Friday, April 06, 2007

Will the True Church please stand up

I was alerted to a post over at Brians Blog about people who had departed the established church, it is by Bill Kinnon, in it he says...

We are the eikons (image bearers) who once sat in the uncomfortable pews or plush theatre seating of your preaching venues. We sat passively while you proof-texted your way through 3, 4, 5 or no point sermons - attempting to tell us how you and your reading of The Bible had a plan for our lives. Perhaps God does have a plan for us - it just doesn't seem to jive with yours...{more}

This got me thinking about the current situation where some claim house church is true church, or messianic, or emergent or baptist or e-church etc etc the list is endless, but here is a test for you...who is the true church where you live?

I live in Dingwall, a town of some 6000 people, and I wondered where the true church was in our town? I came up with some questions to ascertain the hallmarks of who the true church is...

The true church is the oldest...this would be the Church of Scotland on Castle Street and Tulloch Street. The Church of Scotland traces its roots back to the beginnings of Christianity in Scotland, but its identity is principally shaped by the Scottish
Reformation of 1560. At that point, the church in Scotland broke with Rome, in a process of Protestant reform led, among others, by John Knox. Though if it is age based then possibly the little Roman Catholic church on Castle Street precedes the Church of Scotland in age, having never broke with Rome.
But as Christianity came to Scotland via people like St.Patrick, the oldest is an argument that is hard to prove, so being the oldest does not make a church the true church.

The true church is the youngest...this would be Tapestry then which has a partial expression through this blog. At under two years it certainly qualifies as youngest, but if another church were to begin today, Tapestry would lose that position, so being youngest does not make a church the true church.

The True church has the biggest building...this would undoubtedly be the Free Church opposite the Highland Theological College, and what a building it is, with its grand pulpit, tower and history it is unmatched in the town. I suppose though if a single place of worship was proof of being the true church, then Ross County Football Club wins hands down (2000 attendees per week),
so being biggest does not make a church the true church.

The True church is the most obedient to the commandments...then I suppose this would easily be the Free Presbyterians, who else adheres to the strict observance of law like they do. Their zeal for the law is unrivalled, and their attention to every detail is unsurpassed. Yet the problem will arise that other churches will question the FP's interpretation of the law. For instance, an FP person, will adhere to strict Sunday as Sabbath observance, whereas someone from Tapestry may be happy trundling down the bread aisle in Tesco on a Sunday, yet both will maintain that they are observing the Sabbath. Therefore due to the ambiguity of this condition, and differences in interpretation, it has to be said that
being the most obedient to the commandments does not make a church the true church.

The True church is the one most zealous in door to door tract delivery...this is easy, the Jehovah's Witnesses are the true church!! Okay I will stick to what most readers consider Orthodox churches (damn that's Tapestry out of the window then :) This honour must go to the Brethren, though small (and predominantly old) in number, their passion for 'soul winning' around the doors is a showstopper. Not content with just posting anonymous leaflets through every door, the old fella knocks, speaks with politeness and humility and never pushes, a true gent and a welcome visitor. Alas, as tract delivery was not a common occurrence in the book of Acts it would be unfair to use this as a conclusive measure. So
being the most zealous in door to door tract delivery does not make a church the true church.

Okay, I could go on but I think I will leave it there and just tell you which church in Dingwall is the true church, and thereby the
true church anywhere...


true church is the one who is sincere in its love of not just one another, but of all people, regardless of financial status and sexual orientation, this church sees people as bearers of divine DNA and not just projects or potential converts. This true church hates, despises and stands against evil, regardless of cost to itself it stands for justice, clinging and retaining and cherishing those things in the created order which are good.

true church is devoted to one another as brothers and sisters, as if flesh and blood, it does not backbite and fight each other, and in fact it places each other higher than oneself. The true church does not put the burden of spirituality on the few causing burnout, but encourages one another in deep and abiding worship that serves. The true church has a vision that produces hope and not despair, and in dark times, in times when it gets tough, it shows real and true patience, faithfully praying and not devouring one another. The true church shares with all their brothers and sisters who are in need, being hospitable and welcoming and inclusive.

The true church speaks well of those who speak bad of them, they also react in a positive way to those who trouble them, always seeking reconciliation, it never speaks evil of others. When someone is happy and excited they join in that same spirit, yet in the same breath it is willing and ready to shed a tear with those who are in grief and despair as they live in harmony and unity with one another. This true church is not consumed with self, with self importance or an an egotistical disregard of others, it is more than happy to associate with others, even the lepers of our modern world.

This true church never repays evil for evil, but is always careful that it does what is right in the eyes of others, it recognises it is a story, it is the world's visual story of God, it is a parable, and each person within the true church recognises they are a living letter in that story. If it has the opportunity to be at peace, to be reconciled with others, you can bet it would bust down the gates of hell itself to take that opportunity.

The true church is not vengeful, it happily allows a better judge to do the job, and if anything it is a model of mitigation, pleading mercy for everyone. The true church overcomes that which is evil with good, it takes unrest, depression and loneliness and buries it under a heap of communal mercy, it takes oppression, slavery and persecution and buries it under an avalanche of justice, and finally it takes hate, brutality and murder and drowns them in a bottomless sea of grace.

When you see these things in action, then you are seeing the true church.

(Editors note - you may see these things occurring in 'non-religious' communities, nevertheless they are still hallmarks of the true church)

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