God the great and powerful (and warm and wonderful)
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by Marsha Michaelis
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Sat Nov 30, 2013
by Andrew Weiseth
The Church: A Gospel-Centered Community, Part 1
It’s a buzzword. It’s often misunderstood. It’s central to the Christian faith and yet absent from many churches: Community. I will address two main issues with our attempts to find community. First, defective Christian views of community are based on unbiblical notions of the Church. Second, true community is based not on what you do but who you are.
Church: A Community?
Most church-goers conceive of church as a building. On Sunday mornings they get up, get dressed, and “go to church.” However, this is not how the early Christians conceived of church. They did not go to church—they were the church. Church is a community, not a building or a meeting. Church is all week, not just on weekends. Church literally means a “public assembly of people.” It has to do with people gathering, not with program-participating. In trying to communicate the church as community to my two-year-old son, I have changed the way I talk about church. Instead of telling him that we are “going to church,” I tell him that we are going to be with the church, to sing and eat with them. Once Christians repent of reducing church to buildings and programs and begin to cherish the people God has given them to live with, warts and all, community will increase.
The Household of God
In a letter to a pastor named Timothy, the apostle Paul described the church as “the household of God.” Household has more to do with dwelling and living than it has to do with brick and mortar. God dwells in the church. The church is not just people; it’s God’s living room, his neighborhood. Church is both human and divine, a place where people and God live in community together.
God: A Community of Persons
Community as a divine-human phenomenon is traced back to the nature of God. God is not, as many assume, a disinterested Scientist, a removed Observer, or an impersonal Energy. According to the Bible, God is three persons in relationship—God the Father, Son and Spirit. God has always existed as a community of persons, self-sufficient, self-delighting, self-honoring, with no need of anything or anyone else.
The Imago Dei
When he created the universe, he made man like himself, “in his image.” This means many things. One thing it means is that man was created with a need for community. We don’t need the Bible to prove this need. Even feral children, kids that are abandoned in the wild, make friends with animals. We are social creatures.
The Redemption of Community
God is also purposeful. He designed the universe for redemption. New life comes out of dying stars. In divine agreement, the Trinity agreed that Jesus would die to rescue the world that man would mar. Jesus died “before the foundation of the world.” As a result, Jesus put the creation project back on track. He began restoring it right away. Healing lepers, stilling storms, balancing the unstable, drawing people back into community with God and with one another. God is missional. One of his purposes is to redeem and restore community by saving humanity from their broken relationships with him and with one another.