Posted in: Theological Clarity
God Sends His Church Into the World
Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears recently published Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe covering basic Christian theology. In chapter 10, they outline a biblical understanding of The Church. We want our pastors to have theological clarity regarding their ecclesiology.
What is the Church?
A stark difference exists between the picture of the church painted in Scripture (Acts 2) and the perception of most today. In the book of Acts, we see a generous, united and loving society. Today when hearing the term “church,” many mistakenly think of a building at best, and a mob of angry, political, divisive, judgmental hypocrites at worst.
The (local) church is biblically defined as follows:
The local church is a community of regenerated believers who confess Jesus Christ as Lord. In obedience to Scripture they organize under qualified leadership, gather regularly for preaching and worship, observe the biblical sacraments of baptism and Communion, are unified by the Spirit, are disciplined for holiness, and scatter to fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission as missionaries to the world for God’s glory and their joy. (Doctrine: 307)
What is Jesus’ Relationship to the Church?
Jesus is the head of the church – and this refers to more than hierarchical structure. The mission of the church was started by Jesus, the first missionary: he left heaven and came down to earth to live among sinful, lost people, and to show them the way to the Father through the Spirit’s empowerment. Upon his return to heaven, Jesus’ mission was handed to the church for its continuation, also by the Spirit’s empowerment.
Jesus is the head, apostle, builder, chief shepherd & ruler and judge of the church. He also is present in the church (“I am with you always”).
What is the Church’s Gospel?
The church’s gospel has three aspects: revelation, response and results. Gospel revelation centers on “what God did” – the reality of Jesus’ death & resurrection in context of our sinful lostness. Gospel response is the “what we do” part – entirely Spirit-empowered change as a result of revelation. Gospel results are about “what God gives” to us – Jesus’ righteousness, the Holy Spirit living in us, a new heart, and membership in Christ’s body, the church.
Who Leads a Church?
Jesus is the “senior pastor” of every church, beneath which there are three offices biblically outlined within the church. In order of hierarchy, these are elders-pastors, deacons, and church members.
Elders-pastors. The responsibilities of an elder center on pastoral care and guarding doctrine. Elders must be men who adhere to high standards as outlined scripturally in all aspects of their lives. The elders-pastors are held accountable before God for the care of their church through these responsibilities. Elders are always mentioned in plurality.
Deacons. Deacons simply serve the elders. A major difference between a deacon and an elder-pastor is that deacons are not biblically required to be able to teach or preach. Additionally, 1 Tim 3:11 and Romans 16:1 refer to both men and women serving in the office of deacon.
What Is Church Membership?
The office of membership in the church is not akin to casual, consumerist membership in a country club. Members of a church do not join to be served, but to obey Jesus, serve and participate with church’s communal mission. The church is to actively equip members as a priesthood of believers to lead ministry as they have been gifted and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Why is Preaching Important?
God preaches the world into existence; John the Baptist comes preaching; Jesus preaches the good news of the kingdom and sends his 12 disciples to do the same; Paul instructs Timothy to “preach the word” (2 Tim 4).
Marks of a healthy church include good preaching that is biblical, theological, memorable, transformational, missional and Christological (Jesus is the hero-savior).
What are Baptism and Communion?
“Baptism and Communion are visible presentations of the gospel performed regularly by the church” (325).
In baptism, a believer identifies with Jesus’ death and resurrection – finding their new identity in the death and life of Christ. While nearly all Christians practice baptism, there are wide and deep disagreements about who should be baptized, and how. The argument here is made for only believers to be baptized.
Communion reminds Christians of Jesus’ brutal death for their sins, calls them to examine themselves and put their own sin to death before partaking, reminds them of their unity with the church founded in Jesus alone, and is a foreshadow of their future, glorious feast in heaven with Jesus.
The purpose of both these sacraments are to keep the church “gospel-centered, repentant, and on mission” (327).
What is Church Discipline?
Church discipline is not simply excommunication, as popularly and fearfully misunderstood. It is training (both formative and restorative) for believers who are ‘holy sinners’ still working out their salvation and dealing with sinful natures.
Why Should Christians Join a Church?
- Salvation includes a new life in the community of the Holy Spirit.
- Being a Christian means being a follower of Jesus.
- Real followers understand their need for help through the community of believers to follow Jesus well.
- Believers are a part of a body – to work in unison for maximum fruitfulness.
- To be equipped for ministry.
- To protect themselves from deception.
- To risk like Jesus and love others deeply, despite inevitable disappointment.
- To help and better the imperfect church.
- Because God declares it not good to be alone, and we are image-bearers reflecting a Triune God who is in community.
- Jesus loves the church; so should we.
Download a free chapter or get your copy of Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe.