Our WCF (Westminster Confession of Faith) study last night was on “The Church”. One of my personal bugbears is when young hippy “Christians” go on about how they love Jesus but hate “the church”. For a Christian “the church” is where it’s at.
Here are nine propositions on church – they are a mix of reflections on last night’s discussions and other bits and pieces.
- We were asked how we’d answer the question “do you have to go to church to be a Christian” – it’s an old chestnut. I say yes. You don’t have to go to church to become a Christian – but once you are a Christian, or in order to continue “being” a Christian, you need to be part of the body of Christ. The 1 Corinthians 12 picture of Christian living involves serving others with your gifts. People throw up bizarre objections like “what if you’re a farmer living in the middle of nowhere?” – my answer is that the farmer should sell his farm and move. There are more important things in life than your farm, or your job.
- Church is not so much about learning or teaching – it’s about encouraging one another (Hebrews 10:25) while “meeting together” and you can’t do this by yourself. You can’t do it over the internet. Internet churches are dumb ideas and listening to podcasts is the equivalent of reading a Christian book – not the equivalent of going to church.
- Church is quite obviously not the building – but it is a word that has too many functions – it describes the universal body of believers, a local expression of the body of believers meeting in fellowship, and a building. It is not necessarily any group of Christians meeting together. A bible study is not “church” it is an activity that forms part of the broader community of church. The difference between a home group and a home church is intention and outlook.
- People who say they don’t love “the church” are completely missing the point of each of the definitions of church – if you truly don’t love the family of believers, chances are you aren’t one.
- There is a bit of a backlash happening against the “we hate the church” club – Kevin DeYoung wrote a book called Why We Love the Church – Between Two Worlds has some great insights from the book posted here.
- It’s hard to draw a line where the “universal” church ends and apostasy begins – the Confession treads that line pretty carefully before calling the Pope the antichrist.
- Part of the anti-church movement sees any “gathering” of Christians as the Church – but as Mark Driscoll pointed out in one of his talks during his time here (and paraphrased) a bunch of Christian guys hanging out at the pub calling themselves “the church” are more likely alcoholics.
- The characteristics of a church gathering are prescribed nicely in 1 Corinthians 11 – 14 these include the proper approach to the sacraments (the Lord’s Supper – 11v17-33), use of gifts (12v4–31), attitude to one another (13v1-13), evangelistic (14v23-24), and the program should include teaching and singing for the purpose of encouragement/strengthening (14v26).
- Some of the issues that people who “don’t like the church” have are related to failings of the church to live like the body of Christ – but to expect perfection from a body of sinners is odd.