Today I spent some time looking at an application for a theological college. There are a lot of questions on there. A few I’ve left for the moment because they seem like the type of questions I should sit at a desk to answer, but there’s one that God gripped me with. It was this:
What do you think the significant characteristics of the Christian church are?
There’s a Catholic priest who seems to be more of an atheist that the 7pm Project gets as a panelist on all things religion. They had him on just before Easter, and one of the things he said was that one of the reasons churches are losing people is that they aren’t willing to embrace other religions. He was talking about churches letting go of basic, vital, central doctrine so that we can fill more seats and be more politically correct.
If this happened, the significant characteristics of the Christian church would fade away and we would merely be part of the world. Here’s my long answer to the question from the application – because they only gave me 3 lines and this gives me more room to think.
The significant characteristics of the Christian church are that we are the body of Christ, our function is to bring glory to God and hope to the lost and that we hold in our hearts and our minds the truth that changes everything.
The idea that we are the body of Christ blows me away. It means that church isn’t just this still, stagnant building. It isn’t a bunch of people sitting in a room. It’s a living, breathing organism that has form and function and purpose. It means, too, that when someone becomes part of a community that they become a part of that united purpose. They are part of something bigger. We are part of something bigger. It becomes not about individualistic salvation but instead about being individuals united by a God who is more glorious than we can comprehend. And our purpose is to declare the glory of God.
This was said recently, but it’s worth saying again. In the Psalms, it says that the heavens declare the glory of God. If you take a good look at what our purpose is, you’ll find that it’s also to declare the glory of God. We have the same job description as the stars that we gaze up at in wonder so often. How cool is that?! The church exists to glorify God. That is such a big characteristic that we often forget. We get lost in the numbers, the marketing, the programming… and forget that the base of everything we do, is the glory of God.
And in our hearts and minds – and of course, at the very heart of the body of Christ – is the truth that changes everything. It is the truth that God is loving and just. It is the truth that we are not good enough on our own and we choose to walk our own way. It is the truth that even though we rejected God, God pursued us through his Son Jesus Christ who is God and was with God in the beginning. And who became flesh. His flesh was broken for us, so that by his wounds we could be healed. And we are called to be a part of the body of Christ, to glorify God because He is worthy. Because that is the truth. And the truth matters.
What are the significant characteristics of the Christian church?
That’s my thoughts… But what are yours?