What is the Church?

C.S. Lewis on the church, diversity in the church, church

It takes all sorts to make a world; or a church. This may be even truer of a church. If grace perfects nature it must expand all our natures into the full richness of the diversity which God intended when He made them, and Heaven will display for more variety than Hell. C.S. Lewis

During my Sabbatical, I am doing all kinds of reading and reflecting on the church and its mission. The other day I had three books as conversation partners.

The Permanent Revolution which is building a case for the apostolic ministry where the apostle is much like the spiritual, ecclesial, missional entrepreneur who seeks to faithfully and creatively engage with the surrounding culture. It is a very exciting book, full of cultural analysis and prophetic invitations to design and lead churches according to the biblical patterns provided in the New Testament, particularly in Ephesians 4.

Then I read (at a sitting) the delightful book, Reading for the Common Good: How Books Help Our Churches and Neighborhoods Flourish. A short book, but loaded with passion and insight on the nature of the church, the full missional responsibility of the church, and how reading that shapes hearts and minds is vital to equip the church to be the church. The author (C. Christopher Smith) has written another book specifically on the church (Slow Church). He comes out of a distinct Anabaptist approach to the church. I found his book refreshing and innovative. I believe I would love to be a part of the church of which he is a member.

I also read the very short book, What is a Healthy Church?, by Mark Dever who leads 9Marks, a moment designed to promote healthy churches. And his book had a very different flavor, feel, focus and purpose then either of the first two. I found myself least inspired by this one, although there were a few chapters that were hugely important for me.

Finally, I am doing my devotional reading (both exegetical study and lectio divina readings) in Ephesians. That letter of Paul has some of the most exhilarating descriptions of the nature of the church as you will find in the Bible.

So i resonate with the C.S. Lewis quote on the diversity that is vital for the church. Paul celebrated that diversity and that this diversity is brought together in Christ to be a new community in a world of division and tension.

Of course the church always has and always will struggle to live into the fullness of the rich imagination of the Apostle Paul as he envisions the body of Christ. 

Still, struggle we must, for what is at stake is too beautiful and important to ignore. Becoming the empowered people of God on a mission to see all of life renewed, all of creation regained, and everything and everyone reunited with Christ the Lord.

I hope you love the church as I love the church.
I hope you love your church as I love my church.
Even more - may we all love the church the way Christ loved His church (once more, see Ephesians on this as well).

Grace and peace,

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International