Monday, June 10, 2013

The End for Which God Created the Local Church

With the passing of time and the experience of living longer in this world and in the anemic American evangelical church, and with another year passing of reading through holy writ, I'm convinced that the heartbeat of every churchpalpable in doctrinal statements, vision statements, and all of church lifemust be a passion and zeal for the glory of God. Anything else is too small, too man-centered, too sub-biblical.

The combination of a pervasive man-centeredness today and the pervasive presence of texts like the one I read this morning
Help us, O God of our salvation,
for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and atone for our sins,
for your name's sake! (Ps. 79:9)
conspire to make me more eager than ever for God's name to be hallowed in all things in the life of the Church, in the world, and in homes, neighborhoods, and workplaces. Texts like the one quoted are everywhere in Scripture. It is the major note struck in the Bible. It is the major note God is striking in the symphonic narrative of redemptive history that he has orchestrated. And yet (to my great dismay and grief), it is hardly even a minor note in many, many churches.

As Jonathan Edwards reminds the church so well, the display and approbation of the glory of God is the end for which God made the world. And if it is God's end or goal in creationand it most certainly is!—it ought to be our end in everything we think, say, plot, and do in the local church. Such a heartbeat ought so to thump in a local church that it is felt immediately and pervasively by all who come in contact with her living and breathing ministries and members. That is, unless she is dead or dying. 

Specifically, the glory of God must be manifestly known and prized. We must manifest that we know something about it, and then we must show how we treasure it above all else. And this must be included in doctrinal and vision statements, but must go way beyond such statements. In other words, it needs to be institutionally up front and center, like the first thing you see when you go to a website; but it must not be a dead letter, either. The glory of God affirmed on paper only is only an indictment. 

Even more specifically, based on Eph. 1:6, the aspect of the glory of God that needs to be highlighted and emphasized and gloried and rejoiced in is the glory of God's free grace for sinners. God's redemption planned from eternity past aims at this: "the praise of the glory of his grace" (Eph. 1:6, translation mine). So we should openly and vocally exist for this ultimate reason. 

So many other things in vision statements are good and right in their own place. But inasmuch as they are penultimate (that is to say, not the display and enjoyment of the glory of God), then they ought to exist openly for the ultimate: the glory of God. Otherwise, they betray a profound betrayal of the Bible's dominant emphasis and the goal of the universe—that is, God's goal to glorify himself in all things

So my prayer for local churches today is for the name of God to be esteemed and hallowed and praised and gloried in and valued above all else—manifestly, palpably, pervasively. 

No comments:

Post a Comment