What should the Church look like?


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I don’t know about you but before I became a Christian I went to church. mmm, that sounds a bit divergent emergent doesn’t it, but it’s true. My father is a rector / pastor / priest of a lovely Spirit filled Anglican church in Port Elizabeth Nelson Mandela Bay called St John the Baptist which I attended as a child (St John the Baptist is a rather unfortunate name for an Anglican church and causes much confusion).

When I was old enough to make a decision of faith for myself I left the church, disillusioned and with a rather large monkey on my back. Sometime later God, in His infinite mercy, decided to do a work in my life and effectually called me to Himself, this time worshiping with a Baptistish bunch of Fundamental Dispensational Calvinists in Johannesburg (I know, I know, I need a shorter description… and that was only the half of it, I was going to include pre-trib pre-mil…).

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Tonight when I logged onto the internet I had every intention of posting something but I found myself strapped for ideas. What to do, what to do? Well, pick on an easy target of course and who better than the Anglicans / Episcopalians / COE, they’re practically a rabbit in hunting season with a big bulls eye drawn on it at the moment.

Now, what has Gene Robinson gaffed lately? I scanned the net, found his last verbal triad of heretical sacrilege and was suitably appalled… but… nothing, I just didn’t feel “inspired”. I really didn’t want to write on this, it was so… so… unedifying. So back to the browsing I went.

Who’s next on the list? Desmond naturally. Well he has been up to his usual mischief, sprouting all manner of ecumenical liberal nonsense but I really have a soft spot for the guy and don’t think I’d feel comfortable using him as a theological punch bag. And so back to the ether I headed looking for another target (by the way if you’re looking for a solid source of conservative Anglican thought check out Anglican Mainstream South Africa).

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And that’s when it happened: An inspirational article caught my eye. It’s a happy, feel good tale about a Church of England community in Devon, the Diocese of Exeter.

Basically the Bishop of the area (ok, so they don’t get everything right) presided over a couple of water baptisms as part of a 1,100th anniversary celebration (Good grief, did you catch that? A 1,100th anniversary. That means they’re celebrating a date pre Reformation… Are we allowed to do that :)?).

Can you believe a bunch of clergy, and a bishop no less (he’s the guy with the trendy purple shirt), cassocks and all, waded into a nippy fast flowing river, reminiscent of a John the Baptist scene, and baptized a group of new believers.

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All jokes aside it truly warmed my heart. I love it when a bunch of Christians get it right. There are so many things about this article that make me smile: Believer baptism in a Covenantal semi-Reformed community :). The sight of cassocks wading through water :). The fact that they had gum boot on under their robes :). 500 on lookers observing this beautiful symbol of dying and rising with Christ :). The list goes on and on.

Luke Salkeld, who wrote this story, captured in photos and words a depiction of something which has been largely absent in the media portrayal of the Church of late. ACTION! Involvement, community, belonging, interaction, doing.

As the divergent church attacks, often with feints and parries painting the Church as a fat sloth hiding within the four walls of a old outdated Gothic relic, the Church of God, the real Church needs to rise out of it’s slumber and engage. Engage a world which is broken and shackled. Preach the Gospel to the lost. Be seen, be doing. Noses in hymnals once a week on Sundays behind closed doors just doesn’t cut it.

Now I know a living Church is more than a dip in the Jordan every 1,100 years but this is a start. I’m looking forward to photos of this same community working in orphanages, soup kitchens and handing out tracts in parks in the future. Sometimes when I look on the Church I have difficulty separating the forest from the trees but tonight I’m smiling in agreement with Christ’s vision of His bride from Revelation 19:7 – 10:

7 “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.”
8 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright {and} clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

9 Then he *said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ ” And he *said to me, “These are true words of God.”
10 Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he *said to me, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

Got any happy comments about the believers that you worship with?

2 thoughts on “What should the Church look like?

  1. Hi pal,

    Just a couple of “thumps” from me regarding one or two issues that you write about.

    You mention correctly that you had moved out of the church disillusioned. I remember that very well and mom and I prayed for you so fervently that the Lord would draw you back to Himself because we knew the underlying faith that was handed over to you (as it was handed down to Timothy by his mother and grand-mother). You may remember that the way the Lord drew you back to church was through your desire to get married and I said that I would be honored to marry you provided you were worshiping together with Liezl and that you would be prepared for marriage. You indicated that you had already decided that you would like to get back to church (The Lord’s drawing you to Himself!!). I said that I didn’t mind which church the Lord led you to – as long as it was a Word based, Spirit-filled community. You visited Midrand and discovered that it was warm and receiving and Word based and Spirit-filled and I shouted at the top of my voice together with mom “Praise the Lord!, Thank you Jesus” because knew that you would be a faithful and active member of that church.

    Now, my concerns – why go looking for dirt on any church. Seeking out Gene Robinson and Desmond (even if we both have a soft spot for him) is like pulling out Jimmy Swaggart or the following web site http://www.reformation.com/CSA/baptistsabuse.html to nail the Baptists of the world. That doesn’t make sense. As Paul writes “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) but what is important is that we have been saved by grace and through faith in Christ. (Eph 2:8-9). So, to glorify God you need to focus not on the sinner/heretic/abuser within a community but upon those who are being saved according to the purpose and will of the Father.

    So it is a good thing that you turned your attention away from the heretics and focussed on a happy, feel good tale about a Church of England community in Devon, the Diocese of Exeter. The great thing about that church is that it represents a huge body of Anglican believers and churches that are seeking to live out the Gospel through faith and faithfulness. Gene Robinson and Desmond represent a minuscule, albeit vocal, percentage of the church. Anglican Mainstream is well named as it says that the mainstream of Anglicanism is not where Gene and Desmond party – but firmly rooted in the Word of God. I have sent through a couple of pictures that suggest that there are a lot more of us akin to the church in Devon and we are seeking to “rise out of it’s slumber and engage. Engage a world which is broken and shackled. Preach the Gospel to the lost. Be seen, be doing…”

    So thanks for the article. I absolutely love your writing even if I don’t agree with every word. The Lord is using your blog in great ways – certainly in my life anyway.

    Look out for the photo’s

    • Hi Dad,

      I agree with you 100%, I started the evening looking for something that was unedifying, wouldn’t have built anyone up and was plain wrong. I’m glad I didn’t head down that path too far. Instead what I found was God’s People acting out their faith to God’s glory.

      Maybe one other thing, the last three paragragraphs are an exhortation to the Church at large rather than the church. It includes me and where I worship. I want my faith to be worn on my the sleeve in the same way this community has lived out their faith. They’re the example. It’s not about being Anglican or Baptist it’s about being saved. I guess the call to all men is this, “14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does {anyone} light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

      You’re my hero.

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