1. A breed apart: 1 Peter 2 :4–10
2. We are family: Ephesians 2 :11–22
3. Which way is up?: Ephesians 4 :7–16
4. What does it mean to belong?: 1 Corinthians 12 :4–27
5. Concrete love: Romans 12 :3–21
6. All you need is love
7. Follow your leader: 1 Timothy 3 :1–13; Acts 20 25:–38
8. Making it work: Colossians 3 :12–17
9. Painting a picture: Acts 2 :42–47
Underneath its glossy and confident surface, our society is fragmenting. The problem is growing; some people are becoming more isolated, and though they are warm and well fed, it’s cold comfort to those who need love and understanding as well as a couple of square meals a day. Others are not exactly lonely, but keep to their own little cliques. Wherever you go, people form gangs; youths on street corners, old folks in day centres, yuppies in wine bars, ramblers on hilltops. We learn to live in our own little subculture; we live by its rules and think with its prejudices. Sometimes the cliques gang up on each other. Everyone is working to a different self-centred agenda; behind the scenes, society is disintegrating. Isn’t it about time someone thought of a way of reintegrating people, before it’s too late? Wouldn’t it be great if you could get people of widely different ages, attitudes and outlooks to meet and communicate and learn to love and value each other? How wonderful it would be if children could grow up in a large extended family that includes the rich as well as the financially excluded, black as well as white; a place where class distinction or racial prejudice simply don’t matter? If such an energetic mixed community committed itself to serve those who do not yet belong, imagine the impact they would have!
Communities like this exist: they are called churches. Churches are a great idea, they are God’s idea.
But the trouble is, the twenty-first-century mind is clogged with misinformation about the church. ‘A church’, a friend of mine once said, ‘is a building with a fundraising thermometer outside, proof positive that they are only after your money.’ Christians are often no better informed and so the church fails to be all that it could be – a community of people transformed by the gospel, whose purpose, no less, is to transform the rest of society by faithfully proclaiming that same gospel.
This book is important because the church today is failing to be all that it could be. There is an urgent need to get a thorough understanding of God’s blueprint; the text of Scripture itself. This book is important because it takes you through the seminal passages of Scripture that should inform our vision for our churches and because it encourages us to develop a truly Christian mind on the subject of the church.
The author is well qualified to be your guide. He knows his Bible better than almost anyone I know, and he belongs to a superb church where the things he teaches are believed and practised – I should know, I was once their pastor and they taught me more than I ever taught them. Graham Beynon’s deep knowledge, passionate commitment and practical involvement have equipped him for the job; you won’t get a better teacher than that! Study this book and use it to teach others – before it’s too late!
Bethany Christian Centre
1. A breed apart: 1 Peter 2 :4–10 extract
I would like to invite you to join my personal campaign. It is only a small venture and very limited in scope, but I think it is worth joining. My friends tell me I’m a bit sad about it, too focused on details, but I can’t let it go. ‘What is it?’ you ask. It’s a campaign for Christians to use the word ‘church’ properly. Let me explain. I had been in my position as an associate minister for only a few weeks when it struck me that I’d heard the word ‘church’ used in about six different ways. Some people used it of the building where we met on Sundays; they said, ‘Let’s meet at the church.’ Others meant the large meeting room in the front of that building; when standing in a back hall they said, ‘Let’s go through to the church.’
I had heard someone else ask about the Methodist church, meaning the Methodist denomination, while someone else talked of ‘the church in this country’, referring to all the denominations and independent churches together. Others spoke of seeing me at church, by which they meant the main Sunday meeting. And finally, one kind soul had said how good it was to have my family as part of the church!
Which one of these comes into your mind when someone mentions the word ‘church’? I hope that the image that comes into your mind would not in the first instance be of buildings or institutions, or even activities or services, but of the faces of people. When the Bible talks about the church, it is only ever talking about people, and a particular sort of people at that. There’s a passage in Peter’s first letter that helps us to understand a bit more about church, and my little campaign, and why it’s so important. The passage shows who the church is in two ways: people who believe in Jesus and people who belong to God. ...
... these verses in 1 Peter give us a picture of the church. It’s a new group that God is putting together, a new temple where God lives, a new priesthood who offer him new sacrifices. This is why Christians could forget about the temple in Jerusalem once Jesus had come, because all that the old temple symbolized is now going on in the church, among those who believe in Jesus.
This has some simple but profound implications:
Church = people who believe in Jesus
This is what defines the boundaries of the church. Jesus divides people into two camps, either you’re in or you’re out; and it’s those who trust in Jesus who are in.
By comparison, some people think that coming to church services or church meetings is what makes you part of the church. Or it’s being on a membership list, or being baptized. But none of those things can make you part of the church – only believing in Jesus can do that. So we need to distinguish between those who come to the meetings and the true church itself, which is only those who trust in Christ.
Not that we want to put people off coming! I would love it if more people who weren’t believers came to our meetings regularly. And of course they should experience the love of the community of the church without having to ‘sign up’. But God cements them into the wall of his house only as they come to believe in Jesus. We need to remember that ourselves and gently point it out to people who come.
People who believe in Jesus = church
If you believe in Jesus, you are part of the church. ...