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why I love the Church

September 26, 2017

I am going to share some of my frustrations with Church over the next few blogs, but before I do, and long before I get criticised for church bashing, I want to set the record straight:

I love the Church. It is a place where I have spent a lot of my time in one way or another. I have been a member of one local church or other for the last 40 plus years, I have led churches and served churches – and let’s be honest, earned my living from churches for most of my adult life. So when I get to blog about some of the things that could be better (in my view), it is completely in the context of loving the Church.

1 The church is Gods plan for the universe.

When God set out to rescue the world he had made, to save it from itself – the wrong decisions we make as humans, and the disasterous consequences of them. What the bible names as “sin”. He came as Jesus firstly to identify with us (he became as human and flesh bound as I am!), then to rescue us by paying the penalty for my wrong doing. By doing this Jesus is not just rescuing individuals – but making a people (somethimes described as a nation – but not the nation state we think of today) – and this people, made up from people rescued from around the world and throughout time, is called the Church! But this is not the end of the rescue plan! The bible tells us that one day creation itself will be rescued, it describes it as waiting “for the sons of god to be revealed”, it also mentions that when KIng Jesus is crowned and the earth put right that the church will be an integral part of Christ filling the universe with himself. In everyday language this means that the church will be at the heart of the new Kingdom of God when the world is re-made.

2 The Church has Gods fingerprints of reconciliation and unity all over it.

The church that Jesus made when he rescued mankind is made up from people “of every tribe and language”. It is an amazing rainbow people who – if they hadn’t been rescued would have absolutely nothing in common with each other. Even if the language wasn’t a barrier there would be loads of different reasons why they (we) wouldn’t get along!

Frankly, we do treating people different well! We love to find some reason to treat others differently, to exclude them, to ridicule them, to persecute them – and this happens over age, gender, race, culture, class, and wealth (or lack of it). But the church is the place where all these differences mean absolutely nothing: Paul writes in the bible that in the church there is “neither Jew nor Gentile (non-Jew), neither male nor female, neither slave nor freeman. The church is a community of Gods rainbow people.

3 The Church is the way Jesus is made real in the world today.

Jesus said to his first followers that they were to be salt and light in the world. Within the church we find ourselves quoting this often – but maybe we don’t get how radical this is. For those first followers it meant that they were to travel to villages (places they may never have been before), and do what Jesus was doing. Specifically this includes announcing that the Kingdom of God was breaking in – and inviting people to enter it, to pray for the sick to be healed, (and they were), and to cast out the demonic spirits that troubled people. This radical way of doing things won them – Jesus – followers, and caused trouble.

The church since has – at it’s best – continued to do just this. People encounter Jesus in the church and find that their lives has changed, they find that they are loved, accepted and cared for, they find freedom from sickness and addictions, they find peace where they were troubled and they also become followers of this Jesus.

The church is the hands and feet of Jesus today – being Jesus in the world, in humanity, in “flesh” just as Jesus was the human form of God in the world of his day.

4 The Church is the place where people grow as followers of Jesus

All this becoming something and someone new and different is not automatic, but is a process that follows a decision. That process can take years as we gradually learn how to live our lives in the way God had intended, and therefore flourish. This process is called “discipleship”, and it is made possible by the church. It is in the church that we learn to rub along with people different from us, to forgive and be forgiven, to find our place and serve – doing our bit for the greater good. It is in the church we find our mentors, our role models, or encourager’s and our friends and fellow travellers.

Church is the place where all this is true, we are part of the future and purpose of the universe, we find our place alongside all the other rainbow people, we make Jesus visible in the places where we live our lives and we gradually become more like Jesus.

AS Bill Hybells (Pastor of Willow Creek church in America) said “Church is the only ball game in town.

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