Archive for March, 2011

What is Church?

March 25, 2011 2 comments

What’s the good word? I was recently asked by a non-believer who found out I was a pastor, “So, what is church really?” Good question I thought. We had a good conversation, and I thought I would try to put down some thoughts as to what church really is! For some, church (or organized religion) can be very frustrating. For some, they have been hurt by the church. For many, church can be hard to stomach, and the reasons why are difficult, complex and not easy to answer. But no one said Christianity was easy, or that being part of the Church would be a breeze. I was told that a member of my church left because I challenged them too much in my preaching. But for some, it is a place of sanctuary. A place to get away from it all. Perhaps that is what church was to this person that left.

The Church is what followers of Christ are called to be. The Church is described in Scripture as nothing less than the body of Christ on earth. It’s not a slight, optional activity. According to Scriptures like Romans 12:5 and Ephesians 3:6, it’s the one body with many members, each an important and crucial piece of the mission of Jesus Christ. In fact, the New Testament always reserves the word church (ekklesia) for teh people of God, It never uses this word to refer to a building of any sort. In fact, for the first three centuries, the Christians did not have any special buildings in which to worship. Meeting in homes was about it, and it was a conscious choice of the early Christians. In fact, many scholars have agreed that it seems that the term, “Go to church” was first said in AD 190 by Clement of Alexandria. It would have been a phrase that was foreign to the first century believers. I mean, after all, you cannot go to something you are! No the term Ekklesia, in every one of its 114 appearances in the New Testament, refers to an assembly of people. Until the year 300 we know of no buildings first built as churches.

We always say the church is a people, and yet we are so tied to our buildings. I wonder how our view of the church would change if we truly took to heart that the church is in fact the body of Christ- people. And given that, how then would that change the view of those on the outside who are unsure or who have been hurt by “the church”? Ancient Judaism was centered on three elements: the Temple, the priesthood, and the sacrifice. When Jesus came, He ended all three for his followers, fulfilling them in Himself. He is the temple who embodies a new and living house made of living stones. He is the priest who has established a new priesthood (for us Lutherans, the priesthood of all believers). And He is the perfect and finished sacrifice. What is your view of the church? How do you see it? And that’s the good word for today.


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March 2, 2011 1 comment

What’s the good word? I am leading a class right now called “The Power of a Whisper”, and mostly it is about tuning our ear to hear the whispers, or promptings, of God. I am reminded about the story of Samuel in the Old Testament. There is a point when God calls out to Samuel, and Samuel’s response is, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” The message that the Lord then spoke to young Samuel was a prophetic promise that would radically impact an entire nation. I’ve tried many times to listen for the whispers of God in my life and in my ministry. I didn’t do it well enough in the beginning, but as I learned to listen for God’s promting, I must say, he hasn’t let me down yet. That isn’t to say that at times what he told me was easy. No, there have been many times when it was difficult to hear what God was prompting me to do. In the end, the rewards have far outweighed the tough times. And why not put my whole life in God’s hands? Why not trust him fully? “I challenge you to give him full clearance to lead your life, every area of your life, until the point that he proves himself untrustworthy.” Those were the words of a mentor of mine who said that to me in a Starbucks when I had a point in my ministry where I was doubting things. God’s whispers can even come from people who are around you it seems. And there will be times whne a certain number of whispers that come our way will drive us to our knees and stretch our faith, but so be it. We only live once. I had a great class the other week hearing people’s stories of God’s whispers in their life. So it got me to thinking, I would love to hear more!! What is your whisper story? I hope you will share. Was there a time when you receieved a whisper and what was it about? And that’s the good word for today.

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