Monday, March 26, 2007

Does our philosophy on the church matter?

Much discussion has taken place and is taking place in Christendom on ‘what is the church’, ‘how does a church operate’, etc. Some stress the importance of tradition, some stress the importance of changing with the times, some are seeking to go back to the church of the first century, and some say that it really does not matter, that it is just a matter of preference. Is it?

I believe that much of the discussion on style and music can be regarded as a discussion about preference, but I also believe that which is central to making the church the church is of great importance. Consider this quote:

“The New Testament’s pronouncements on Church order are to be read as a gospel - that is, Church order is to be regarded as a part of the proclamation in which the Church’s witness is expressed, as it is in its preaching. There may be times when this kind of proclamation is better heard and regarded by the world than are any words; and for that reason this part of the Church’s witness too must be given clearly and plainly.”1

Thus according to Schweizer, church order is not just a matter of preference, but a way of proclaiming the gospel. A clear example of this is found in the first letter to the church in Corinth.

But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on [his] face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you. - 1 Cor 14:24-25

Here we see how the observance of a healthy meeting of believers can clearly convey the gospel message to unbelievers. But it should not stop with the gathering. Scripture states that we are the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:27). Doesn’t it make sense that we, the church, therefore represent Christ? Since that is the case, I would say that our philosophy on the church matters. It is not a matter of preference; even when Scripture is not prescriptive, it is a matter of representing the gospel to a dying world. I love reading the church fathers and have appreciated the wisdom that we find in tradition, but if tradition does not align itself with Scripture, we have the potential of presenting the wrong image of Christ to a lost world. We have to ask ourselves two questions: “what kind of picture are we painting?” and "what kind of picture is the church we meet with painting?”

I believe that I am living in an age where God is raising men and women who are willing to think critically and Biblically about the church; who are questioning our practices and asking if they align with Scripture; and who have a desire to be as Biblical as possible. I join Paul in saying: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him [be] glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” - Eph 3:20-21 (emphasis mine)

1 Eduard Schweizer, Church Order in the New Testament, trans. Frank Clarke (Naperville, IL: Alec R. Allenson, 1961), 14.


Alan Knox said...


I'm glad you were finally allowed to post this. You ask a very important question. I've been thinking about this since we talked about it. When unbelievers describe the church, they use completely different descriptions than we would want them to use. Is that due to their misunderstanding, or our incorrect demonstration of what the church is?


Heather said...

I came here from Alan's blog. I agree with what you have written here. My husband and I are currently in a season of seeking just what it is the Lord wants from us due to our agreement with you on this issue. I believe our philosophy on the church does matter because, as you said, we are representing Christ.



Maël said...


I would say both-and. I remember that before I came to Christ, I had great misconceptions about the church that came from a flawed view of Christianity. My view was tinted by my lack of understanding of Scriptures and because I had interacted with people who claimed to be believers, but probably were not.


Thanks for posting on my blog. I pray that you and your husband will continue to follow God’s leading in your life.


Alan has a parallel discussion going on here.

Join my blog network
on Facebook