A survey published 10 years ago said that out of the then population of 61 million people in the UK, 35 million were Christian. Isn’t that amazing?!!
However out of the 35 million Christians only 9 million went to Church!
Do you ever wonder why people have stopped attending Church?
How sad it is when Churches have declined because people stopped going there.
“Personalities united can contain more of God and sustain the force of his greater presence better than scattered individuals.” Dallas Willard.
Transformation requires community. It is how and why we were created. But also hearing God, guidance, healing, His glory is better seen in community.
It is something that Paul isolated in prison writing to enforced scattered individuals because of persecution teaches the Church and us.
There are many in prisons of persecution today who would view it as an anathema that there are 26 million Christians in the UK who are not in a construction called the Church.
My prayer is that as we come out of lockdown and go back to our buildings eventually we not only have a renewed love for the Church but that our neighbours have found a love for us also and that we will reach the 26 million who have left during construction for all kinds of reasons.
Let’s read what Paul says next,
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22
In the last few days we have been reading how the Temple with its dividing walls was gone. It was still there at the time of Paul’s writing but he says it is worthless, it might as well not be there anymore. God is doing something new. There is a new building, a new household for people and this is of course, the Church.
Paul shows us what the Church was but we in 2020 need to make sure that what he saw is still there in some form.
Paul’s view of Church:
- The foundation was Christ Jesus, the name above all names, the cornerstone was the act of sacrifice, the cross. The floor of the Church has the blood of Christ.
In 2020 the Church still needs to give Jesus the highest honour, no one else, just Him. The floor of the Church should not have any other blood there, only the blood of Jesus.
- The foundation of apostles and prophets was clear to see, even from an apostle in a prison. He doesn’t mention the other 3 offices of the 5 fold ministry which is clearly of importance to him as we will see soon. These were the heralds, the authoritative messengers, those who heard and spoke.
In 2020 the Church still needs the apostolic (people sent with spiritual authority) and the prophetic (people who are inspirational carriers of the Word of God and who bring revelation by His Spirit).
- There was no outsiders. Unlike the Temple no one was excluded. Both Jew and Gentile together in the same household.
In 2020 the Church still needs to post its “All are Welcome” signs. In localised Churches it just may not be relevant to find Jews and Gentiles together. But what is relevant is there to be no racial divide, no cultural prejudice, no ‘what’s in it for me?’ attitudes. Egos are left behind, ‘no one tells me how to live’ is not the spirit of the church. There are no pretences, deception and lies. Before you think I am heading for utopia, there is no fantasy of what Church is either. Bonhoeffer said, “He who loves his dream of community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter.”
- A place where God lives. The Temple was always known for the holy of holies. Where God chose to be. Paul says God is now living in the Church of points 1-3
In 2020 God still loves this Church. The call is for us also to love the Church the way He loves it. We must speak of the Church and treat the Church the way He does with the full knowledge of what Christ did for the Church.
Finally, before you launch into a depression over the imperfection of your local Church, note that Paul says we are a work in progress. We are rising to become, we are being built together and we are becoming a dwelling. He is not finished with us yet. It will get even better. Maybe it has to. But it will.