The Church’s Story

What’s the story of the church? How do we fit into God’s grand plan? It runs something like this:

God created the world with the aim of making his name great by demonstrating the worth, glory and character of God the Son. It was his good pleasure to do so by making lesser beings and making them into little versions, images, of the Son—by making humans who he could then form into the likeness of the Son.

So, he made people, with the aim of making himself a people: a nation, group, or community, that would worship him and be transformed into greater degrees of his image by worshipping him, following his precepts and being in or near his presence.

This began with Adam, continued with the Patriarchs and eventually culminated in the people of Israel. Even then, with a nation called out from other nations to follow him explicitly, this was but a shadow and type of the grand plan. Its greatest heights of power in the Solomonic Empire, its greatest insights into the heart of humanity in the final form of the Psalms post-exile, or its greatest knowledge of the presence of the living God in the worship of the Temple—all of it faded compared to the fulfilment of the plan.

God then came himself, as Jesus—the Son made flesh—to deal with the greatest barrier to his people truly being like him: our sinful hearts. Jesus died in the place of his people to assuage the wrath of God, identify with us and cleanse our hearts; Jesus rose from death to life to defeat the Enemy, conquer death and grant his people a new and eternal life.

Prior to his ascension he commissioned his followers to ‘make disciples’ of people from all over the earth. That’s the command that founded the Church and set out its mission. Disciple mean ‘learner’ or ‘follower’—the Church is commissioned to make people (and a people) who spend their days learning Jesus’ way and choosing to follow Jesus in every part of their lives.

This discipleship is with the same aim that God first started this all with: to make people who are in the likeness of the Son, to better display how glorious he is. The Church is therefore aiming at the great day when Jesus completes his coming, returning to gather his people to himself, judge the living and the dead, and in an instant transform all his people from glory to glory. Then an incalculable host from every possible people group will enjoy a feast with Jesus and worship him forevermore (Revelation 7). We are commanded to prepare ourselves for this day, not by waiting for Jesus to change us at some future point, but by learning his ways and growing to be more like him day by day.

That’s an impossible task, but Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father exalted before the powers, to rule over his people care for them, and give them the gifts that they need to help each other to be disciples of Jesus. His first act was to fill his people with the Spirit so that they would each find God himself active within their hearts (Acts 2).

He continues to fill us with the Spirit individually so that we are changed by his power and able to by more like him. The people are filled with the Spirit, and changed to be more like Jesus, weekly through the four ‘actions’ that create and embody the church: Baptism, Preaching, Contributory Worship and the Lord’s Supper. Jesus also gifted the church with five (or maybe four) ‘ministries’ that grow churches to be disciples of Jesus: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (Ephesians 5).

The church is the place that we pursue our discipleship, that we follow Jesus together. It is impossible to be a disciple of Jesus apart from the community of other disciples, and the ‘actions’ and ‘ministries’ that we find in the local church.

The church is a covenant community, the assembly of those who ‘hear the word and respond’ or those who ‘believe’. It is a community that God has made a specific agreement to bless (Exodus 6). We belong and so are disciples.

The church is the company of sinners made saints, where sinful people call out sin in one another (1 John). We are encouraged to be disciples.

The church is the temple of the presence, not in an institution, but in the people and actions that make it up: the people themselves are the priests and the bricks (1 Peter 2-3). We are changed to be disciples.

The church is the ‘school’ of Christ—to teach us to follow him through the ‘ministries’, ‘actions,’ and as all believers image Christ to one-another. We are trained to be disciples.

The church is a community that makes disciples, who make disciples. That’s our story. If you’ve been around nuakh a bit you’ll have picked up that I think stories matter. They change the world. When we know our stories, our worlds changes, and when we tell our stories, the worlds we come into contact with change too.

Let’s tell our story.

Photo by Dariusz Sankowski on Unsplash

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