The church is important. In Christ and Culture Revisited, D.A. Carson writes,
We need to be reminded that the only human organization that continues into eternity is the church. (217).
This statement, made somewhat in passing, highlights the importance of the church.
The seventh part of SEND’s Statement of Faith is:
We believe that the church is the body of Jesus Christ, for which He will return, consisting of all who have accepted the redemption provided by Him.
Throughout this series of blog posts on our Statement of Faith we have been asking the basic question, “How does this statement hold us?” We continue with these thoughts on the church.
1. How does this statement hold our thinking?
Our understanding of the church reflected in this statement is that the church is defined in terms of relationship to the person and work of Jesus Christ. The body metaphor implies our union with Christ that occurs when we accept the redemption provided by him. The relationship with Christ is primary and foundational. Yet there is also a relationship with all who have accepted that redemption. We are joined to Christ and fellow believers.
So any organization that may call itself a church, yet denies the person and work of Christ cannot be rightly considered a church. The identity of the church is tied to the gospel. Membership in the church is tied to accepting the redemption provided by Christ. Christ will return for all who are united to him through the cross.
SEND has always seen itself as a servant of the church in Gospel proclamation. It is the church, not the mission, that is the body of Christ. We mobilize God’s people from various churches so that they can, in partnership with their sending church/churches, engage the unreached to establish reproducing churches.
2. How does this statement hold our affections and will?
Love for Christ should characterize the church’s worship, fellowship, and outreach. Bavinck writes,
the church exists in the first place to praise God by word, deed, prayer, and worship. This doxological task is so central and all-controlling that it ought to constitute the very core of the life of the church. (An Introduction to the Science of Missions, 68).
Love for Christ is made tangible in our love for one another (see 1 John 4:15-21).
Christ has redeemed us so that we can be united to him as part of his body, the church. The love of Christ constrains us (2 Corinthians 5:14) to be his ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), proclaiming the Gospel to all peoples. Only those who have accepted the redemption provided by Christ are members of his body, the Church. Because this is so, our passion ought to be to make him known to all people. We commit our will to making disciples of all people groups.
3. How does this statement hold our actions?
Bavinck continues his thoughts on the activities of the church:
The church also exists to bear the glory of God’s Word from generation to generation, and from century to century, until faith will finally be transformed into sight. … It is, of course, not to be forgotten that the church also exists to satisfy the needs of the world. … Through his church Christ stretches forth his hands to those still outside the light of his everlasting salvation. (An Introduction to the Science of Missions, 69)
In SEND’s role as a servant of the church in “Mobilizing God’s People, Engaging the Unreached, and Establishing Reproducing Churches”, our actions must carefully build on the foundation of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:10-25). Our practices must keep clear that accepting the redemption that Christ has provided is essential to being part of the church. So we would delay starting “church services” until we have some converts.
Reproducing churches need to be equipped to “bear the glory of God’s Word.” As our first statement points out, the Bible is the “supreme and final authority in all matters of faith and conduct.” Training local church leadership to study the Bible and proclaim it will be essential if we are to leave a healthy church behind.
Recognizing that “the only human organization that continues into eternity is the church,” our thoughts, affections, and actions conform to the truth that the church is the body of Christ, united to him through accepting the redemption provided by him, united to fellow believers, and longing for his return.