It’s a fundamental, essential question. I’m sure if we had that discussion among us all, we’d come up with a lot of different responses. At the very least, we must all understand that “church” is not an organization we join, a service we attend, or a building that serves as a hub of religious activity. The church is the fellowship of God’s people, experiencing the presence of Jesus, called out from the world to be a spiritual family, pursuing God’s mission in the world. That’s not just our corporate description. That’s our individual, personal description. We – as individuals – are the church. We don’t simply belong to one or go to one. In addition, every metaphor of the church that we see in scripture (salt and light, a bride, a family, a flock, a field of wheat mustard seed, branches attached to a vine, leaven, a body, etc.) all point to one thing: The church is a living thing! Even the description of the church as a building in 1st Peter 2:5 says it’s composed of living stones and is God’s dwelling place. As one author said,
“The church is alive, and Jesus in its midst is its life. What is a body without a head? A corpse. What is a bride without a groom? A widow. What is a branch without a vine? Firewood. What is a building without a foundation? Rubble. What is a flock without a shepherd? A wolf’s all-you-can-eat buffet. Every New Testament picture of the church points to a living connection with Jesus …”
- Neil Cole
This past Sunday, I spoke on the “DNA” of the early church and what we need to recapture of that. The very nature of the church as a living thing requires a healthy strand of DNA running through it that sustains it, fuels it, unifies it, and allows it to reproduce itself. As in a healthy body, a healthy church shares the same DNA in every cell (i.e. in every person).
What should that DNA include?
1) A hunger for DIVINE TRUTH. The Word – both written and Living – is what instructs us, corrects us, and trains us to live lives that honor God. Our love for the living Word, Jesus, is the most important thing about us. If what we do does not make us love and value Jesus more, we know we are missing the mark entirely.
2) NURTURING RELATIONSHIPS. The church is not a business, a school, or even a ‘hospital’. We are a family, called to love and care for each other as a defining mark of true faith (John 13:35). The New Testament is filled with “one another” commands that can only be carried out in the context of genuine community.
3) APOSTOLIC MISSION. The church is called to do more than simply BE something. We are to DO something. And what we are to do is clearly and consistently spelled out in Scripture. There are people around us, somewhat near us, and far from us that need what we have: Jesus!
My prayer is that this ‘DNA’ is found in every one of us and that all of our activity flows out from it, and not to it. We cannot be the church God wants us to be from the top down. No sermons, strategies, programs, or activities will create it. It must be from the ground up as the DNA is in each of driving what we do personally, in our small groups, and collectively as a larger body.
Join me in praying and working for an ever-increasing healthy, God-honoring DNA in us all!