The whole of the teaching of Jesus and the early church leaders revolved around understanding the Kingdom of God, or Kingdom of Heaven. In fact, in Matthew’s gospel, the Kingdom is mentioned approximately 52 times. Yet in the same gospel the word “church” is only mentioned twice.
Jesus said in Matt. 16:18, that He would “build his church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it.” The church isn’t the Kingdom of God, but the church is of the Kingdom and is the agent and messenger of the Kingdom.
The church is assigned the task of creating Kingdom culture in our local congregations and carrying this culture into society to bring heaven’s influence. We must remember that the Kingdom of God is “already and not yet.” Yet, the present reality of the Kingdom compels the church to walk in the fullness of what is available to us now, not in a latter time.
The Glorious Bride
Paul expressed the desire of Jesus regarding his church or bride to “… present her to Himself a glorious church …” Eph. 5:27. When the bride of Christ, the church, radiates His glory, through love, unity and His power—the world notices.
Jesus loves his church, his bride, much like an adoring husband his earthly bride. When the church realizes how beautiful God already sees her and presently how glorious she already is, she will begin to confidently carry this radiance into our world creating a desire for who and what she is. The world is irresistibly attracted to the church, much like an adoring husband.
Like the reality of the Kingdom of God, the church is “already glorious” and “not yet glorious.” We are, but we are also becoming glorious and more like Jesus. Yet, Jesus speaks to our identity in Him, calling us up higher. To be the glorious church, we must be family first and cooperate with the Holy Spirit as we become all that God intends.
To develop Kingdom Culture in our local churches, a key first step for the local church is to realize that as much as we are called to “do the stuff” of ministry, i.e. heal the sick, free the oppressed and move in the gifts an anointing of the Holy Spirit; the church must be a family first where the family members love, accept and honor one another.
Individual members must commit to the work of developing family and community, interdependence versus independence. Following Christ means more than just believing, it means belonging. Eph. 2:19b (LB) “You are members of God’s very own family, citizen’s of God’s country, and you belong in God’s household with every other Christian.”
Our relationship to Christ is personal, and unique, but God never intended it to be private. Religion attempts to make your faith private, solitary, and quiet. While we are justified by faith, we are also members together of God’s family, interdependent in our faith and the realization of the fullness of salvation.
Paul explains, “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.” (Rom. 12:4-5 NLT) For the organs of your body to fulfill their purpose, they must be connected to your body. The same is true for you and me, as part of Christ’s body. You were created for a specific role, but you will miss this second purpose of your life if you’re not attached to a living local church. Your destiny unfolds through relationships.
Attenders vs. Members
The NT assumes participation with other believers in a local congregation. Unfortunately, in today’s culture, individualism has created many spiritual orphans and disconnected believers without identity, accountability or commitment. The difference between being a church “attender” and a church member is commitment.
Attenders are spectators from the sidelines; members get involved in the ministry. Attenders are consumers; members are contributors. Attenders want the benefits of a church without sharing the responsibility. They want covenant without commitment. How can one be part of a family without participation?
Like a healthy natural family, the family members share in the household chores. In like manner, the local church needs to build loving, nurturing relationships where all members participate and commit to strengthening the family.As this unfolds in our local churches, the glorious church begins to emerge and sets the stage for God’s love and power to be released to touch our communities.
More to come on the Glorious Church!