Cleaning Out the Ecclesiological Lint Trap

I’m always appreciative of works that remind us of what Christ intended for His church. At times, I feel as if church has become a lint trap, capturing all sorts of cultural preferences over time that have become non-negotiables, while the the non-negotiables of the New Testament are crowded out and become, well, negotiable. Or forgotten.
While recovering from the ailments that have prevailed over my health over the last week, I had the chance to finish up a wonderful work by Owen Strachan and Douglas Sweeney called The Essential Jonathan Edwards: An Introduction to the Life and Teaching of America’s Greatest Theologian. Edwards lived from 1703-1758 in Colonial America, and his influence is still felt today. But even almost three centuries ago, he still felt the pull that affected the life of church and church members. Toward the end of this work, Strachan and Sweeney summarize his conviction about the church of Jesus Christ:
“Local churches [need] to be more than a communal rallying point, a place to celebrate shared heritage and common political views, a conduit for certain social causes, a site of moral formation, or a safe zone for the training of children in certain behaviors and ideas. The church is grounded in truth and led by fearless Bible-loving “officers,” as Edwards calls them. God has said more to the church than just “be kind”; He has called the church to be a Word-centered family, and from this rock-solid bond of fellowship to offer the lost a powerful picture of transformation and acceptance. How important this is. Where many around us have no family, the people of God can become their family (Ps. 27:10).” Owen Strachan and Douglas Sweeney, “ The Essential Jonathan Edwards .” P. 422.
Let’s review the litany of what church should not primary consist:
  • Communal rallying point
  • Celebrating shared heritage
  • Common political views
  • Conduit for certain social causes
  • Site for moral formation
  • Safe zone for the training of children in certain behaviors and ideas.
Each of these aspects deserves its own blog post, but let’s stay positive–we should reclaim the purpose of the church: being and making disciples of Jesus.
Each of the bulleted points can find some sort of fulfillment elsewhere. But churches are there to preach, teach, equip, and send believers into their spheres of influence (friends, relatives, associates, neighbors) to live Christlike lives of holiness. While some of what we see in the above realms will overlap because political matters do address moral matters also addressed in Scripture, we react primarily as citizens of the Kingdom.

Let’s clean out the lint trap. Let’s get back to the non-negotiables of preaching the Word, teaching and applying the Word, observing the ordinances, and sharing Christ. 

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