Saturday, February 03, 2007

Marks of the Church II

Marks of the Church II

Marks of the Church II

One of the respondents asked for a fuller presentation of the Marks of the Church. Thomas Oden’s Systematic Theology, Life in the Spirit, Vol. 3, gives an excellent summary. The Reformed tradition identifies Word (true teaching), Sacrament (proper celebration of Lord’s Supper and Baptism), and Discipline. Earlier creeds identified the church by Unity (founded in Jesus Christ – 2 or 3 gathered in his name…), Holiness (set apart from the world), Catholicity (not bound to a particular place or time) and Apostolicity (grew out of and continues the teaching and ministry of the Apostles). Oden combines the two streams into a “consolidating thesis: That ekklesia in which the Word is rightly preached and sacraments rightly administered and discipline rightly ordered will be one, holy, catholic and apostolic.”

This is very important because we have those who say that we should do mission first, that is, simply proclaim the gospel, and not worry at all about what comes out of it, i.e., the church. At first glance this may seem attractive. But in fact the church begins at Pentecost and it begins with the true preaching of the apostles, with baptism and the breaking of bread, with unity, for as the converts scattered they understood their continuing unity in the Holy Spirit, and with holiness.

This is the core. If we recapture it, then we can stop wasting ink telling each other that a church can be a church even if it meets in a cave or a garage and even if it uses a different format and on and on. Of course it can. But, it can’t be the church without the above marks. So I would beg you that when we talk about how the church needs to change etc. that we start here with the historic understanding of what is being talked about when we say “church.” From here the discussion has promise of being very fruitful.


Coutts said...

I think a lot of people these days are so concerned with being a non-churchy-church that i wonder how long that will last. i agree with a lot of what newword was saying in the last post, but i wonder what kind of superman or woman pastor is going to fit the bill. i think the CEO capatilist mindset has crept into our idea of leadership, no doubt, but most of the pastors today have the right heart about it, and in a lot of cases are probably waiting for people in their congregations to come along. the thing is, you can have a hundred people in your church who have all the right ideas and vision but if they don't have a committed love for their local church how are they ever going to see it through? too often the vision is there but not the commitment, and so we have people (of my generation) leaving before it has a chance to get off the ground. without love for Jesus' church and the people (even the fuddy-duddys) it isn't going to happen (at least not without birthing a new church).

history has shown that no matter how authentic and exciting the new church is, it inevitably becomes an establishment of its own for the next generation to rebel against. it is high time we built on our forebears instead of running from them. my generation needs to try very hard not to run. we are in danger of being the new kind of pharisee who rejects their church in favour of their ideals.

that said, too many of my generation have been all out ignored and all but pushed away. boomer worship does not appeal, and there is little room for even the smallest changes, and they feel unwelcome. i wish they wouldn't leave but I understand why. Years ago I almost left a couple times myself.

but i know most of us want the same thing (some of the people I've had the least in common with in terms of church vision have been of the most kindred of spirits in love for Christ, and that has been hard to ignore), we need to listen to each other, ditch the garbage, keep the gold, and get on with it in love.

i would call my generation to be as committed and loyal as possible, and to try very hard to speak graciously and truly and to see their forebears as brothers and sisters. but i would challenge the idea that loyalty and committment is equal to sitting in the same pew for 30 years. refusing to adapt and grow is not the same as loving your local church. it is loving what you got out of your local church and holding on to those memories at all costs. that isn't loyalty, that's borderline selfishness.

loyatly to the church is loyalty to what the Spirit wants to do in it day by day and year by year. in Christ's name and by his grace we'll carry on with that.

Len said...

Its a good subject for a wide conversation.. I think I'll take it on at my blog Thursday..

the Doug said...

I know I am late to this particular discussion, but I suppose my question to throw in this discussion is what does "discipline" as stated here mean?
I think that some of the issues the church is facing has to do with discipline. Discipline with regards to what is the reaction of the community of faith to blatant sin in their midst. How does a local church (let alone a denomination) administer grace and still hold on to some semblance of accountability.
Discipline with regards to a personal structuring of life. Here I'm talking about disciplines such as fasting, prayer, personal study and reflection, all those wonderful things that take time and soul searching and as often as not make us realize that we need to change.

My question is not to challenge, but to seek out what this means.