In part 2 of our serialisation from the official Spring Harvest book for 2012, Gerard Kelly unpacks four ideas that can unlock God's brilliance within the Church for all to see.
The other articles of this series are:
Our purpose here is to spend time exploring each of the four "brilliant ideas" mentioned yesterday. Each of the four brilliant ideas points towards two tasks for the church: areas of activity or ministry that allow God's plan to move forward. By giving attention to this we believe that it is possible to recover the brilliance of God's plan: to move towards expressions of church that are, in the words of missiologist Lesslie Newbigin, "an explosion of joy in their community".
The four brilliant ideas are:
"The church exists because God has committed himself to work through people"
God's brilliant idea #1
"Shine through them"
The most rudimentary definition of the church is "the people of God": a collective noun represented in the New Testament by the Greek term ekklesia. The church exists because God has committed himself to work through people. This is the fulfilment of the Creator's long-held intention to shine wisdom through his human creatures into the world he has made. We will explore this as a prismatic plan: the many colours of God's wisdom displayed through redeemed human lives. This is the human-centredness of God's plan: it is a plan that works through people. We will assert that the church is truly fulfilling this plan when it serves to equip God's people for the full diversity of their callings and vocations. What does it take to shine God's light into every corner of our culture?
God's brilliant idea #2
"Give them power"
A second biblical metaphor for the church is "the community of the Spirit": a human community indwelt by the Holy Spirit. This is a dynamic expression of God's promise to live with and within his people. We will examine the charismystic nature of this reality, placing at the very heart of church experience a dynamic relationship with the Spirit of God. We will see that because it is a Spirit-driven movement, the church is always both established and emerging, taking shape around God's mission in the world. We are called to be both rooted and booted. We will celebrate God as the gift-giver, and see that spiritual formation, the forming of the character of Christ in us by the Spirit, is key to God's mission in the world. What is God doing in us that will empower and resource what he plans to do through us?
God's brilliant idea #3
"Help them love"
The third brilliant idea, perhaps the New Testament's most dramatic metaphor for the church, is "the body of Christ". As individuals are drawn together into this one body, they become the new dispersed presence of the risen Jesus in the world, the new carriers of his words and works. We will examine the church's call to be a transformant task force, changing the world through acts of love and service. We will ask whether the recovery of servant love as the very mark of the church might not lead to a renewal of its life and mission, asserting that God's kingdom runs on meekonomics – the subverting of power and wealth that brings the margins to the centre. How might a tidal wave of small acts of love change the direction of our over- consuming culture? What does it mean for us to incarnate anew the very life of Christ?
God's brilliant idea #4
"Make them one"
Lastly, we will discover the New Testament's future-focused vision of the church as the "bride of Christ", a body resplendent with beauty reflecting the colours and contributions of every culture on the planet. We will examine the metanational movement that the church has become as the seeds of God's story are sown into ever new people groups and languages, and ask how this beauty can be reflected in our life and worship. Might the Bible's story of reconciled relationships be the key our culture is searching for, to form all-age, every-culture community? Is there a vision for the church in which every human story finds meaning; a table to which all are invited? We will assert that God's story is translatable, making itself available to every human culture and language. What does it mean to truly celebrate diversity?
Space is needed to see how these "brilliant ideas" come together to support the kitchen table that is the kingdom of God - something which is done in the book Church Actually. This is the ultimate vision, and the ultimate task of the church: to announce the coming of God's kingdom. Our life of liturgy and prayer; our rhythms of gathering and dispersal; our attention to worship and discipleship – all these come together in the one cry, "Let your kingdom come, and your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven..." We will assert the radical polarity of this prayer, representing a movement not from earth to heaven but from heaven to earth. We will ask what the kingdom looks like, and assert the church's ultimate and most pressing task: to imagine an answer.
Taken from Church Actually by Gerard Kelly, published by Monarch Books. Buy Church Actually now at Eden.co.uk.
March 20th, 2012 - Posted & Written by The Editor