23 January 2020 / Nonfiction The Local Church - Structure In my previous post, I began with myself. While this may seem to be the odd wrong place to start from for any sort of theological endeavor, my associate, Mr. Joseph Faraday, will soon be presenting the reasoning for doing just so, albeit from a different perspective. Regardless of we where we start, a sound theology is found only if it aligns with the reality that is God. So the foundation of the church is the apostles, upon which those who have called upon the name of the Lord have been thereby called together. Thus, a herd of individual Christians are in physical proximity to one another. What happens next? Well, it depends upon where you are in space-time. At some points, greeting one another with a holy kiss happens (the ignored imperative, repeated four times by Paul, and once by Peter). At other points, meals and discussion of the Scriptures are the focal point. Other places have high-energy music, and messages that make you feel good. Still others are solemn, chaotic, academic, or nonsensical altogether. Should how you behave when gathering together with other Christians depend upon where you are in space-time? I see no provision for such in the Scriptures. So, what's going on? For one thing, heresy and disobedience is occurring. Not just in some places, but everywhere to differing extents. Just as the individuals that comprise the church are sinful, so are the groups that identify as local churches. This, not to mention spiritual warfare, creates an untold many issues in church structure, among other non-corporate issues. But, as I mentioned in the last post, I don't intend to enumerate the problems that I see in churches - I intend to discern what God's church, the Bride of Christ, should look like. Even if she doesn't look too good right now, she will after the return of Christ. That renewed image is what we must aspire to.Let's start with something "easy" - sacraments. The word means, to keep something sacred, also, referring to something of mysterious and sacred significance. It's not a Biblical term, and yet, wound up in Christian-ease, it means either two or seven things found in the Bible. If I may, I believe that this is extraneous terminology which is difficult to imagine having ever helped anyone. Why set certain practices of the church above others, as being more sacred? Or, perhaps, why do we mix less sacred practices in with more sacred sacraments while doing church? Let's do away with it for now, and instead try to find all of the instructions that the Bible has for the local church.As it turns out, the New Testament, in addition to containing the words of the incarnate God, Jesus Christ, is full of these things called epistles which were mostly written to various churches. Each one is full of instructions for those churches, and Christians typically take each command (except the one about kissing, repeated five times, and maybe a couple of others that we don't think would "work" in our culture) to apply exactly to the church universally. So, instead of citing most of the New Testament here, since that's impractical, I'll just list out the top ten commands for a healthy church./end satire...No, I won't disrespect the Bible like that (hopefully). To get to the point - it is imperative to understand Scriptures in their totality in order to do church. Let me clarify: We do church, so that we can understand the scriptures, so that we can better be the Bride of Christ. As we understand scriptures, we immediately (repentantly) apply them to our lives, constantly conforming to the image of God that we bear. When this is done, no social structure of "community" being comfortable should limit our obedience to God. We must let nothing get in our way of becoming the image-bearers that God wants us to be.So, when we gather together, we are to do as the Scriptures tell us to do. As I noted in my last post, there is nothing like personal experience. So go on then! Read them for yourself. Discern the truth in the God-breathed words from Genesis to Revelation, and don't let anything get in your way of actually knowing what your role is - you'll have to understand the whole story in order to correctly understand where you fit in. The church has a major role to play in God's story, and we are the individual members of the church. Us not knowing "how to do church" is like actors trying to act in a play with no script, no director, and no clue what to do. That doesn't end well. And yet, ask any one of us "So, how should the church be structured?" and just listen to the vastly varied unsurety that results. Let's stop being ignorant children. Let's put in the effort and run this race so that we may win.Please consider this simple exercise: Post below a concise statement of how the local church should be structured and/or operate, with some reasoning for why this is the case. If you're like myself, not confident competent enough to do so, instead spend some time right now investigating the scriptures in order to find out. We won't find the answers immediately, but that just means that we will have to go back, and go back again, constantly focusing on God more and more until our enamourment is complete upon the completion of time.