Church Dictionary: Part 1
One of my favorite movies is “The Princess Bride.” There is a funny exchange that happens between Inigo Montoya and Vizzini. Vizzini has the habit of exclaiming, “INCONCEIVABLE” throughout the movie when The Dread Pirate Roberts (Westley) continually overcomes all that is thrown at him. Finally, Inigo turns to Vizzini and says, (read with caricatured accent from old world Spain) “You keepa saying thata word. I do nota thinka thata word means whata you think ita means.”
We use a lot of words in our church community and in ministry. Like in any other domain or sector there are some unique words or maybe a specific definition of common words. In order for there to be unity and effective expression of our mission as this local church, The Bridge Montrose, I thought it would be good to take a moment to define a few of our most common and important terms. These definitions will be short and will not delve nearly as deeply into why we have those definitions as we could or should. I hope this leads to further personal and communal pursuit of these understandings. This is the first installment of a series of posts that will work through these terms.
Christian: A Christ-follower. Someone who has understood that they are a rebel in their sin, and, because of that, there is separation from God and a sentence of eternal condemnation. In light of this, they have believed in their heart and confessed with their mouths that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9-10), that Jesus in His perfect life and atoning sacrifice is the means in which God, in His infinite love, perfect wisdom, and complete justness, made it possible that the consequence for sin could be fulfilled through Christ and, at the same time, we could be made whole and redeemed to right standing with our Creator once again. To be Christian also means to participate in the mission of Jesus Christ. That is, we are to be a part of seeking and saving the lost as the work of Jesus is accomplished through our lives empowered by the Holy Spirit and transformed by the Truth (Word) of God. You will see more about this below in our definition of the Church. You will also often hear a Christian referred to as one who is “in Christ.” we should never think of being Christian in the singular sense. Because we are only Christian when we are in Christ, we are given a common identity and unity that must always be thought of communally. Although our faith is very personal and our fellowship with God in Jesus Christ is meant to be completely satisfying, it is wholly contradictory to live an isolated life away from other Christ-followers. We are meant to share life, worship together, and serve the world in God's Kingdom ministry together. The plural form of Christian is Church.
Church: To rightly define church, you really need to add one word to it. It is more accurate to say “The Church.” That is because The Church is something that we are rather than something we merely do. There are two senses of which we use the term "The Church." The first is on the global scale. We see in Scripture (Matthew 6:18-19 and Acts 20:28) that The Church is representative of all those who are in Christ. This global people represent God’s holy family and those which God intends to accomplish His work through throughout the world. Because of this, there should be great unity and love between all Christians who make up the Church worldwide. Unfortunately, we know all too well that this is not always the case, but it should be what the Church holds to and strives for. When someone asks us how many churches are in our city, let's respond with a Kingdom view and say, "There is one Church in our city." The second way we speak of the Church is what you are more familiar with. This is the local church. The one that has a name and maybe a sign with pithy or ironic slogans on it. The mistake we don’t want to make is to think that these two understandings are drastically different. It is not that one is organizational and the other is not. Both are rooted in an identity. What makes a church is that there is a gathered people of God. They don’t need a name, a building, or bylaws. Those things aren’t bad, but they are not what makes the local church the church. The picture that Scripture paints of the local Church is a group of Christ-followers that are committed to living out God’s will and way together in a specific place for a specific time. One of the main works that our local churches should strive for is to build each other up (equip/disciple) SO THAT we can live as sent people to the world around us that is in need of God's glorious and gracious Truth in Christ (Ephesians 4:11-16; John 17:15-21). This does not mean that our local churches are only for Christ-followers. Our prayer is that people who are searching, disbelieving, doubting, questioning, and seeking would come along with us as we all pursue the Truth of God and the person of Jesus as He transforms all of us.
Gospel: Gospel literally means "good news." When we use the word "gospel," we are referring to the good news of Jesus. What is the good news of Jesus? I love Randy Pope’s simple summary of the amazing work of the Gospel: “We had it all. We lost it all. He gave it all.” Let me expand.
We had it all: God created us in perfection. Not just that we were perfect, but our relationship with our Creator God and Father was perfect. There was no sickness, no pain, no insecurity, no shame, no death. Mankind walked and communed with God. WE HAD IT ALL.
We lost it all: God gave us paradise and dominion over all of it. We were meant to enjoy it forever and be fruitful and multiply, spreading His image over all of the earth. In an act of rebellion and acting as our self-sovereign, mankind decided we knew better than God and ate from the Tree of Life which had been forbidden. Adam and Eve’s and our sin caused a relational separation between mankind and God that also demanded the consequence of death. Although the sentence of instant death was stayed, pain, sickness, and death entered into the world. Mankind could no longer live forever, and was destined for eternal punishment in hell and separation in our relationship with God the Father. Is there anything greater we could have lost? We. Lost. It All.
He gave it all: God, the very One who is worthy to serve up judgment on a rebellious people that He created and also had a valid personal motivation to write us off and end us forever, showed the absolute expression of love and justice in that He gave Himself in the form of His Son (the Trinity can be tricky but it is real) so that His sentence would not merely be dismissed but upheld. In the giving of His Son, Jesus, God is shown to be completely just and overwhelmingly loving. Jesus also gave it all. Jesus's sacrifice began long before that beautiful and scandalous day on the cross. Take a moment to read Philippians 2:5-11. Did you read it? Jesus first gave up heaven. He gave up sitting next to God. He gave up equality with God. He gave up His rights and humbled Himself to be subjected to human rule even though He could have called down angels or even judgment on man. Ultimately, he gave up His perfect sinless life so that we could be saved. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, "For our sake, He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him, we might become the righteousness of God." There is no good reason for God to work in this way on our behalf other than His love. God is motivated by the need for His glory to be manifest in this world. When His loving sacrifice collides with the devastating need of every human being, we see the most beautiful picture of a desperate situation overcome the only way possible. In Christ, we are made whole, redeemed, and reconciled to God, to each other, and to our world. That is good news. For more, read Ephesians 2:1-3 to see our desperate need for God to intervene. Read Romans 3:21-26 to see God's righteous love work in a way that His justice and love are both satisfied.
Check back for later posts where we will define the terms below:
- The Word of God
- Kingdom of God
What are some terms you hear often that you would like to hear defined? Put them in the comments.