Wednesday, October 27, 2010

An Identity Crisis?


We are living in a time of significant change with a major shift in the way we process information. Ongoing change in communication and the arts reflect the changing values of our society. Structures that housed the modern era for the past five hundred years are crumbling. Some view this as a crisis in our culture. The Chinese character signifying the idea of "crisis" combines two characters, one for "danger" and the other for "opportunity." Crisis is made of both, and so is the current situation for the Church and its message.

As Christ followers, we must examine our roots and assess the true DNA of the Church. Many have attempted to define the Church and its practice biblically. The search for the true New Testament Church is ongoing, yet the process of changing is slow and even nonexistent at times. Many are unwilling to pay the costs required to take us outside the box.

Let’s examine the Church, Jesus and His gospel. We must be committed to a continual re-examining and restoration of the Church as it is revealed in scripture. In my next few blogs, I want to examine the missional nature of the Church and the message we are to carry to the nations.


In times of change, we face some key questions:
  • Is the Church a hindrance to overcoming and, therefore part of, the problem?
  • Is the Church neutral and therefore, not relevant to this emerging generation?
  • Are the message we bring and our method of sharing it relative to this new context?
  • How do we articulate within and to our context? Will our remedy fit?
  • How much has our past cultural framework domesticated the Church and our understanding of the gospel?
  • Is the Church in a crisis?
The Church has been influenced by culture and tradition. Church leadership is a “professional class” and the current American view of Evangelical leadership is often negative. Bob Roberts, Jr. recently tweeted that he has often been told, “You’re evangelical? You’re not like what I thought!" One said, "I thought all evangelicals were mean!"

The Church does what it believes itself to be.

We must re-examine what the essence or nature of the Church is. Craig Van Gelder does a fine job with this in his book The Essence of the Church: A Community Created by the Spirit. He makes the stirring point that the Church does what it believes itself to be. Consider his view of the Church’s true identity and the activity coming from this identity:

"The Church ‘is’ (a unique community of God's people created by the Spirit to fulfill the mandate of the Kingdom of God) before it ‘does.’"

"The Church is God’s personal presence in the world through the Spirit. It is to live as a missionary community under the rule and reign of God."

"The 'Kingdom of God' (God's rule and reign) sent the Spirit; the Spirit created (Acts 2: 1) and leads (John 14-16) the Church; the Church consciously takes up God's agenda in the world in the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus ‘mission’ is an inherent aspect of the nature of the Church."

"The Kingdom of God anticipates and calls into existence a people of God, the Church. The Church comes into existence and is shaped by the reality of God's redemptive reign. The Church is possessed by the Kingdom of God. This makes the Church an agent of the Kingdom."

Biblical Metaphors for the Church

Scripture also reveals several pictures of the Church.
  • The people of God (Romans 9:25-26; I Peter 2:9; Revelation 5: 9-10)
  • The Body of Christ (Romans 12: 4-5; I Corinthians 10: 16-17; Ephesians 1: 22-23)
  • The Communion of the Saints (I John 1: 3,6; I Cor 10:6; 2 Cor. 13:14; Phil. 1:5)
  • The Creation of the Spirit (I Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:19; I Peter 2:5)
So we understand that the Church is the presence of God in the midst of a community. It is the representative of Christ in the midst of people. "If you've see us, then you've seen Christ."

The life of God in Trinity is lived out in the midst of community. God indwells the community and the Church is the place where God is manifested on earth. His people are His dwelling place. His presence is accessible among His people.

The Church is God moving into the neighborhood. "The word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood" (John 1:14 The Message Bible). Therefore, mission is an inherent aspect of the nature of the Church. This is not to be understood in terms as something it does, but something it is and thus cannot but do.