Thursday, April 26, 2007

I believe in the communion of saints

To say "I believe in the communion of saints" surely means different things to different people and also has manifold meaning. For me and for the church at large through the centuries, this is a confession of utmost importance.

Impacted by American Christianity we're used to brushing such a confession of faith aside, at least many of us. And we find local churches who call themselves "independent". An independent local church is an oxymoron; there is no such thing. God has made us interdependent and Christ in this world today is manifest through his Body on earth. This Body is localized in various places and settings. But it's a Body in communion with other gatherings scattered throughout the earth. And I believe it's a Body in communion with all of God's holy people ("saints") from every time and place.

We don't need churches looking down on each other and thinking they are better than so and so church. But sadly, neither do we need churches that seem to have lost much of what church is all about. It is God's people living interactively in this world under one Head, Christ, doing so interdependent on each other.

The Lord is grieved when there is disunity among his people. This is true within our gatherings and it's also true all the way to the Church scattered throughout the earth. But everyone has to keep working on just what "church" is, that it's not merely religion, or some intellectual assent to a creed or some super gathering around some charismatic leader who is wowing everyone with their speaking, maybe along with some miracles. We don't need any of the above. What we need is a humble Body, interactively working together in communion with Jesus and each other. Anything less than that is not Christianity or is some diluted (and perhaps dangerous) form of it.

What might you add to these sad and difficult thoughts I've shared today?

6 comments:

Charity Singleton said...

Ted -- What a good word for this morning. My church has been experiencing some really difficult issues over the past year, and though they are hard, I have seen a humility and unity that I hardly thought possible. God uses difficulty in our lives corporately just as he does individually: to make us more like Jesus.

Alan Knox said...

Ted,

Good thoughts. I don't know if I have anything to add. I agree that God is grieved by "local" disunity as well as disunity on a larger scale. Perhaps we can beging building unity one believer at a time, because it doesn't seem that the Christian organizations are interested in giving up their control.

-Alan

Ted Gossard said...

Charity, Thanks for sharing that. Great to hear of that happening in your assembly. Indeed troubles can end up bringing everyone closer together because of Christ.

Ted Gossard said...

Allan, Thanks. I like your thought building unity one believer at a time. I think there's wisdom in that. For unity in the Body there has to be mutual care of the members, each of one another.

That the control of Christian organizations would foster disunity is troubling indeed. I would hope that Christian denominations can rise above their own vision of the faith to include in that vision other Christians. But this takes some effort and is not what many want since it smacks of ecumenicalism which unfortunately in the past has watered down the faith so that it is no more.

I'm thankful that RBC Ministries where I work seeks to foster unity in the worldwide Body of Christ. I do wish we would be more inclusive of our Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, though we're certainly growing in that regard.

Ted Gossard said...

I'd like to add here that my thought on miracles does not necessarily exclude them of course. In reality where Christ's Body is interactively at work in this world, heaven is touching earth in life changing ways which may include what we call "miracles" or signs and mighty works.

I lean against the idea that such works were confined to the apostolic time, or validating time only. But continue on. The New Testament in this sense (and others, I believe) is a "charismatic" "book". Not to confuse the charismatic aspect of it there with much of what is known as "charismatic" today.

Ted Gossard said...

...but also not to invalidate much going on in "charismatic" churches. And to say that in reality we're all "charismatic", all who are "in Christ" and have the Spirit (as the Greek New Testament indicates).