The Bible is very comfortable with the idea that you can talk to God. Depending on the Bible version you look at ‘prayer’ is referenced over six hundred and fifty times!
When you became a Christian, your membership in the church took both a universal and a local shape – a wide and narrow view if you like.
The Church universal is the worldwide body of believers who meet in various locations and times around the world and throughout history who all profess faith in Jesus as Lord.
Brothers and sisters who are fleeing for their lives from the Islamic state fighters in Iraq and Syria, those who are on the mission field, those who meet as Christians around your country, and those that meet in the churches in suburbs around your city – are all members with you of the universal church – because we all have the same Lord and Saviour in Jesus.
Jesus speaks of the universal church. When he said to the disciple Peter in Matthew 16:18, ‘I will build my church’ he probably did not have in mind a specific local church on the corner of King David street and Goliath Avenue in Jerusalem! What he meant was that he would build together all those in the years to come, who would be his followers, the members of his body – his universal church.
The Apostle Paul addresses the universal church in Colossae when he says he ‘suffers for the sake of Christ’s body, which is the church’ (Colossians 1:24) and then to Timothy when he speaks of ‘God’s household, which is the church’ (1 Timothy 3:15).
Scripture testifies to the importance of being part of the universal church where we stand shoulder to shoulder with others in faith – even though we may not speak the same language, be from the same culture, have the same lifestyles, live in the same kinds of material circumstance, or even live in the same era of history.
Whenever I spend time with Christians of other cultures or languages, I recognise a beautiful reality – I have more in common with these brothers and sisters in faith than I do with many who don’t yet know Jesus even when they live in my own suburb or city!
But scripture also testifies to the ‘Local church’.
The Church local is your immediate church fellowship – the group of Christians with whom you share life with, face to face, week in and out. Those brothers and sisters who know you by name, who pray specifically for you, who help carry your burdens, who celebrate your successes and mourn your losses, and who help you to love and know God better and to serve him and others as you work to grow God’s kingdom.
Paul addresses the local church in 1 and 2 Corinthians (’to the church of God in Corinth’), and in Ephesians (‘to the saints in Ephesus’), 1 & 2 Thessalonians (’to the church of the Thessalonians’), Philippians (‘to all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi’). In Colossians he sends a greeting to ‘Nympha and the church in her house’ (Col 4:15). There is a very particular local church which he has in mind.
As you meet each week with a body of believers, you express your membership in a local church.
As Christians, it is important to recognise you belong to both the universal and local church. Why?
For one, quite obviously, there are many more Christians in the world than would be able to meet in your particular church space – but there is a time coming when all Christians will gather around the throne of Christ in eternity and worship as the full universal church. It is a wonderful blessing to recognise our place alongside so many others in Christ.
Yet, it also matters that we meet together as a specific local church, on a regular basis to serve God and others. Christians cannot gather as the universal church to hear the Bible taught and proclaimed, to baptise new believers, to sing songs of praise, to take the Lord’s Supper together, to reach out to the community they come out from, to serve one another, to hold one another accountable, to physically care for, to urge one another on towards love and good deeds.
Meeting in local churches is important for the life and well-being of all Christians.
For other articles in this series:
Belonging to Church
The Church – universal and local!
Draw Near to God and to Others
Core in Membership
Friends it has been a while since the last 5pm Update (a good indication that things have been a bit full on!) – in fact there has not been an update since I returned from Study Leave for Easter. Thanks for allowing me time to get away.
Study Leave meant that I could attend a series of Conferences, visit a series of Churches and check-out some theological colleges. Refreshing? – Yes! Challenging? – At times! Educational? – Mostly! Beneficial? – I hope so, but you will need to be the judge of that.
There were so many times that I just felt immensely thankful to God for Trinity City and for 5pm Church and for the leaders we have and for the ministry that we do – and thankful because I could see other examples in the States of similar ministries or conversely I could see examples of things that were not done half as well as how Trinity does it (under God of course).
Here are 5 reflections with 5 corresponding challenges which may be of benefit for us.
Imagine a world without purpose? The book of Proverbs makes this observation:
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (19:21).
How do we know God’s purpose for our lives?
The good news about Jesus is often spoken of as the ‘hope’ of the gospel. It’s not a ‘hope-so’ or a ‘hope-ful’. Hope is the promise from God of eternal life gifted to all who place their faith in Jesus Christ.
The Bible speaks of the hope ‘that God has called you to’ (Ephesians 1:18), and the hope ‘laid up for you in heaven’ (Colossians 1:5). This is the ‘assurance of hope until the end’ (Hebrews 6:11).
Imagine a world without the hope of the gospel!
The beginning of the year is often the time when people check out church (‘It is a new year, thought I would give it a go’), join church (‘I have moved and want to make this my church’) or leave church (‘I am making a life change’).
As such, it is reasonable that one consider ‘What should I expect of ‘Church’?’.
In the last update we considered ‘What is Church?’ and suggested that church was a place for believers (whilst still open to not-yet believers) and a place where God’s people gathered as a family in Christ. Expectations of church then are important because they help a person decide whether this church is doing what it should be or not.
There are a couple of ways to arrive at an answer.
What was the problem that Caroline faced?
I became a believer in Jesus because I realised that just being a good person wasn’t good enough. As a child, I knew a little about God—I believed that he was there, and he was powerful, and I would pray to him occasionally—but I didn’t have a relationship with him. When I was in primary school, my mother was diagnosed with cancer again, and over the next year or so of her illness, I particularly saw my parents living out their faith in Jesus. Mum died when I was 10, and I know that she is, and will be, living with Jesus forever. Continue reading
Another horror week.
Suicide bombings in Beirut have killed 43 people and left 238 wounded. A suicide bombing at a funeral in Baghdad killed 19 people and left 31 wounded. And coordinated attacks in Paris have killed 129 people and left 352 wounded.
We are appalled, grieved and saddened.