In the previous blog I introduced the subject of ‘TRUE SPIRITUALITY’ as reflected in Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer’s experience and writing. I lifted out three highlights for me personally.
The fourth highlight for me was Schaeffer’s understanding of spirituality as related to the Church [we can’t separate spirituality and the Church: my comment]. I want to deal with three insights here concerning spirituality and the Church:
- Schaeffer, quite rightly, saw the Church as ‘the second humanity.’ She is ‘the body’ of Christ. As such she should exhibit him to the world. Just as our means of communication into the external world is our body, so the Church as the body of Christ should be to Christ his means of communication into the external world. We think our thoughts and then we convey our thoughts into the external world through our bodies; our physical body is the point of communication with the external world and this is the way we affect the world. In the same way the Church is called to be the means whereby Christ may be exhibited and act in this external world until he comes again. Since the fall there have been two humanities, not one. There are those who are still in revolution against God, and there are those who by God’s grace have returned to him on the basis of the cross. Every single generation should be able to look at the Church and see an exhibition of a substantially restored relationship between men in this present life. We’re talking here about men in relationship to God, in relationship to themselves, and in relationship to others – all this in the Church. We are to be true humanity before a lost humanity. [my comment: was it Dietrich Bonhoeffer who said that Christ came to make us truly ‘human’? Imagine the outworking of this in the work-place, our marriage, our parenting, our witness to the broken and forgotten, our unity in a polarising society, etc. Let’s remember these things when next we talk about ‘being the church’ in the world]
- Where a group of believers are not under the headship of Jesus, they are ‘spastic’ members of the body. Church unity is not organisational, it is a united body where each part is under the control of the Head and therefore lives and functions together. Thus if as individual believers or groups of believers we are not under the leadership of Jesus, the Church will be functioning like hands that cannot find each other and in a disjointed way. This applies to a congregation, mission, small group, etc: let us examine ourselves as to whether we are in fact functioning under the headship of Christ. [personal comment: we are not here de-meaning those born with a spastic disability. In my first youth group, many moons ago, we adopted a school for disabled children – what fun we had together] [another personal challenge: do you know of any church or group that truly honours the centrality and supremacy of Jesus Christ as the functional Leader and Head of the gathering? I think this is where we have to start if we want to be the body of Christ in this world]
- There is a distinction between men, even converted men, building Christ’s Church and Christ building his Church through converted and consecrated men (cf. Mt. 16:13ff). Organisational and financial matters should not be allowed to get in the way of the personal and group leading of the Holy Spirit. These things must never be allowed to rule out faith or contradict the supernatural. Schaeffer uses the example of Uzzah and the Ark (2 Sam. 6:1-15), symbol of God’s presence. There always seems a legitimate reason for reaching out to steady the Ark. And as Uzzah reached out to steady the Ark, he thought he had a good enough reason for disobeying the word of God (v.6-7). At this point he no longer trusted God to steady the Ark. Might it not fall? Might not something of God’s work and glory be shaken? Schaeffer says this danger is never more present for us than in the face of organisational and financial crisis. You see, we tend to think that God is building the invisible church and we are building the visible church. This is a false dichotomy. In ‘church meetings’ are we not all familiar with the quick ‘opening prayer,’ a quick ‘closing prayer’ after half the people have left, but in between no difference exists between doing the Lord’s business and the business of some well organised business enterprise. Instead we should always look to Christ, and always wait and pray for his leading, moment by moment, so that we operate on a supernatural plane. This to many of us is a different world. [personal comment: organisation is not wrong per se, but it becomes a problem when it gets in the way of the conscious relationship to Christ of the Church as the Church. I would plead, as many others are at this time, for minimal church structure and maximum church ‘life’ (Christ). Let us pursue ‘simple Church,’ so that Christ may truly function as Head of his body].
There is much more I could share from Schaeffer’s ‘True Spirituality,’ but I’m sure we have enough to chew on and hopefully change us before a watching world.