A Vision of the Church: The Community of the Kingdom
In the history of the American Restoration Movement the doctrine of the church has been of central importance. What began primarily as a dream of uniting the church became a quest for the true church. In the years following the founding years of the Stone-Campbell Movement ecclesiology became almost identified with focus on issues of structure but very little thought went into what the "soul" of the church might be.
In this blog I wish to explore some of those soul issues of what it means to be the community of the kingdom of God. I do not dismiss concerns of form outright but recognize that form can be overstressed. Water is water whether it is ice, liquid, or vapor. The "soul" of water is two hydrogen atoms combined with one oxygen atom ... the form does not alter that fact. In the same way there is a "soul" of the church.
I believe that every facet of the church is to be focused and grounded on the person of Jesus, his ministry and his death and resurrection. This community founded upon the Man functions as a redemptive community that shares in and continues the ministry of Jesus. Thus the church is to have a good reputation in the community, being aware of the unique spiritual and physical needs of those around her. She will be known for her compassion and concern for the poor, for mercy toward those stained and tortured by sin, and for her openness to all who embrace the Savior.
The community of the kingdom should be known, like Jesus, as a "friend of sinners." The church is where both saved and unsaved people can find love, hope, purpose in life, and most of all grace. Grace is the ministry of the family of Christ. It is a true community "where everybody knows your name." While the church never diminishes the demands of the way of cruciform discipleship, and thus calls all to follow the way of holiness, the redeemed community will always point to the Cross of Christ because none of us even come close to meeting those demands.
The community of the kingdom is also a place of joyful worship. My vision of the church sees a vast number of sinners redeemed by the blood of the Lamb gathered in praise in the presence of His Holiness, the Almighty. The church offers only the best she can as a sacrifice to God because he has already done the best in his Son.
The community of the kingdom is where disciples discover gifts for ministry they never dreamed of. Church is where we find meaning in holy relationships with one another, it is the family we never knew we had. The community of the kingdom is where sacrifices are joyfully made for one another so that our Abba's will may be done one earth as it is in heaven.
The community of the kingdom is a place of prayer. In this community we cry for the fullness of the kingdom of God to come. Church is where God's children intercede for each other. It is where we come before the throne and experience intimate fellowship the world of this age can never grasp.
The community of the kingdom is a non-judgmental and non-denominational fellowship of redeemed sinners united by faith in Christ and adopted by grace into the divine family. The community of the kingdom recognizes there is only One who sits on the throne while she kneels as the foot of the Cross. She never trust in her own sufficiency but always prays for the empowering Spirit to lead her into further understanding of the profound depths of God's word.
The church is a community that lives in the shadow of the coming fullness of the kingdom of God. It is a community that embraces its alien status as we wait for the redemption of the cosmos at the end.
This is a brief description of the vision I have of God's church.