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 donâ€™t see any indication that the â€œchurchesâ€ 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 â€˜churchesâ€™ 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 â€“ 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 â€œmaintain the unity of the Spirit â€¦ until we cone to the unity of the faithâ€. Does this â€˜untilâ€™ hold out any promise of its eventual accomplishment?
How would you answer Rob’s questions?