Ecclesiology

Reflections on the Gospel of the Kingdom

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As N. T. Wright observes, “kingdom of God has been a flag of convenience under which all sorts of ships have sailed.”1 These ships are social, political, nationalistic, and theological. Their corresponding agendas often have little to do with the arrival of the kingdom of God announced by Jesus. The kingdom as found and presented in the New Testament will not be pressed into a one-dimensional box. There are passages which indicate a present kingdom aspect (Luke 17:21) and others which indicate a future aspect (Matthew 25:34; Luke 21:17, 31). Multiple texts demonstrate that the gospel of the kingdom was the message of Jesus and the apostles (Luke 4:43; 9:1, 2). Jesus “instructed the seventy to proclaim, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you’ ” (Luke 10:1, 9). In Acts we find Philip who “preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ….” (Acts 8:12). The Apostle Paul in Ephesus “entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God” (Acts 19:8). Near the end of his ministry, Paul “expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God….” (Acts 28:23).

The opening of the gospel of Mark proclaims the “beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Jesus arrives on the scene, “preaching the gospel [of the kingdom, KJV] of God” (1:14). He announces that “the time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe in the gospel” (v. 15). The phrase “is near” can be understood as referring to something still to happen. However, as France comments, “If Jesus is understood to have proclaimed as ‘near’ something which had still not arrived even at the time when Mark wrote his gospel (let alone 2,000 years later), this is hardly less of an embarrassment than if he had claimed that ‘it’ was already present.”2 Read more about Reflections on the Gospel of the Kingdom

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Book Review - Loving the Church

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Image of Loving the Church: God's People Flourishing in God's Family
by John Crotts
Shepherd Press 2010
Paperback 140

“I’m a member of the body of Christ. Why should I have to join a church?” In one form or another, this is one of the most common sentiments that I have heard in the past five years of ministry in Colorado Springs. A simple but profound part of the answer to that question can be given in one word—“love.”

It is no secret that American individualism has left its mark on the way we practice our Christianity, particularly with regard to the church. Some have gone so far as to say that American evangelicalism has no ecclesiology. In recent years a loose crowd has coalesced of those who not only tacitly accept churchless Christianity but explicitly promote it. From the vantage point of my little prairie dog mound surrounded by mountainous para-church ministries, it can almost appear that there are few left who believe that the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church is actually something tangible that has biblical shape and includes real commitments to real people. Many love the church like a young girl who has watched too many romantic movies—they are passionate about something that does not exist except in their own fevered imaginations.

In that context, the title of this recent book by John Crotts, a pastor at Faith Bible Church in Sharpsburg, Georgia, caught my attention, and I must say that reading it was refreshing. This is a book designed to woo the believer into loving the actual bride for whom Christ died. In Loving the Church, Pastor Crotts aims “to help you see how glorious God’s family really is, and then to see the countless ways you and your family can flourish within it” (p. 30). Crotts seeks to accomplish this with one section summarizing the Bible’s teaching about the church and a second section applying this teaching to Christians and their families.

The thread that holds the book together is a series of fictional coffee shop conversations among a diverse group of professing Christians who are disaffected with the church for various reasons. In between their encounters, Crotts lays out some simple and clear Scriptural teaching on the nature and function of the local church. With this approach, Crotts gives a gentle rebuke to some common errors regarding the church while maintaining a positive and encouraging tone. For example, he stirs up reflections about the relationship of families vis-à-vis the church, about ministering apart from the church, about moral failures and churches’ responses, and about choosing a church because of its use of technology or its singles’ group. Read more about Book Review - Loving the Church

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Many Denominations: The Positive Side

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“If the Bible is true, why are there so many denominations?” What Christian has not fielded this question? Yet there is an unspoken assumption behind this objection, namely, that having one denomination is somehow a good thing. I suggest that the opposite is true. Bigger is not always better.

“But didn’t the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ, teach that there should be just one denomination? Wouldn’t the church be more effective if we had one central voice?”

When the churches were one

Before we explore these valid concerns, let me prime your mind by asking a few questions of my own. When most of Christendom was part of one denomination, how ideal were things? Before 1054 AD (when the Eastern Orthodox Church split from the old Western Catholic Church), the overwhelming majority of Christendom considered itself Catholic and somewhat loyal to Rome. Both forms of Christianity had wandered far from the simplicity of Scripture centuries before the split. Were Christian laymen mighty in the Scriptures? Was the gospel of salvation by grace through faith spreading throughout the world? Read more about Many Denominations: The Positive Side

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