False religions have a few common characteristics. One is that they disengage the world. God’s community is different, it lives to engage the world without becoming like it. Another distinction of false religions is uniformity, but God’s Kingdom thrives on unity in diversity––that is, community instead of uniformity. Fabricated religions are like franchises producing cookie cutter believers, but true churches are like healthy families––they may have issues and tensions because of their diversity, but they work through them. Dead religion dominates through control; God’s community thrives on the liberty and life of the Spirit.
Karl Barth taught that the word “church” should rather be translated “community” (Evangelical Theology). The word “church” often has baggage and preconceived notions attached to it, but if we see the “church” as God’s community then we will be able to redeem the word. Peter said, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (2 Peter 2:9-10).
Of course no church can become the fullness of this apostolic community overnight. The call to be an apostolic community is in the DNA of the church like the DNA of a mustard tree is found in the seed itself. It takes take for that DNA to mature. And just like no city can thrive by itself, so each church needs one another. Like a city we need to both import and export to prosper; we must constantly be receiving and giving to flourish.
Prayer: Father, make us into the community that you destined from the beginning for us to be, in Jesus’ name.