In our “Who is the EFCC?” brochure, we list 8 core values – things that are important to us as “EFCCers”. In my last blog post, I highlighted the first value, “the gospel”. We are evangelicals – gospel people. In this post I would like to focus on another core value, “the local church”.
While we are gospel people and believe that the gospel saves individuals, we also recognise that throughout history God has chosen to gather together those He has redeemed, to worship and serve Him in communities of faith – local churches. In our individualistic society, this is easy to overlook. Additionally, the ongoing critique of the church can lead us to downplay the importance of the local church especially when it comes to carrying out His mission; making disciples and even in the development of real, authentic relationships.
First, let’s admit that the local church is imperfect! It is imperfect because it is composed of flawed, weak human beings: recovering sinners, saved by grace but with more than enough baggage to undermine the most perfect of structures! My bookshelves are full of books decrying the problems with the church and proposing solutions: Deep Church, Simple Church, The Deliberate Church, The Connecting Church, Church on the Other Side, The Purpose Driven Church, Re-Thinking the Church, Viral Churches, The Essence of the Church…and another dozen or so books about the church, but without “church” in the title! I appreciate almost all of these books.
They raise good corrective points and they urge us to do “church” better. And I desperately want to do church better because I don’t think God has any other strategy for reaching the world. Jesus and His Church are the “hope of the nations”. The real enemy of the church is less constructive critique and more apathy. It is so easy to become cynical and just throw the church under the bus; to give up on it, to look to para-church or gifted individuals and ministries to stand-in and carry out the roles we used to think the church was responsible to fulfil. However, with Kevin DeJong and Ted Kluck I must declare, “I love the church and the Free Church in particular”! I recommend their book, Why We Love the Church for those of you who are losing patience with the church.
Now I should clarify something. Church doesn’t have to look like we think it does. Many of us assume that every local church must look like our church. After all, my church building, program, Sunday morning service, leadership structure is the perfect reproduction of an Acts local church, right? Wrong. In fact, I would suspect that if we were honest, we would find that there are a number of things about our church that are…well…uh…extra-biblical if not unbiblical.
Much of what we do and how we organize and program our local churches is cultural. This is why there are a myriad of church structures, styles and programs in North America today, not to mention the endless varieties of church in different times, places and cultures. So, is there only one biblical way to structure your leadership or run a worship service? I don’t think so.
Are there biblical principles that can help us? Of course!
Does God expect us to work those principles out in different ways? Of course!
I am blessed by attending different churches within our own movement. We have cowboy church and Journey Church, churches with contemporary music and traditional music, churches with elder boards and deacon boards and ethnic churches. And I pray we will plant many more kinds of churches! It takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people and God loves diversity which is another EFCC core value we will consider later. Nobody I know complains that Baskin-Robbins has over thirty flavours of ice cream. Neither should we be ashamed of having different flavours of local church!
We need local churches that are dynamic, spirit-driven communities of people, living life, multiplying disciples and leaders and carrying out mission together. Sometimes I wonder if we think that merely gathering people together at a certain time and place on a Sunday morning means we are automatically a united body; a church.
I was at a trans-denominational, inter-church event on New Years’ Day. The pastors went on and on about how this gathering of local churches into the “One Church of Langley” was such a model of biblical unity. I am all for inter-denominational/church cooperation but please! — do we really think that proximity equals unity? Whether it is one church or a gathering of one hundred churches, unity is not achieved by sitting in a chair beside someone.
The world needs to see communities of faith that lovingly live out the messiness of following Jesus and carrying out His mission together. As a result we in the EFCC, labour to build environments within the movement where local churches can be healthy, missional and viral, multiplying disciples, leaders and churches. We long to see local churches with Jesus as Head and Lord of all, drawing lost sinners to our supernatural God who redeems, transforms and sanctifies.
We exist as EFCC Districts, Home Office and EFCCM to serve churches – not the other way around. May we have the joy of becoming known as a growing family of local churches that, while engaging in the messiness of new birth, community and mission, see God supernaturally intervening in ways that cannot begin to be explained by anything other than the fact that Jesus is the Head and Lord of all!
Serving with you,