By Father Peter Farrington
“We were able to concentrate on those things that our business really existed to do, and slowly we started to bear the fruits of that clarity of thinking.” What is the Church for? The Business [Part 1]
What is the Church for? It surely matters that we should know. When a business loses track of its core purpose it can easily start to invest time and money in peripheral things, all the while alienating those customers it should be supporting and encouraging to spend more. I worked for such a company. We were busy, but busy with so many different things, and wrong things, that for all our busyness we were failing as a business.
What is the Church for? | The Case
It was not until we were taken over by a more successful company, which brought in a clarity of vision, that we were able to concentrate on those things that our business really existed to do, and slowly we started to bear the fruits of that clarity of thinking.
I do not believe that the Church is a business at all. I do not believe that it is usually appropriate for business models and marketing techniques to find their way into the ministry of the Church. But it is often useful, it seems to me, to step back a moment and consider whether what we are doing, and where our energies are directed, is properly serving the purpose of the Church in the world.
“If it is his Church, then the Church belongs to God and not to man.” What is the Church for? The Business [Part 1]
What is the Church for? | The Owner
What is the Church for? In Matthew 16:18 our Lord Jesus insists that it is his Church. It is written… “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” .. Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. What does this mean? It certainly means that the Church, the community of Christ, is gathered upon the foundation of the confession that Christ is the Son of the Living God.
If it is his Church, then the Church belongs to God and not to man. And since he is the living God, the Church belongs to one who is alive and present, and calls the Church together by his divine presence in the Church.
In Acts 2:47 we see that the Lord … added to the church daily such as should be saved. But this does not seem to have been an accidental matter, on the contrary, we read in the preceding verse that this growth seems to be predicated upon the fact that they … continued daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people.
This seems to me to speak of spirituality, hospitality and unity bearing witness in the wider community for the salvation of souls.
What is the Church for? | The Participant
What happens if one of those key elements is missing? If there is only a small increase in our communities, after many years, from those who are being added daily, then it is reasonable to reflect on these aspects of spirituality, hospitality, unity and witness. What is missing? Spirituality does not mean simply attending the services of the Church, but requires an inward transformation of the heart by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
“If there is a lack of fruit in the way that the Scriptures describe then we should look to the practical aspects of our life together.” What is the Church for? The Business [Part 1]
Hospitality does not mean only that we invite our friends into our homes, but that we offer a generous and open-hearted welcome to all, not only or especially into our homes, but into our hearts. Unity requires more of us than that we believe more or less the same things, it requires that in all we do and all we engage in, we have that singleness of heart which is found only in a shared experience of God in Christ by the indwelling Holy Spirit, and which represents a shared participation in the divine life of the Holy Spirit which transcends all division.
When this life is manifested in the world around us then it produces a fruit, as God wills, of those whom he adds to his own Church daily. Orthodoxy is eminently practical it seems to me. If there is a lack of fruit in the way that the Scriptures describe then we should look to the practical aspects of our life together. Where there is a weak spirituality, a lack of open-heartedness, disunity and a failure to manifest the life of Christ in the world then there will be little or no fruit of those who are added daily as God wills and as the Apostolic Church experienced.
What is the Church for? | The Multiplication
What is the Church for? Certainly one important aspect is that it be that place where the Lord adds daily those who are being saved. A little later in the Acts of the Apostles we read… the churches throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had rest and were edified, and, walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied. Again it seems that St Luke wishes us to consider that the growth of the Church is a necessary measure of the health and well-being of the Church.
How does this multiplication, this growth of the Church take place? It seems that it is when the Church is at rest and is edified, or strengthened. But where does this rest and this strength come from? It is found when the Church lives with that proper fear of God, that respect, awe, humble submission and obedience which is due to him, and when it is filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit, who is the source of all comfort.
“divided by self-centredness, so that the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit is not our overwhelming experience.” What is the Church for? The Business [Part 1]
If we are not seeing much multiplication then it is proper to ask why this might be. There are sometimes good reasons in the will of God. But we can usefully and honestly consider whether it might be because we do not have rest or peace in our community, and that we are not walking in humble obedience but are still divided by self-centredness, so that the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit is not our overwhelming experience.
If we do not see fruitfulness in our service as the Church then it is reasonable to consider that this is because there is something wrong, and that this is a symptom of a spiritual malaise and not what God desires for us and of us.
What is the Church for? | The Numbers
We can read again in Acts 16:5… And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily. it seems that in the life of the Apostolic Church this increase was experienced often enough to become part of the sacred account of those times, so that when the Church was living as God intended then he himself brought about that growth which was his desire and purpose for the Church. In this passage we see the connection between being established in the faith and increased in number.
What is the Church for? | The Establishment
What does it mean to be established in the faith? It surely does not mean simply to attend services in the Church, nor does it mean for a congregation that it organises prayer and Sunday School meetings. To be established in the faith is to be rooted and built upon the experience of life in Christ. To be established in the faith is to have an overwhelming trust in God for all things, as individuals and especially as a congregation, so that what is lived together is a shared participation in the divine life of God in Christ by the Holy Spirit.
If there is no sign of growth then it is necessary to ask if the congregation and her members are established in the faith, or are trusting in themselves and their own strength and wisdom for their life together.
To be continued, with the question: What else does the Scripture teach us about the Church?
Delivered to you by COPTICNN™ | Coptic News Network on 2020-03-22 from Liverpool, England
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