This past weekend as part of our preaching series, “United,” with other churches I had the privilege of preaching at Kettlebrook Church. This final week of the series I expanded upon the statement that the church is called to live as one for the sake of the world. I explored the two halves of Ephesians 2 in order to look at the way God has made us one with Himself through Christ and also made us one new humanity together through Christ. I explored that portion of Scripture with some attention to the reality that, as Archbishop William Temple once said, “the church is the only organization that exists for the benefit of its non-members.”
This past weekend as part of our new preaching series with other churches entitled “United,” I had the privilege of preaching at Northbrook Church. This first week of the series I expanded upon the statement that the church is a people called by God that is sent on mission. I explored two key truths, that we are blessed by God in order to be a blessing (Genesis 12:1-3) and also that we must live that out at the intersection of the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).
This past weekend at Eastbrook, we began a new preaching series entitled “United,” which explores the essential nature of the church. This first week of the series I expanded upon the statement that the church is a people called by God. I walked through Ephesians 1:3-14 as the basis for my message.
“We, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:12)
What is the Church?
3 Characteristics of the Church (Ephesians 1:3-14)
- The Church is Chosen by God the Father (1:3-6)
- Blessed with every spiritual blessing (1:3)
- Called and chosen by God (1:4, 11)
- Adopted by the Father through Jesus Christ (1:5)
- The Church is Redeemed in Jesus Christ (1:7-13)
- Redeemed and forgiven through the blood of Christ and lavish grace of God (1:7-8)
- Given insight into the mystery of God’s will (1:9-10)
- Received the message of truth, the gospel of salvation (1:13)
- The Church is Sealed with the Holy Spirit (1:13-14)
- Marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit (1:13-14)
- Living to the praise of God’s glory (1:6, 12, 14)
Living as the Church
Responding to God the Father’s call
Savoring God’s goodness in Jesus Christ
Living for God’s praise by the power of the Holy Spirit
This week dig deeper in one or more of the following ways:
- Memorize Ephesians 1:3-14 in its entirety or a verse from it. You may also want to memorize Ephesians 4:4-6.
- Journal about Ephesians 1:3-14, perhaps thanking God for each of the spiritual blessings outlined in this passage or dwelling upon one or two specifics that stand out to you.
- Reach out to someone to share with them what God is teaching you about the church and the spiritual blessings found in Jesus Christ.
- Watch the Bible Project overview video on the book of Ephesians
Here are three statements that I have returned to recently in my thinking about the church and its mission. Each is saying similar things with distinct emphasis. What do you think about these statements? What do you think about the relationship between the church and its mission?
Vincent Donovan, a missionary to the Masai in Tanzania in the mid-twentieth century, in his book Christianity Rediscovered:
Mission is the meaning of the church….The church exists only insofar as it carries Christ to the world….The idea of church without mission is an absurdity.
William Temple, archbishop of Canterbury in the early twentieth century:
The church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.
Paul Borden in his book, Direct Hit:
Healthy congregations are defined by sacrifice… They exist more for those who are currently not part of the group than for those who comprise the current congregation.
What do you think?
It’s no secret that one of my favorite theologians of all time is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. His book Life Together is, in my opinion, the best book written on the nature of true community in the church. It is a must-read for many reasons, but one of the most important is the way that Bonhoeffer directly deals with something all of us face with the church: disillusionment. If you have not experienced disillusionment at some point in your involvement with the church, then you probably have not been that involved. At a time when people struggled with living their faith individually and together, when the church was rent apart by conflicting allegiances and hypocrisy, Bonhoeffer stepped forward to train young pastors to serve Christ’s church.
Here are 5 must-read statements on the Church by Bonhoeffer from Life Together. I hope you find them as challenging and encouraging as I have over the years:
- “Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves. By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world.” [26-27]
- “Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.” 
- “Thus the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably salutary, because it so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and Deed which really binds us together – the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ.” 
- “If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is not great experience, not discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.” 
- “A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men….Let him pray God for an understanding of his own failure and his particular sin, and pray that he may not wrong his brethren. Let him, in consciousness of his own guilt, make intercession for his brethren.” [29-30]
[These quotations are taken from John W. Doberstein’s classic translation of Life Together. A more recent translation with thorough annotations and a helpful introduction is found in Volume 5 of Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works.]