So today we continue our series entitled Body Politics. This week we are looking at metaphors and ways to describe how the church should function together. And we wrap up the discussion next week looking at body building, and how a body grows strong together.
So this week as I said we are looking at various metaphors or ways to describe the way church functions. If you were to go down on to Prince Street and ask anyone who comes by what is the church or what is a metaphor for church, you would get a wide range of answers. You would get some good answers and honestly some answers that you probably wouldn’t want to hear. You would hear words like building, a group of Christians, the body of Christ, and those are the positive ones. You might even hear the word institution, and usually something attached to it like backwards institution, out of touch institution, etc… But I’m pretty sure you might never ever hear the word family when asking someone what a metaphor for the church is. But maybe the word family might be the best metaphor for the church that we can find.
Now I know that some of us, maybe most of us, probably have some baggage with that word family. We all come from different places, but all of our families are dysfunctional to some level and degree. But with all that being said, the body of Christ (which is another metaphor) I believe can be the kind of place where we live as family, and can redeem that word for us.
We are going to talk today about two different metaphors or descriptors of the church: family or institution. We are going to talk about how we function. Do we function as a family or do we function as an institution?
Let’s go to our Scripture text this morning and see what it might say to us about being family together. Ephesians 2:19-22 says, “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
So the first thing you should notice is this connector word consequently, which connects our text this morning with something that comes before it. But if 19-22 is the end result, what was the cause of this end result? In the passages before this the Apostle Paul is talking about the division that existed at the time between Jew and Gentile. And that the wall that was erected between them was totally ripped down torn apart, and wrecked because of the redemption that was brought by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. And so because of Jesus life, death and resurrection, and his making one new humanity out of two, the Apostle Paul goes on to say that, “you are no longer foreigners or strangers.” And that the reason that we are no longer foreigners or strangers is that we are now citizens with God’s people in God’s Kingdom and part of His household. What Paul is saying here is that when you are no longer strangers and aliens, you are citizens in God’s Kingdom and you become part of something bigger than larger than yourself. What I want to call the family of God. A Part of God’s Household. A Member of God’s Household with God as the Father, the church as the mother, and each of us as brothers and sisters.
Now as I mentioned earlier we might all have some issues with calling the church family because our families are so screwed up in our own ways. And we might have trouble also calling the church mother. But many early theologians described the church in exactly those ways. Cyprian, bishop of Carthage said it this way, “Anyone who cuts themselves off from the Church and is joined to an adulteress is separated from the promises of the Church, and anyone who leaves the Church of Christ behind cannot benefit from the rewards of Christ. Such persons are strangers, outcasts, and enemies. You cannot have God as father unless you have the Church as mother.” And St. Augustine said "The church is a whore, but she's my mother.” So here we see that while our families are screwed up, the church is too because it is made up of flawed individuals and not bricks and stones. But we need to be a part of this screwed up people because without it, we are strangers and aliens (notice those words again). I’m not so sure that you can be a citizen of the Kingdom of God, unless you are a part of a local family under the headship and Lordship of King Jesus.
Now it is important that when we talk about the household or family of God, we continue unpacking the Scripture that we are looking at today because it gives us the foundation of the family. All of our biological families have a foundation in something. That foundation might be money, might be status, might be based on lineage, might be on lies and deceit, and might be on appearances or something else either positive or negative. The family or household of God, according to the Apostle Paul needs to be built on only one thing. That being the Chief Cornerstone of Jesus.
Now when Paul refers to Jesus as the Cornerstone, he is referring to the stone places as the extreme corner, so as to bind the other stones in the building together. The capstone or binding stone that holds the whole structure together. The most important stone in the structure, the one in which stability depends. And so when our household of faith is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus as our cornerstone, we grow together in beautiful ways, as a holy temple where God dwells in beauty and glory. So Paul here is declaring that the living God is constructing a new temple. It consists not of stone, arches, pillars, and altars but of human beings. Some Jews had already explored the idea that a community, rather than a building, might be the place where God would really and truly take up residence. But until Paul, nobody had said anything quite like it.
That is what I want our missional community of Veritas to be. A community in where God truly takes up residence. In other words, a family. But not just a family but a family of missionary servants who make disciples who make disciples who have Jesus as foundation, who are disciples of Jesus, whose mission it is to make disciples who make disciples, and who do life together as family But what does that mean? First of all, a missional community is a group of believers who live and experience life together like a family. If this is us we should see God as our Father because of our faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ and the new regeneration brought about by the Holy Spirit. This means we should have and know of a divine love that leads us to love one another as brothers and sisters. We should treat one another as children of God deeply loved by the Father in everything — sharing our money, time, resources, needs, hurts, successes, etc. We should know each other well. This knowledge includes knowing each other’s stories and having familiarity with one another’s strengths and struggles in regards to belief in the gospel and its application to all of life.
But all too often churches function like an institution, which can be anything but what I just described. Not that I am saying that institutions are all bad or not needed. But I am just wondering if we have taken our cues of how we should function together as followers of Jesus more from institutional, business models than from Scripture. We have CFO’s of churches. We have Pastors who function like CEO’s, Boards, Committees, and other things drawn from the institutional, business world. Let me share something that when I saw it, I thought, this is a church? This is something that I would find in a business and not a church. It is a contract that people at a certain church have to sign called a Confidentiality Agreement form, which includes things like this; (share underline parts).
Some of these things in this form go counter to what Scripture actually says (especially the part about taking it to court). But also can you imagine having your family sign something like this? Now I am not saying there aren’t a few things that we need to do legally to protect the family (like background checks for those who work with youth and children) but this isn’t one of them and shows the difference between a family of missionary servants who make disciples who make disciples and an institution. And so according to what we looked at in Ephesians we are to do life together not as strangers or aliens but as members of the same household, the household of God with the apostles and prophets as foundation, and Jesus as the cornerstone. And if we are of the same household, the household and Kingdom of God, then we all have God as Father and we are therefore by definition brothers and sisters. A family and not an institution.
But so what does it look like to do life more like a family than an institution? What concrete things can we can do together to live as a family of missionary servants who make disciples who make disciples? And what is God saying to us and what are we going to do about it? Those are the questions that we’ll spend some time unpacking together.
1. What are your thoughts, comments, questions, insights, etc… about the Scripture and the message? 2. What are the differences in your mind in how an institution functions and how a family functions? 3. In what ways can we live life together as a family of missionary servants who make disciples who make disciples? 4. What is God saying to you and what are you going to do about it? What is God saying to us and what are we going to do about it?