Representing the Kingdom
Wedding cakes are great to look at and fun to eat. But the yellow pastels on this one in the pic are throwing me off a bit. So I'm imaging it's some rich chocolate cake underneath the white icing. But more on the cake in a minute.
To help us understand what's at stake in the local church, I'm going to use several figures that may open this up for us.
1. The nature of the church is paradoxical.
Consider what Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
1 Corinthians 1:2: To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.
In one verse we have the local church (Corinth) and the univesal church (all those who in every place ...). It's both universal, consisting of all true believers of all times and places. And it's local, visible, in identifiable communites. Look at these characteristics of the church:
1. The Church is INVISIBLEand VISIBLE.
2. The Church is UNIVERSALand LOCAL.
3. The Church is ONEand MANY.
4. The Church is SPIRITUALand HUMAN.
5. The Church is both a FELLOWSHIPand an ORGANISATION.
2. The church is the not the kingdom.
The church is the people of God; the kingdom is the rule and reign of God. The church consists of knowable, countable people; the kingom consists of qualitative dimensions like righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). Look at this chart comparing the two:
The church is called to represent the kingdom well; it does this when the quality of the kingdom marks its identity.
3. The church is God's household AND the support and pillar of the truth.
Paul brings these qualitative (what it feels like) and functional (what it does) ideas together in one verse:
1 Timothy 3:15: In case I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselvesin thehousehold [Gr. oikois] of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.
Imagine being invited to someone's new home. They usher you into their well-equipped lounge, invite you sit on a cushy, comfortable sofa, and offer you tea and coffee. Other interesting people are there, and it's an enjoyable night.
But in the background there was an electric system running enabling you to use lights; a plumbing system was at work, enabling you to visit the toilet; a structural system silently did its job, supporting the roof over your head. Even though you didn't want to see any of these systems - you wanted to experience the comfortable chairs, good food, and intersting people - they were all necessary to the experience.
On one hand, a house without furniture and people is not a home; it's just a house. in the same way, a church without the qualitative dimensions of the kingdom isn't really a church, just a collection of people. On other hand, a house without appropriate structure and systems isn’t habitable; a church without appropriate structure or systems isn’t true, faithful, church.
In the same way, healthy local churches are marked by a number of essential systems:
Essential Church Systems
- Truth System: (Orthodoxy): Biblical Doctrine
- Life System: (Orthopathos): Presence and Ministry of the Holy Spirit
- Love System (Koinania): Fellowship and Community
- Obedience System (Orthopraxy): The Lordship of Christ in Ethics and Morality
- Service System(Diakonia): Serve One Another
- Worship System(Latreia): your reasonable, spiritual worship
- Witness System (Martyria): You shall be my witness
- Leadership System (Episkopos): Church Government - Keep watch over the flock of which he has made you overseers (Acts 20:28).
- The life ofGod
- The love of God
- A heart of service
- A heartofworship
- A commitment to witness
4. The truth, life, and mission systems
Once upon time, Wimbledon didn't have its hawkeye system, the electronic sensor system able to determine whether or not the ball was in or out. This ambiguity gave rise to great spectacle when players like John McEnroe would challenge the referee's decision: 'You cannot be serious!'.
Calling a ball out is one thing; when it comes to truth, Paul would not hesitate to call a church out. And so in Galatians 1:6-9, whereas it was his custom to give a very warm greeting, he challenged these Christians for leaving God by forsaking the gospel and embracing a different truth system. They left God's grace and developed another perspecrive, and rather than telling them 'that's OK', Paul boldly tells them they have crossed the line.
In the same way, we need truth, life and mission systems to keep us on track. If the church is the support of the truth, we need to know what it is we're supporting. If one of these systems breaks down, we become a less than faithful church.
Here's a picture of key words that define Centrepoint Church - and here's a link to describing what these mean.
It's like a wedding cake. It doesn't matter how good it looks on the outside - if it's not tasty on the inside, no one wants to eat it. We don't want to be a church that just looks good on the outside. We want the substance of Christ's kingdom to fill every nook and cranny of our house.
We want to be a faithful household - marked by God's kingdom, filled with God's presence, defined by God's truth.