energetic worshippers - vast megabuck enterprises.And there are still many millions of enthusiastic"evangelicals" around the world.
Founded By Jesus
Is there a common theme that links all of them?Globally, around two billion claim to be "Christian",the largest single world faith. Yet apart from somemention of Jesus of Nazareth the denominationalvariety would suggest myriad different religions! Theirnames are legion, their doctrinal statements inconflict, their worship kaleidoscopic. Yet all claim tobe representative of Jesus Christ who founded "thechurch".Jesus stated: "I will build my church", and asserted itwould persist through time. Did he intend suchconfusing variety? When he prayed for unity - whatdid he mean?
Called By God
Christians "go to church", but itis now widely understood that"church" signifies far morethan the complex of buildingsin which the congregationworships and often plays. Thereal church is the assembly ofChristians whether they meetunder a tree, in a home or in acathedral. They are "calledout" (Gk.,
whichmeans "public assembly",translated in the NewTestament as
from the population at large bythe Father: "No one comes to me", said Jesus,"except the Father who sent me draw him" (John6:44).
A couple of times the word is applied to a secularassembly. But elsewhere in the New Testament (112times), it refers to the body of Christians - in general,in an area, in their local assembly, and once refers toall Christians from all time (Hebrews 12:23). Nowhereis it applied to a building.
Not everyone who occupies a church pew, however,is a `Christian', and part of the church of God. Allclubs have `membership rules'. The church is nodifferent.The church is formed from those who have beendrawn by God to Jesus Christ largely by the work ofexisting members. They have on mature reflectionwholeheartedly turned from disobedience to God andbeen forgiven past sin ("transgression of the law" - IJohn 3:4) through the sacrifice of Jesus. Having beenbaptized they are given the Holy Spirit which makesthem children of God - part of the family of God.
A New Creature
As in any human family, the new Christian is to "growup". Our baptism is symbolic of the death of ourformer self - we are in Christ a new creature. As a"babe in Christ" (I Cor. 3:1, I Peter 2:2), the newChristian, embraced in the bosom of the church,embarks on a life-long learning curve that affectsevery aspect of life. Hence the admonition toChristians: "... not forsaking the assembling ofyourselves together" (Hebrews 10:25).True conversion works inwardly. God, the masterPotter, takes each Christian in hand to fashion into amature reflection of His own perfect character - intothe image of Jesus.His Spirit in us seeks to stimulate a hunger and thirstfor God's Word. It's in the Scriptures that we areconfronted with the values God cherishes, andenjoined to "be transformed by the renewing of yourmind" (Romans 12:1ff).As we voluntarily yield to God we begin to expressthe very character of our Father - summed up as"love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness,goodness, meekness, temperance self-control"(Galatians 5:22). Character traits not common tohuman nature!As we submit to the Word of God much else changes.Our attitude to family and friends and colleaguesimproves. What we eat, how we dress and look, ourpersonal grooming - all must come to reflect the highstandards set by the Scriptures. We evolve towards amature human being respected in the world. Weabandon odd-ball life-styles. We develop towards thecommon example set by Jesus, yet retaining ourunique individuality. How and when we worship, too,reflects the Scriptural pattern.Being a `church member', then, goes far beyondwarming a pew!
The Church Family