Friday, September 10, 2010

Congregational Concern and Cooperation

The Church of Jesus Christ is called by Paul "the body of Christ." Christ does not have many bodies, only one, but nonetheless, local congregations take on a "body" quality as they strive to recognize the "head"ship of Christ, and as they seek to acknowledge and utilize the giftedness of her people/parts to function joyfully and fruitfully.
There are various forms of church government out there. We are congregational. We understand that those who have believed in Jesus Christ have received the Holy Spirit. It is this Spirit who has been given to be a guiding force in our lives to help us live under the Lordship of Christ. Because we have the Spirit, the people of the church are qualified to lead the church together. Episcopal (bishop) forms of government expect that the bishop is especially equipped to lead. Presbyterian (elder) forms of government expect that the elders are especially equipped to lead. All groups understand that there can be un-spiritual bishops or elders or congregation members. But our understanding of Biblical teaching and theology requires that we strive for a Spirit-led congregation who will then, out of concern and in cooperation, lead.
I suppose that a congregation that does not congregate is a little bit like a student who does not study. But there is more to it than simply getting together. Something should take place as we gather - shared concern and willing cooperation. This is our privilege, and this is our responsibility.
A new form of church government has appeared recently. I'm not sure what it will be called, but it borrows heavily from corporate and executive practices in business. Local churches become franchises, and corporate control is used to ensure a quality experience. The preaching is good, the music is excellent, the crowd is big, and the programs are many. I expect that they are serious about the leading of the Spirit, but the Spirit leads from the top. I am not bold enough to say that this is not Christ's church. But a church of this type is no more yours or mine than Home Depot is my hardware store. They value their customers, but not individually, only in masses.
And so, what kind of church are we? What kind of church do we want to be? My desire is for our church to reflect the beauty of the Gospel, that in God's grace, God saves sinners whom He folds into His family and entrusts with gifts and responsibility to actually be involved first-hand in God's work in the world. We do it, not because we are strong and effective, but rather because we know that God delights to deposit "this treasure" in "jars of clay" (2 Corinthians 4:7) so that in our weakness His strength shines through. 
Church renewal will require a renewal of congregational concern and cooperation. No bishop or group of elders or board of directors will dictate this. It happens as the Spirit works in His people, and where concern and cooperation take the forms of prayer and fellowship.

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