the weblog of Alan Knox

Church, Churches, and Questions

Posted by on Jan 5, 2011 in definition, guest blogger, unity | 4 comments

Church, Churches, and Questions

On New Year’s eve, while our family was driving back home from Alabama, a reader named Rob started a good conversation on an older (almost a year old) post of mine called “What does it take to be a church?

Since many of you may have missed the conversation, I wanted to post Rob’s last comment (which includes two very good questions) as a “guest blog post,” and Rob gave me permission. (If you’re interested, jump back to the original post and read the discussion at the end of the comment thread between Rob, Art, and myself).

Here is Rob’s final comment:

I don’t see any indication that the “churches” of a region considered themselves exclusive of one another either. They seem to have been interrelated and mutually supportive through the movement of ministries amongst them and expressed as in the support of the poor in Jerusalem. But we have no evidence of hierarchical structures ruling over regions hence the plural of ‘churches’ for regions but singular for cities and households. There is no example of elders in one city carrying administrative authority in any other city.

Yes we have come a great distance from the biblical pattern and I agree it was never perfect and perhaps far from it. I have 2 QUESTIONS I think are valuable to consider:-

1) How do we relate to the church in our locality maintain and express unity despite the labels and divisions. In UK (my place of origin) and Barbados my current residence I find that denominational labels mean little compared with previous generations (I do not know if this is the same in the US). The majority of people move among the churches much more on the basis of a) whether the church provides for their needs / wants or b) where they find genuine friends, which is a better motive. However I would like to see more believers being concerned with where they could best meet the needs of others.

The approach I favour is to ignore the labels and build relationships wherever they can be beneficial to the kingdom. We are associated with a network of churches – some of which are house churches, some are cell churches some are also part of various denominations.

2) Do we have hope and / or Biblical grounds for expecting church reformation and a perfecting of the church prior to Christ return e.g. Eph. 4 “maintain the unity of the Spirit … until we cone to the unity of the faith”. Does this ‘until’ hold out any promise of its eventual accomplishment?

How would you answer Rob’s questions?


4 Comments

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  1. 1-5-2011

    Regarding the second question about “eventual accomplishment”; I think 1 John 3:2 applies both individually and corporately. Beyond that, mystery is the only word that comes to mind, though GREAT mystery.

  2. 1-6-2011

    Reid,

    Yes, we will not find complete unity until we are completed. But, I think we can live more united now than we are. While we will never be completely mature, we should always be maturing.

    -Alan

  3. 1-8-2011

    On q. 1, I still don’t know what to think of the ‘consensus’ that the labels for the churches held no meaning anymore. Some of these ‘labels’ represent ways of doing the faith which need a place that follows those ways so that the real implications can work themselves through in life. Yet none of those labels should ever have stood in the way of working together. You doesn’t have to hate your fellow Christian to live distinctively.

    That said, from my own experience, it’s the institutions that bear these labels which feel most uncomfortable with what I do, and none more so than the ones whose expressed beliefs are most like mine. It feels quite odd to get my best support from people who don’t really get what I’m doing.

  4. 1-8-2011

    Bob,

    Thanks for the comment. We all have our convictions, but like you said, our convictions should not separate us from other brothers and sisters in Christ. What do you do that make these institutions uncomfortable?

    -Alan