the biblical text that informs our discipleship and worship, empowers our relationship with God and with one another in community: God's community.

We will be Christians who live like Christians: walking with God, serving others, loving one another, assembling in a worshiping/sharing community, and the lost of the world will take note that these have been with Jesus, and souls will be saved.

Christians imitate Jesus Christ. He is the meaning of the world. Jesus Christ is our ultimate model and the lives of others who were followers of Jesus are helpful also, l Cor 11:1. Jesus Christ is our example, 1 Pet 2:21. Ac 4:13. We must get the body to match the head.

The world will no longer laugh at church when we are like our Lord. Too often those whom he accepted, we reject. Is our agenda today in the church the agenda of God and Jesus Christ for the kingdom? Will souls be saved? Will the gospel penetrate a world of darkness and bring saving light?


*Suggested and developed in part from notes from Rubel Shelly.

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Last updated February 10, 2001.