DNA Reminded: Church
We are reviewing our DNA, the spiritual genetic code that determines our ethos and our strategy as a church. We are doing this as a bridge between 1 Timothy 3 and 4.
Gospel (gospel of the glory of the blessed God); Church; Glocal; Radical
For the glory of God we will build the church both local and global by being and producing radical followers of Jesus Christ.
Why do we say this is our mission? Listen to the Lord’s words in Matthew 16:13-20: “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.”
Jesus said that he is going to build his church. The building of the church is done on the bedrock of the good news that Jesus is the Christ, the full truth of the gospel. Jesus said he had given us the keys of the gospel that would open up the doors of his kingdom in which the church would live and from which the church would grow. So, what is the church? If Jesus is building it, shouldn’t we know what it is? If the church is where gospel believers are, shouldn’t transformed gospel believers value it?
“The Christian leader today not only must teach the gospel, but also must teach how the gospel works out in daily life.” – D.A. Carson (tweet)
This is why we are talking about the church. The gospel of the kingdom has implications, out workings and therefore, we don’t want to take those for granted. One of those is the church.
What is the church?
Last week we learned that that kingdom of God has some good news. We learned that the gospel of the glory of the blessed God is the key to entry into the kingdom of the Son of God. We learned that the keys of the kingdom at least represented the authority to preach the gospel and open up the doors of the kingdom for people to come into the personal and corporate rule of Christ through faith and repentance. (I would argue that those who don’t believe the gospel are still under the rule of Christ ultimately as the Sovereign although under the domain of darkness because Jesus has not stopped being God, and he rules either for good or for judgment)
“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” – Colossians 1:13-14
The kingdom of God produces and creates the church! Listen to our statement of belief on the kingdom:
Therefore, “we believe that those who have been saved by the grace of God through union with Christ by faith and through regeneration by the Holy Spirit enter the kingdom of God and delight in the blessings of the new covenant: the forgiveness of sins, the inward transformation that awakens a desire to glorify, trust, and obey God, and the prospect of the glory yet to be revealed. Good works constitute indispensable evidence of saving grace. Living as salt in a world that is decaying and light in a world that is dark, believers should neither withdraw into seclusion from the world, nor become indistinguishable from it: rather, we are to do good to the city, for all the glory and honor of the nations is to be offered up to the living God. Recognizing who’s created order this is, and because we are citizens of God’s kingdom, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, doing good to all, especially to those who belong to the household of God. The kingdom of God, already present but not fully realized, is the exercise of God’s sovereignty in the world toward the eventual redemption of all creation. The kingdom of God is an invasive power that plunders Satan’s dark kingdom and regenerates and renovates through repentance and faith the lives of individuals rescued from that kingdom. It therefore inevitably establishes a new community of human life together under God.” (TRCC Statement of belief)
This new community of human life together under God is the church. The church is the community of the kingdom of God.
We are, therefore, now citizens of a new kingdom. This kingdom creates a whole new culture with new values and a new King to whom we give our allegiance. This whole new culture takes shape in the church.
The church is the community of the kingdom of God. The church is not the kingdom. But the gospel of the kingdom produces the church.
The church is not a building. The church is the gathering, the community of the people of the kingdom.
The good news of the kingdom produces fruit, and some of that fruit is the precious bride of Christ, the church.
The sower went out to sow, and he sows the good news of the kingdom, Jesus says. The seed, the word of the kingdom, falls onto hard hearts, shallow lives, crowded lives or lives ripe for the kingdom. The enemy comes and steals the word of the kingdom from the hard heart. But the shallow life, whose abundance is found in saving itself, gives a quick root to the word but fades when things get tough. The crowded life accepts the word of the kingdom like it accepts many words of many pretend kingdoms. But the word of the kingdom finds no room to grow and eventually is choked out by the deeply rooted ideas and activities already embedded. But when the gospel of the kingdom lands in good soil, the good news produces a crop of abundance.
Part of the abundant crop of the gospel message of the kingdom is the community of the kingdom, the church. The presence of the church is the fruit of the gospel message of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. The gospel saves people from the domain of darkness and puts them in the kingdom of Jesus Christ and forms them into his church.
The church is bigger than small group ministry.
You see, the church is not small groups. Small groups don’t observe the sacraments or engage in the great commission by planting churches, they don’t engage the domains of society through transforming domains, and they don’t make disciples through front door strategic engagement of unreached people groups. Show me one of those in the small group and I’ll show you a church that should be independent and appoint elders and begin functioning as a church.
No, most small groups (in western post-Christian southern culture) are inward focused and societally monochromatic.
Small groups are important, but they must be constructed on a common vision of the kingdom of God and NOT life preferences. We’ll talk about this more when we talk about “Radical Life” in a few weeks.
Even the “house church” in the west is nothing more than, by and large, wounded folks from the establishment or isolationists seeking escape from the “world” who are not engaged in disciple making beyond their familial borders. This is not the church.
The gospel of the kingdom of God makes disciples. Disciples fill the domains of society and make disciples in their domains, and the church grows from these domains as communities of the kingdom of God as outposts of the kingdom that are invading the dark territory that is temporarily held by the domain of darkness.
In case you don’t realize it, what was just said is revolutionary in western post-Christian circles. The reason is that for most of us the church is a negotiable variable regarding our discipleship, and for some it may be negotiable period. We think the church is a place where we go to hear preaching and we sing songs and maybe attend some kind of small group but beyond that it has no further relevance in our lives. We use it for our benefit and then go on about our lives.
The church is precious and not to be used, taken for granted or neglected. The church is the community of the kingdom. If one is in the kingdom they will be in the church.
If the church was not what happened when rebels are transferred from darkness to the kingdom of the Son of God and, therefore, necessary and vital, why would Jesus say he was going to build his church? Why would Paul spend so much time writing to the church (Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians)? Why would Paul tell Titus to appoint elders in the churches? Why would Paul care to instruct Timothy on the good order of the church that is a pillar and buttress of the truth? Why would Jesus reveal himself as being among his churches in Revelation 1:12-20 as opposed to the church’s small groups? Why would Jesus himself send letters through John to the churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea?
Well, the church is the community of the kingdom and is therefore, necessary and vital, and Jesus cares for his church.
Listen to our statement of belief on the church:
We believe that God’s new covenant people (the church) have already come to the heavenly Jerusalem; they are already seated with Christ in the heavenlies. This universal church is manifest in local churches of which Christ is the only Head; thus each “local church” is, in fact, the church, the household of God, the assembly of the living God, and the pillar and foundation of the truth. The church is the body of Christ, the apple of his eye, graven on his hands, and he has pledged himself to her forever. The church is distinguished by her gospel message, her sacred ordinances, her discipline, her great mission, and, above all, by her love for God, and by her members’ love for one another and for the world. Crucially, this gospel we cherish has both personal and corporate dimensions, neither of which may properly be overlooked. Christ Jesus is our peace: he has not only brought about peace with God, but also peace between alienated peoples. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both Jew and Gentile to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. The church serves as a sign of God’s future new world when its members live for the service of one another and their neighbors, rather than for self-focus. The church is the corporate dwelling place of God’s Spirit, and the continuing witness to God in the world. (TRCC Statement of Belief)
The church, rightly understood and cherished, is not negotiable.
If the church is to be cherished then marry the church, don’t date it. Daters use, but those who marry love. Daters are not committed, but those who marry stay the course. Daters view time together as negotiable, but those who marry want to spend time together.
We only experience the unity of kingdom life when we actually get into the community of the kingdom. We will only experience the power of the kingdom in the dynamic of the fellowship not in the isolation of selfishness. We will only experience the powerful gifts in the fellowship of the community on a common mission that will need encouragement in the mission.
If the church truly is what the gospel produces as the community of the kingdom, and if the church is that vital, then what are some points of application?
1. Attend regularly to encourage one another (Hebrews 10:24-25)
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
2. Attend a small group of people who are fellow members and share the church’s DNA (Ephesians 4:15-16; 1 Cor. 12:12-26)
If there is not a group to your liking, then start one. Don’t be a taker. Be a giver. Provide what is lacking. Make sure you are constructing relationships with people of the same spiritual DNA. Why? Because spiritual DNA produces family: values lead to relationships lead to collaboration lead to family
Mixing spiritual and missional DNA leads to a compromise of the individual and corporate mission.
3. Make sure you participate in the Lord’s Supper
The Lord’s Supper is a means of grace. The meal is given as a reminder of the gospel work that brought about the transfer from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of the Son. The Lord is present. The Lord is moving about his people. Be on time. Its God’s time not yours. Manage it well for your sake and for others.
4. Pray (Luke 18:1-8)
Jesus reminds us in Luke 18:1-8 that faith in Christ works itself out in prayer. Therefore, if you are in the kingdom pray for one another.
You simply can’t out give God. Kingdom people are giving people because the King is a Giver. Domain of darkness people are robbers because their king is a taker and thief.
6. Serve (1 Cor. 12:7)
“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
Jesus came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. Our King is a servant; therefore his subjects are servants too. Be in the body to serve others and be like our great King.
Worship is never intended to be private only, but primarily corporate. Notice that the worship described in the bible is always with people. The word “congregation” occurs 11 times in the Psalms and it is used to describe the place where the Psalm writer vowed to sing the praise they were writing. In other words, worship is to be done publicly with other worshipers.
 This is distinguished from house churches in the east that are truly functioning as the church.