What is your perception of the church?
I dare say that even many of those who are followers of Christ likely have a negative or cynical view of the church. I get it. Churches often have reputations of infighting, divisions, and abuse. Even if a church is what one would consider stable or even healthy, it is likely that much of the focus of the church is oriented around a personality, a program, a location, a denomination, a specific doctrine, or even a brand instead of around God’s wondrous purpose and vision for His church.
Having spent most of my life as a part of the local church I have witnessed my fair share of ugly occurrences. However, over the last couple years my experiences reached the point where I came dangerously close to being completely disillusioned with the church. Why did God care so much about the church when it often seemed to do more harm than good? What was the proper functioning of the church? How was a church supposed to go about it’s God given mission? What even was the church? As questions consumed my thoughts I began to re-read the Bible with fresh eyes, with a desire to see what God truly revealed in His word about the church. In the process I had to confront what I had been taught about the church and the traditions that I had accepted. It has been quite a journey. Someday I may write more about the specifics, but for now it is enough to say that I have been awed by how God views His church and the unique place the church has in His eternal plan. It has renewed my passion for the church and my desire to see her functioning as He intended.
I don’t know your experiences and how you perceive the church. Regardless of your perception, it is my wish that you would form your view of the church not based on your personal experiences or the opinions of others but instead that your view of the church would be firmly based on how God views His church.
I can barely scratch the surface of the wondrous truths and mysteries regarding the church that God reveals in the Bible in a singular blog post. However, it is my hope that at the very least this blog post will prompt you to do your own study of the “Ekklesia”.
The Grand Narrative Revealed in Scripture
There are three primary narratives that run throughout the entire story of Scripture that communicate the purpose and significance of the church. Together these narratives reveal the grand narrative of God’s great purpose.
- The first narrative is a story of how God desires to find a bride for His Son.
- The second narrative is a story of how God has sought since eternity to have a home of His own.
- The third narrative is a story of how God comes from another realm and visits earth in order to establish an outpost through which He can visibly express Himself and His Kingdom.
Although these are three different stories, they are intricately connected to one another and form the greatest story of all time, God’s story, “His-Story”.
Within these narratives God’s eternal plan is revealed and through them we are better able to understand the Bible, the church, our world, and even the purpose of our lives.
Here is a brief sketch of the three intertwined narratives that are mentioned above:
The Father obtains a bride for his Son by the Spirit. The Father then builds a house in which He, the Son, and the bride dwell together in the Spirit. The Father, the Son, and the bride live in that house as an extended household and it is in that house that the Son and His bride have offspring by the Spirit. This offspring who is now a part of this family is a new creation, that is called the body of Christ.
In order to get you started on your own study to see this grand narrative revealed, let us look at Ephesians. Ephesians reveals two key objectives that God is fixated on accomplishing.
1. Establishing a house and family for God the Father.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. – Ephesians 2:19-22
2. Providing a bride and body for God the Son.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. – Ephesians 5:25-32
And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. – Ephesians 1:22-23
This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. – Ephesians 3:6
If you have been a part of a local church for any period of time, you have likely heard and perhaps even used the terms like the body of Christ, bride of Christ, family of God, and house of God.
While many followers of Jesus Christ know that these terms all refer to the church, the full extent of their significance and the richness of their meaning has been muted. Within these terms is hidden the very purpose of God. A purpose that explains not only the significance of the church in God’s plan but also reveals why you exist and the purpose that God has for you.
God’s people need to be reawakened to the significance of the church in His eternal plan. They need to see the church from His viewpoint. Regardless of your experience with the church, I hope that you will take a fresh look at what God reveals in His word about the church. And that you will join me in embracing our identity and reshaping the way people think of the church.
Written by Sam McKeen