What a Church Should Be. A Reflection of Ephesians 4

So, Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
(Ephesians 4:11-13, NIV)

I see the church as a massive enterprise. In fact, I see it as one of the most complex, faith-driven, highly-profitable enterprise the world has ever seen. And it should be so unbelievingly profitable that the world will look upon it and call it “blessed” (Malachi 3:12).

“I see the church as one of the most complex, faith-driven, highly-profitable enterprise the world has ever seen.”

The “Church” Now

In my research as well as in my encounters, I have only come across “churches” as represented by communities of believers who congregate on Sundays for service and for the occasional fellowship. The slightly more pious devote a little more time on bible studies and some community work. And the most “holy” among them consider full-time ministry and are often looked down upon with labels on their job-scope saying, “no prospect”.

Let’s put our ideas of “church” down and look at this with an open mind.

The Authority of the Church History

History taught us that there was a time when early church-fathers taught the importance of submission to authorities and unto God. Civil authorities must be obeyed as long as it does not violate scriptural teachings came from Jesus’ teachings of rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s (Mark 12:17). And when the Roman Empire collapsed, civil authority fell onto the hands of the church. This meant that the church has control over every aspect of life in the empire. However, in the 13th century when the idea that the state is declared as a perfect society (the church is also counted as a perfect society), the civil authority of the state was raised and the church fell.

With the Reformation and the papacy being called to question, the authority of the church was placed on a permanent downhill course. Its fate was eventually sealed in the 20th century when the first and fourteenth amendments applied considerable strictness in the field of education [1].

“The church should be a society unlike any other, having its own rules and the needs of its citizens provided for.”

Now, we refer to the church as only a community of a religious group. A harmless sub-culture operates silently under the shadow of the constitution, praising God within closed doors and returning to the civil realm living a life under state control.

Must it stay this way?

Remember that the church is seen as a perfect society? It should come to mind that the church should indeed be a society unlike any other. It should have its own rule, be self-sufficient, providing all needs for its ‘citizens’ (or believers in this case), “so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12-13, NIV).

Of course, we know that Aristotle’s ideal society (or perfect society) is not the same as our current understanding of society. I will discuss more about it below.

The Global, Self-Sustaining Enterprise

Call me weird, but I always have the idea that the church should really do the job of “building believers up until we all reach unity in faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God”, and as far as I am concern, they are not doing it as a Sunday-only activities-focused congregation. I mean, there should be a way to train students to learn theocentrically, for workers to work theocentrically, for employers to pursue theocentric goals for their companies, and people to lead and build theocentric societies, right? And if all these jobs do not fall onto the shoulders of the church, then who should shoulder the honor of building God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10, NIV)?

As a sunday-only, activities-focused congregation, the church is not building believers up the way it should.

I wrote about the church should know the will of God and through that, help believers match their gifts to the task so as to achieve God’s will on earth in “Finding Our Purpose in Life – A Four-Step Process. I have also written about how believers should pursue unity in Christ’s body through community building and helping the needy in “Thy Will Be Done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Combining these concepts together, we see a global enterprise that encompasses every conceivable category of work available in the world today.

Personally, I could not wrap my mind around this concept until Pastor Boyd Chin, a pastor and a businessman, shared his vision. In his vision, the church should help the community pursue 5 large aspects of wellbeing (Read more here: The Wellbeing Elements Ministry) – that same wellbeing that was mentioned by Gallup (read more here: Gallup’s Wellbeing). He reasoned that it is through the meeting of the five large categories of wellbeing (career, physical, social, community, financial) that communities that we minister to will truly be healed and well. He also reasoned that there should be a 6th category: spiritual well-being where all spiritual needs of believers are met.

01-31 Illustration 1
This diagram illustrates how the 5 well-being identified by Gallup should revolve around the Word of God.

In my opinion, I figure this is a great proposal except that the 6th category (spiritual well-being) shouldn’t be a category separate from the five. Rather, the word of God should be the centerpiece that helps hold all these categories together. But other than that, it is a very good proposal. But its creation and operation will require wisdom and a lot of cooperation from the local churches from all over the world.

This proposal calls for the construction of schools that are centered upon talent-development because “gifts” are given to His people (Ephesians 4:8), human-resource companies to be established so as to ensure “works of services” are done “so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:12), and the establishment of other related enterprises (“supporting ligaments”) that will “hold together”, “grow and build itself in love” (Ephesians 4:16), overseen by the “apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11) so that the Church may “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13, NIV).

01-31 Illustration 2
This illustration illustrates how the church should operate in accordance to Ephesians 4.

Application in Modernity

The above model is highly applicable in the current context of modernity. In fact, there are already a lot of theocentric enterprises out there in the society being run in a civil manner and are only overseen by one or two weary God-fearing leaders. They are hospitals, schools, kindergartens, architectural firms, F&B outlets, cafes, restaurants, clinics, optometric clinics, pet shops, etc. If we were to gather them all together, the eyes of the Body of Christ will be opened to the vast richness of God’s Kingdom on earth. And for this to happen, a leader should step in to collate and compile all of these resources, managing it under the umbrella of Biblical principles.

“If we were to gather all theocentric enterprises together, the eyes of the Body of Christ will be opened to the vast richness of God’s Kingdom on earth.”

I am not saying that all business under this model of the global enterprise should be under any local church or any regional council of churches. Rather, I am suggesting that a Global Council of Churches be established so as to collate resources and information from every corner of Christendom. This Global Council of Churches will oversee the entirety of the Christian enterprise; from gospel needs to educational establishments; from health science breakthrough to overcoming problems of poverty; from educational methodology to human resource allocations to help enterprise and individuals in need.

All of these can still operate under state control. But the Christian stance must be strong. Jesus’ principle of “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Mark 12:17, NIV) still hold firm. We must remember that we are not of the world, but we are sent into the world (John 17:17). For that, “it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.” (Romans 13:5, NIV).

“It is actually possible to create a church that comes together, daily, to worship God.”

Hence, it is actually possible to create a church that comes together, daily, to worship God. Worship then is not limited to a Sunday service. Rather, it will be a daily affair where believers congregate to learn about, to explore, and to find delight in the awesome love of God. And the most awesome part of daily worship is to the ability to break bread and remember Christ’s death, on a daily basis!

Difference between Paul’s Idea of the Body and Aristotle’s Perfect Society

Coming back to where we left off about Aristotle’s Ideal Society, Aristotle’s Ideal Society posits that task such as “farming and laboring” must remain but are not done by “citizens”. These are work that should be done by “non-citizens” (foreigners and women). “Citizens” are, in Aristotle’s Ideal Society, the “rulers” – people who are able to “participate in an office involving deliberation or decision” [2].

And if we put things into context, then “citizens” will be considered believers, more accurately male believers. Now, we know that in God’s kingdom, women are also heirs with men of the gracious gift of life (1 Peter 3:7), hence women cannot be counted as “second-class citizens”.

“The main overseers should be firmly rooted in the word of God, be God-fearing, and match the requirements stated in Titus 1:7-9.”

Also, in our meritocratic and democratic era, people who are more suitable for the job are placed in position. This does not matter whether they are believers or not. However, in this global enterprise that the church is, the main overseer should be firmly rooted in the word of God, be God-fearing, and “be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” (Titus 1:7-9, NIV).

 

References:

[1] – Church and State. (2013). Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/church-and-state

[2] – Clayton, E. (n.d.) Aristotle: Politics. Retrieved from https://www.iep.utm.edu/aris-pol/#SH9a

Image: Pixabay

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