Face it, it is incredibly easy—too easy—to participate in the Christian church / community and in Christian worship with total attention blindness about what its real purpose it to be for my life, … and never notice. For so many of us formed by the former Christendom culture, ‘going to church’ was a habit, too often engaged in mindlessly. It reminds me of the ditty: “They do it every Sunday. They’ll be over it on Monday. It’s only a habit they’ve acquired.”

I need to continually ask myself: What is my anticipation as I participate in the Christian community, in Christian worship? Or, perhaps more basically: “What is Christ’s purpose and design for the Christian community?” … and not asked mindlessly. I need to ask, on a regular basis: How am I fulfilling my baptismal / confirmation vows (or do I even remember them)? If one enters Christ, by repentance and faith, … then that is a very radical intellectual, moral, and ethical vow. One vows (according to classic baptismal vows) to become Christ’s faithful disciple, to forsake all other lords and loyalties, to renounce Satan and all the forces of evil, and to live, henceforth, only for Christ, … then he / she is can no longer be passive as a fellow participant in that community.

My thesis in all of these blogs is that the church is the communal form of God’s new creation, of God’s new humanity in Christ. That community becomes, thereby, the “dwelling place of God by the Spirit” according to apostolic teachings. One becomes, thereby, a person called to be part of the ministry. In the New Testament documents, there is very little that describes any set form of that community. It was for decades a suspect, often a clandestine community. A key concept in those early documents is the repetitive use of the concept of one another as describing our ministry to one another. In the post-Pentecost description, it only states that they were together in public and from house to house. In Paul’s letter to the Christians at Colosse, they are encouraged to let the word of Christ dwell among them as they minister to one another in songs and hymns and spiritual songs.

All believers, according to Ephesians 4, are to be equipped for ministry. All are to be creators of Christian community, to be contextually and culturally sensitive, to be skillful in communicating the good news of Christ. To be sure, there were those who emerged (and do emerge) in the community as more skillful teachers, disciple-makers, models and mentors, but not as a separate (clergy) class. Neither were there places that were special (sacralized) sanctuaries, though places could become special and meaningful. What that means, though, is that we must be continually asking ourselves about how we conceive of our personal response to the community.

In a sense, the New Testament church was more like the crowd-sourcing of the digital age, than it is by the clergy-sanctuary focus of so much of our contemporary scene. Again, I always need to be sensitive of my / our ministry of nurture and encouragement to the others in the community.

Again: what is my anticipation of the Christian community? How am I being a faithful disciple of Christ as well as a ministering participant to the others? What is the role of the teaching-shepherd, and of the sermon? What is the purpose of the liturgy and music? What is the purpose of the prayers? … I love the prayers of one of the elders in my community who always prays for all of us in our particular places in the 24/ world of home, neighborhood, workplace, vicissitudes, difficulties, … as well as our life together, and for the church’s leadership. How are we together incarnating faithful discipleship?

Let’s begin 2019 in pursuit of such integrity and faithfulness, to be teaching and encouraging one another …for starts.

About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
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