bits from bob....
This final article in this series does not add to the discussion of the purpose of the church, but rather asks, what are the implications for ministry and ministry training? In view of the tasks to which the church is called or commissioned, what kind of education and training should ministry training institutions (colleges, universities, seminaries, preacher training institutes, etc.) be providing? What should ministry students understand? What experiences should they have? What expectations are realistic? The answers to these questions are centered in biblical understandings of the church.
Those who would seek to minister effectively and facilitate the work of the church in the fulfillment of God's purpose must develop a broad understanding of the nature of the church in order to understand its mission in the world. I suggest and briefly describe ten items.
1. The church as human community. The church is divine in origin, but human in composition. The church exists "for people." The church answers the needs of humanity and exists to serve people. The church integrates spiritual and physical concerns, reflecting the nature of humanity. The church must never lose sight of people. The church cannot become what God desires without honoring its human dimension.
2. The church as caring community. The church, called to follow Jesus, imitates the compassion and concern of Jesus. The church is a "one another" community, caring for its members. The church is also a caring and sharing community in its relationships to others.
3. The church as evangelistic community. The church is "for the gospel." That is, the church exists as both proclamation and proclaimer of the good news of Jesus, reflecting that message in its life individually and corporately and actively telling others about Jesus.
4. The church as global community. While the church exists in smaller, localized congregations, the church is universal in scope. The church must never see itself in its smallness, but must always seek to see itself in its grandeur. The church is "for the world." The church has a global concern that reaches around the world.
5. The church as benevolent community. The church as benevolent community is challenges beyond its focus on caring and sharing. The church is "for the poor." The church must never lose sight or be out of touch with the poor of the world, beginning with the poor on its own doorstep.
6. The church as universal community. As human community, the church is for people. As global community, the church is for the world. As universal community, the church is "for all people." It is no easy task to be for all people. It is easy to be for some people, especially when those people are like us. It is not easy to lift up eyes and to touch all people. Yet that is the call of Jesus who came to save all people.
7. The church as holistic community. The church reaches out to people to meet the most basic and deepest needs but demonstrating the integration of spirit and body. Healing comes by identifying Jesus as Lord is every facet of life.
8. The church as penitent community. The church is continually called to repentance and change. The church never arrives. The church is constantly challenged. The church as penitent community recognizes that repentance is not a once for all activity, but is an ongoing need.
9. The church as holy community. The church is called to holiness and separation. The church is holy as God is holy. The church is holy because its members live holy lives, but the church is sanctified also in its actions and purpose when it is continually responsive to its Lord and honors its separation for the task.
10. The church as worshiping community. The church worships because of who it is. Worship is something the church does, but it reflects what the church is. The church cannot not worship. The church celebrates and remembers its dependence on God's initiation of love and salvation. The church combines its hearts in adoration and praise. A group of people, even moral and good people, who do not share worship are not the church.
I am confident my list is too long and could perhaps be consolidated into fewer points. Effective churches and effective ministers may not understand perfectly each of these identities, but they at least catch a glimpse of God's grand plan and purpose, and attempt to live out these realities, thereby bringing the church more and more into the image and likeness of Christ, and making possible the fulfillment of God's eternal purpose for his people.
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