Friday, April 9, 2010

Asking the Right Questions About the Church

As we think about the church, we need to ask the right questions.

One of the most basic questions is, "What is the church?" I will not try to give an exhaustive answer to this question. Many other people have already provided better answers to this questions than I could give. The point I'm trying to make is that in order to find the answer to this question, we almost all ask the question, "What does the bible say about what the church is?"

It is always important that we ask what the bible says about _______.

There is another important issue where we are not as consistent in the questions we ask. That question is, "What does the church do?"

We certainly look to scripture to see what it commands in this area. I hope we would all agree to follow the biblical commands about what the church is supposed to do. If we are not willing to do this, then we have some serious issues related to biblical authority.

It is at this point that we run into some serious differences of opinion related to what the church should do. I'm speaking specifically to what is modeled in scripture. It may not be commanded, but it is displayed for us to read about.

This is closely related to the issue of whether or not what we see is prescriptive or descriptive.

So, what question should we ask? We could ask, "Why not follow what is modeled?" We could also ask, "Do we have freedom to not follow what is modeled?"

Let's follow each of these two questions to their end points. First, we may ask, "Why not follow what is modeled?" If we answer by trying to follow what has been modeled, we will obviously only do the things that the apostles gave approval to. For example, we would celebrate the Lord's Supper as a full meal like the church in Corinth. We would not, however, turn the Lord's Supper into a carnal free-for-all like the church in Corinth.

The benefit of asking this question is that we will end up living the life of the church according to practices that were approved of by the apostles. They certainly would have understood better than anyone else what Jesus would have wanted His church to do.

Now to the second question (which is asked very frequently today). That question is, "Do we have freedom to not follow what is modeled?" It can get difficult in a hurry in trying to answer this question. If we assume that we have freedom where the bible is silent, then we will end up doing various things in the life of the church that are not in the bible. These practices are unbiblical in the sense that they are nowhere to be found in scripture.

The problem with this question is that we cannot know for sure whether or not what we are doing is approved by God. Let's take an example: Children's Church. The bible nowhere speaks specifically to this issue. Therefore, many churches have a Children's Church. Is this pleasing to God or is it not? We just don't know.

When we ask this second question over and over, we may end up with numerous church practices that we cannot be certain about. Simply put: we won't know whether God, who is the head of the church, is pleased with what we are doing in His church.

We must be careful to ask the right questions. If we ask what the early church model was and try as best we can to follow this, then we have much more certainty that what we are doing is pleasing to God.

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