Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Church is Bigger Than You Think

“…the church finds its primary realization in the worship of the community assembled at each place. But this is never a matter of one congregation isolated in it particularity. At each local liturgical celebration where Jesus Christ is himself present the whole global fellowship of Christians finds manifestation. For where Jesus Christ is, there is the whole (‘catholic’) church.” - W. Pannenberg, Systematic Theolgy, Vol. 3, p. 103.

The Christian gathering is the church at its most characteristic self. It is the church’s most consistent expression. Going to church is what Christians do – they gather around Jesus.

But we are liable to take this too far, and fall into the opposite error of turning every assembly of Christians into church. In fact, we even reduce bible studies groups into the only true expression of the church. But the church is bigger than we think. Because e gather around Jesus, the church is bigger than our isolated gatherings. Jesus is the church, and all who are ‘in him’.

I have only skimmed over the Sydney Diocese’s ‘Theology of Christian Assembly’ that was released recently, and noted that it has many helpful ideas in it. But we need to remember that when we meet, we are bigger than just ourselves. We are part of a larger whole. As an Anglican, we express this at communion (officially if not in practice) we, with all the saints and ‘angels and archangels gathered round your throne in heaven proclaim “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty…”’ (cf. any Anglican Prayer Book). My church is bigger than just the ratty little congregation that meets on Sunday nights – it is part of a global body (in both space and time) with Jesus as the head.


Djlpap said...

Hey, I agree that it is a much bigger picture. As I read it, I got the impression that the theology of Christian assembly that was dicussed, was the bigger picture as in all christians united to Christ. The application however was directed towards anglicans and rightly so as it was written as a report to synod. Also, the bigger picture was bought out in the second discussion on mission and connect 09 more so then this report.

Thanks be to God for the unity we have in Christ brother.

Moffitt the Prophet said...

Hey Laurence.

This wasn't really critique of the Doctrine Commission's report, more of a comment on current ecclesiastical practice. If we believe what we say in the creeds about the church, we need to own and accept that the church is bigger than my local congregation, and bigger than my diocese.

Moffitt the Prophet said...

From Southern Cross:

Bishop Davies claimed the report had failed to implement the terms of the original motion from last year’s Synod which asked the Commission to look at a theology of Christian assembly “to shape missional, biblical and Anglican” congregations.

He also claimed the report has “deficient understanding of the doctrine of worship”, which he said led the report to overlook the importance of meeting “to praise God” or “to engage with God”.

He added that the report had ignored the place of the sacraments in our Christian assemblies.

“This Diocese has a reputation for devaluing the sacraments…Maybe that isn’t merited but this document reinforces that caricature,” he said.