Friday, January 13, 2006

Nature of the Church

What is the nature of the church? In a workshop I attended today we explored the different possibilities for what kind of church our congregations were living in as well as what kind of leadership was needed. The conversation brought out a variety of possibilities for what it means to be church. Part of the struggle was to differentiate what the presenter called the “secular” vision for the church versus “God’s” vision for the church. The presenter wanted to challenge us to look at the nature of the church in theological ways.

Looking at the church theologically forces all of us to place God at its center. There is no theology without God for it is God who is the focus of our theological reflection. We can look theologically at many different things meaning that we are looking at all those things through the lens of God and our specific faith.

Lathrop uses baptism as a way to identify “church” in both broad and specific ways. He then makes “the things related to baptism” the subject of leadership and communication in a faith community. The catholicity of the church and the locality of the church are both dependent on the things related to baptism. Each local faith community lives out their baptism in particular ways and yet they are connected for baptism is the entrance into the church catholic.

I believe the church to be a transformative community. In it God’s grace empowers us to be agents of God love in the world. I see my work as a pastor to be rooted in this transformative community. I as one of its leaders remind the community of our shared story and through the Holy Spirit call the community to personal transformation, and service in the world.

The nature of this transformative community is God-self. God is the initiator. Through the person of Christ God showed humanity a way to restored relationship and through the Holy Spirit we are able to be continually renewed. This Trinitarian emphasis makes community the initial sign of identity for the church.

This is all for now. I will expand on community as the church’s identity later. I look forward to your comments.

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