Friday, October 05, 2007

Speaking for the Church

In North America we have canonized individual freedom. We have turned freedom of speech into a right to have all our opinions taken seriously. We have turned the freedom to worship God in our own way into our own private religion (or non-religion).

And this individualism has worked its way into our churches.

There has been considerable discussion of the dangers of an individualistic view of Christianity. We've turned our faith into another commodity to be exchanged in the marketplace.

But this problem isn't limited to individuals. This way of thinking has also infected our thinking about local congregations.

Each group sees itself as an autonomous voluntary association of Christians.

But Paul says, "We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body" (1 Corinthians 12:13). We usually interpret that in the context of the congregation. Paul seems to be saying something more.

Congregations should not be acting independently any more than individual Christians should be operating alone.

There is one Church with one Head.

The local congregation is not a branch of the universal Church, but it is the place where the universal Church is made visible. When the local congregation speaks and acts, its words and acts must claim to be the words and acts of the universal Church if they are to be authentic.
Lesslie Newbigin, Truth To Tell, p. 88

Yet we act as if we are independent contractors who "rent" the name Christian but run our own operations.

When we speak, we speak for the entire Church.

We are not just speaking for the group in our town who goes by our denominational label and who prefers our style of worship and shops at the same stores.

This means that we must be more careful about what we say (and what we don't say).

This means that we must be very careful about imposing rules and obligations upon the people in our congregation. We should follow the "categorical imperative" guideline. We should have no rules or obligations that we would not be willing to impose upon all Christians. No more of this, "It's our congregation (denomination), we can make whatever rules we want."

It's not our congregation (denomination). It is Christ's Church.

We don't get to operate it as a bunch of disconnected voluntary associations.

So what do you think? How does this change the way we think about ministry in the local church?

Pastor Rod

"Helping You Become the Person God Created You to Be."

3 comments:

ROD WILLETT said...

Should this impact church government? Baptists are fiercely independent. Some denominations assign pastors; others leave it to the individual church. How about the governmental structure within each church? Some church boards are strictly advisory to the pastor. Others actually hire and fire the pastor. You are stirring up a lot of implications.

daniel the smith said...

These are great points.

Maybe it's just me, but I don't really see this affecting administration methods that much...

JMC said...

The True Church of God can never be an institution of man. Like it or not, all denominations are institutions of man. The only institution of God that could be called the One True Church is compassion for one another as human beings. Anything less is just brick and mortar.