No this is not a joke but I just watched the documentary on Martin Luther on PBS last night and that seemed to be a good title! Today’s DEE will be on Evangelical Theology and the role of the church in the community. Denver, like many cities had more churches than Starbucks and more churches with a wooden cross than buildings with a green cross! That has changed and in our neighborhoods we are beginning to see the community center come back to the church. But we need to understand the role of the church in our neighborhoods. Ancient Paths is a network of House churches, that meet in neighborhoods like Park Hill and City Park. They are influencing the city and engaging the culture. Washington Park Chapel is home to two congregations one that reaches people all over the city and suburbs and the other (Friendship Fellowship) which reaches Caregivers, people with Intellectual Disabilities and families in Washington Park. These are churches that celebrate the differences in the body (Friendship Fellowship is a church plant that is sponsored in cooperation by the Evangelical Free Church of America; and the Word and Spirit Church Network through Ancient Paths House Church Network). So we read about disunity but what we see is unity and the things we agree on. That’s where Evangelical Theology weaves it’s way in.
The Church: Ecclesiology
We believe that the true church comprises all who have been justified by God’s grace through faith alone in Christ alone. They are united by the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ, of which He is the Head. The true church is manifest in local churches, whose membership should be composed only of believers. The Lord Jesus mandated two ordinances, baptism and The Lord’s Supper, which visibly and tangibly express the gospel. Though they are not the means of salvation, when celebrated by the church in genuine faith, these ordinances confirm and nourish the believer.
My understanding of “justification” (cf. Romans 3:21-26), is that our justification as sinners is only by the grace of Jesus Christ. Justification was his to make amends through our faith in him and by his blood. This justification as Paul points out is so we “cannot boast,” that it is our own doing!
God’s Grace Through Faith Alone in Christ Alone
“Grace” and “faith” in Christ are related to justification in that we come to Christ and receive grace only through His work on the cross. The general revelation that we receive when we come to Jesus Christ is a work of the Holy Spirit. I love the Creed that calls the Holy Spirit, “the Lord, the giver of life.” The significance of the emphasis on “alone” is that no one outside of the Trinity is involved in our Salvation or our justification aside from Jesus Christ, again so we cannot boast, but we can give thanks and glorify Him.
Body of Christ, Jesus Christ as Head of Church
The scriptural metaphors of “the body of Christ,” “the bride of Christ,” and “the Head of the Church” are understood in the following ways:
“How Beautiful is the Body of Christ” writes Twyla Paris in this communion song. The church as a body is introduced to the disciples at The Last Supper. This is the true Body of Christ broken for us, so that sins may be forgiven. The body meets at a table where the redemption is on view in the fellowship of Christ Followers.
The Common Union
The second part of the same analogy is the unity of the followers who partake in the common union. As they come to the table they come from all walks of life, gifts and talents and they bring with them their own stories and baggage but they come in unity to receive the body of Christ. In our times denominational differences, different demographics and different approaches to worship, to readings, to prayer and to sacraments further fragment bone, marrow, and connective tissue yet Christ calls us to unity within the community of God where we can meet at the table and receive. Our goal together is to prepare the Bride of Christ for the coming of Christ the groom in the last days. Paul was the first to make it clear that Christ is the “head” of the church and the church eagerly accepts his headship. As the Bride the church places herself under the guidance and protection of her husband. (2 Cor. 11:2)
True Church and Local Church
The “true church” is made up of “local churches” that have been justified by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone. We relate to the true church through that justification in unity as believers and in fellowship with one another.
A “believers’ church” is a church made up of Christ followers and believers in who He is, what He has done and what He will do. Membership is important for a local church in order for unity, accountability, and fellowship. Responsibilities that members have in a local church range from serving, voting. Mandates for church membership are baptism and participating in the Lord’s Supper.
There are various types of church government which include Elders and Deacon led Churches, Clergy led churches and Congregational led churches each have strongpoints and weaknesses and depending on the denomination or church they are called to be involved in, the government of the church usually fits the style of the congregational members .
I see that hand
The Biblical defense of congregationalism can be found in the Old Testament. In 1 Kings 8:65 the people congregated as an assembly for a definite purpose. The church in Acts also met and was governed as a congregation and then a series of congregations. They shared everything; they provided for each other’s needs and regularly prayed, worshipped and shared the Lord’s Supper. (Acts 4:32-36).
Within congregationalism the Pastor(s), Church Board (Elders and Deacons), and Congregation function together for effective church ministry by working as a team, understanding each other’s roles , understanding their own duties and holding one another accountable. There should be a system of mentoring one another and guidelines in each area of ministry, leadership and communications.
The statement that the “EFCA shall be an association and fellowship of autonomous but interdependent congregations of like faith and congregational government is as follows: The church that I serve in is an association and fellowship. That means that I get together with other Pastors on a regular basis to discuss and worship together, pray and help one another. Since we are “autonomous but interdependent” it means that our church is not under the jurisdiction of any other church. We are however dependent on each other for help, fellowship and accountability. Denominational affiliation is important for me and the congregation for various reasons. The Evangelical Free Church has an interest in reaching out to special populations in various communities, it is a mission’s minded church and we are in agreement with the way EFCA is structured and dedicated to planting healthy churches.
The meaning and purpose of baptism is an outward symbol and statement of who a believer belongs to and their commitment in corporate worship. There are various modes of baptism that include immersion in a lake, pool, or baptismal or a sprinkling, or basin and cloth.
Jesus said as “often as you get together remember and do this in memory of me.” The meaning and purpose of the Lord’s Supper is just that. It is the body coming together to share the bread and the wine (juice) that represents the sacrifice that Christ died, rose, and will come again.
This is understood as symbolism in most churches but also in some they believe that the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus Christ. The common way the Lord’s Supper is celebrated is that each person who receives must be a follower and believer of Jesus Christ. There are some denominations that forbid anyone who is not of that denomination to receive. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians that we all must “examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.” Unworthy manner could be holding a grudge, or un-confessed sin and for us to come to the table it is important to come with a pure and contrite heart. This goes for any time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper.
Baptism and the Lord’s Supper relate to one another, for they are both outward expressions and statements of belief. In some churches there is a biblical order. Baptism is the first “sacrament” in many denominations and “First Holy Communion” is the next. Yet the Reformation and importance placed on Baptism is not in biblical order. If someone is a believer and they want to receive communion prior to their baptism it is allowed. Both confirm and nourish the believer through expression and prayerful obedience to God’s plan.