By: Elder David Leong
The church lies at the very center of the eternal purpose of God. It is not a divine afterthought. It is not an accident of history. On the contrary, the church is God’s new community. For His purpose, conceived in a past eternity, being worked out in history, and to be perfected in a future eternity, is not just to save isolated individuals and so perpetuate our loneliness, but rather to build His church, that is, to call out of the world a people for His own glory. – John Stott in The Living Church
God is creating a people for Himself, not merely isolated individuals who choose to believe in Him. This was Paul’s emphasis in Titus 2 when he said that God wanted “to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”
So far from being saved individuals who then choose to join a church as if it were some club or society, Christ died for His people and we are saved when by faith <span>we become part of the people for whom Christ died</span>. The Bible’s story is that of God fulfilling the promise, “I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God.” (Ex. 6:7)
The church is not something additional or optional. It is at the very heart of God’s purposes. Jesus came to create a people who would model what it means to live under His rule. It is meant to be a glorious sign of God’s kingdom, an embassy of heaven. This where the world is supposed to see what it means to be truly human. Our identity as human beings is found in community. Our identity as Christians is found in Christ’s new community. And our mission takes place through communities of light.
What does this mean for you and I?
Proclaim this vision by modelling it. Don’t be a pain to your own church community by simply criticizing or by only pointing out what’s not right and stopping at that. Be a blessing to others by modelling what it means to be child of God. Be hospitable and show practical love and care for one another. Encourage and challenge one another in their faith and life – not just by words but also by showing how we live our own lives before God and man. Simply put, there is no “off” button for God’s people. We can’t “off” ourselves from being persons in Christ when we leave the church building or when we simply don’t feel like it.
And it’s not just expecting the leaders or pastors to model what it means to be a child of God. All of us are called to model to one another kingdom life – a life that pleases God, a life that honors Christ. In so doing there will be mutuality in our encouragement of one another. More than that, it will grow to become so obvious and infectious that people “outside of our gates” will be able to see Christ shining brightly in and through us!
Jesus calls us to be the light of the world (Matt 5:14-16). We see in the Old Testament thatIsrael failed to be a light to the nations. The prophet Isaiah promised that the Servant Himself would take on this role. Jesus fulfilled the promise given through Isaiah (John 8:12) and goes on to say that His messianic community will be the light of the world. God’s glory will radiate to the nations as they live under the Messiah’s rule in obedience to His Word.
If the Gospel is to be at the heart of church life and mission, it is equally true to say that the church is to be at the heart of Gospel life and mission.
– Thoughts from Total Church by Tim Chester & Steve Timmis. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008).