Revealing the reign (Ephesians 3:10)

What does God intend the church to be and do? That question matters more than all the goals and KPIs we set for ourselves.

So how does this sound?

Ephesians 3 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. (NIV)

Say, what? Does the church exist so God can show off to rulers and spiritual beings?

With the wrong assumptions, this picture is a dark puzzle. But it makes brilliant sense when illuminated by the story about God’s kingship (the kingdom of God), revealed in his Messiah. Continue reading “Revealing the reign (Ephesians 3:10)”

Why “church”?

Ekklēsia is a strange word for early Christians to choose for church. It was used for political gatherings, not religious ones. They had words for religious meetings (synagōgē) or general gatherings (e.g. sullogos). Why ekklēsia?

It’s odd enough to choose this word for a local church meeting, such as “the ekklēsia that meets in your home” (Philemon 2). But it’s beyond odd to use this word for something that is not a local assembly, such as “the ekklēsia throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria” (Acts 9:31).

How did this usage arise? Let’s start with what ekklēsia meant before Christians borrowed it.

Continue reading “Why “church”?”

Kingdom or Church?

How come the epistles talk more about church than kingdom?

Kingdom was Jesus’ priority, the restoration of God’s reign. But when we turn to the epistles, there’s more about church than kingdom. Why?

The church doesn’t seem to measure up to Jesus’ kingdom ideal. It’s almost like, “Jesus preached the kingdom, but what we got was the church” (Alfred Loisy, l’Evangile et l’Eglise, 1902, 111).

We need to re-establish the connection between church and kingdom. The connection is Jesus. The head of the church is the king of the kingdom. Continue reading “Kingdom or Church?”

How should we do church?

Most churches spend our energy and resources providing a great Sunday experience. It might be a cathedral with pipe organ, or a rented hall with a band, but most of a church’s time and money goes into what happens at the weekend service.

So, you’d expect the New Testament to guide us on how to do church. It doesn’t.

Ephesians says heaps about the church, with no instruction on what to do when we meet. Search Colossians, Philippians, Thessalonians, and Galatians. Nothing?

What about a longer letter like Romans? Nada. What should we make of this disparity? Is it our fault (we’re focused on the wrong thing), or Paul’s (he missed the main deal)?

Let me throw you a lifeline. There is one letter where Paul discusses church meetings, and it’s a significant chunk: 1 Corinthians 11 – 14.

Continue reading “How should we do church?”

The scandal of George Pell

Jesus never called us to condemn the sin of the world, but he did call us to confront sin in the church.

I’m devastated. When a church leader is exposed as a child-abuser, our nation has another reason to hate the church and despise our message.

Silence the excuses! It makes no difference whether you’re Catholic or Protestant. It won’t do to wonder if the courts got it wrong. A manager in the household of God has been found guilty of abusing the trust placed in them to care for the children in the family.

The nearest Jesus ever came to recommending capital punishment was this: Continue reading “The scandal of George Pell”

What makes a church effective?

What makes a church credible in the community? Good events? Or good works?

I kid you not:  Riverview Church staff went offsite today to discuss what the church is and what we are becoming. And that sign (above) was at the entrance of the room we used!

So, what do you think? Does the church best represent God with good events, or good works? Continue reading “What makes a church effective?”

What’s Riverview?

“I see a church …”

If a church is not part of a denomination, what box to put it in? How do you know what it is?

Its “statement of faith” should affirm orthodox Christian beliefs. Labels like Evangelical or Charismatic may give you a hint about its style. But why does it exist? What’s its distinctive?

What kind of community is it? What priorities does it have? What does it aim to be? What kind of people belong there? Continue reading “What’s Riverview?”

One ruler can bring humanity home

What kind of ruler could bring an end to war and injustice? He’d need to be a very different kind of ruler, and all humanity would need to submit to him.

As you read the Christmas story, do you see how rulers today still rely on evil and death as Herod the Great did? The spirit behind Herod reigned in the rulers who came before him: Antiochus Epiphanes IV, Nebuchadnezzar, Pharaoh Neco, Sennacherib, …

When Fidel Castro died, some rulers like Canada’s Justin Trudeau sparked a social media storm for eulogizing him (#trudeaueulogies). Michael Bird chipped in with examples of how rulers still reign through the power of death: Continue reading “One ruler can bring humanity home”

Your God is too small

How do you understand the gospel? Having a personal Saviour, or being the kingdom of God?

If the kingdom is so central to the Biblical narrative, why do we miss it?

In the last few hundred years, we’ve developed a culture where the spiritual is separate from the natural, where faith is separate from science, where the church is separate from state. I grew up in this world. When I was a child, an elder of our church taught me not to worry about people’s physical needs. “Leave it to the Salvos and the do-gooders to feed their bodies now,” he said. “What really matters is to save their souls so they go to heaven when they die.”

Continue reading “Your God is too small”