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There really is a perfect church

Cynical Christians everywhere will tell you, “There is no perfect church.” They are like the person who wakes up after tossing and turning all night, looks in the mirror, and proclaims, “This is going to be a bad hair day.” Reality does not match up with the ideal. What is this ideal? Well, …
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Cynical Christians everywhere will tell you, “There is no perfect church.” They are like the person who wakes up after tossing and turning all night, looks in the mirror, and proclaims, “This is going to be a bad hair day.” Reality does not match up with the ideal.

What is this ideal? Well, I’m here to tell you that there is a perfect church. I found it in Atlanta on Ralph Abernathy Drive. It is actually called that: “The Perfect Church!” Maybe we should just use it as a model.

Or maybe a better place to look would be in the Bible. Acts 2:42-47 gives us a picture of what the body of Christ should look like. The first thing to note is that it has nothing to do with a building or with a denomination. It is a group of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Specifically, we see this first church engaged in seven corporate activities:

7 Corporate Activities

1. Teaching

2. Fellowship

3. Prayer

4. Power ministries

5. Sharing

6. Worship

7. Outreach

There are six individual responses I see – I’ll save ’em for a later blog.

Comments (6)

  • There is an eight: “earning a livingwork.” Although hidden between the lines in the OT & NT, I would guess that the community supported one another in their work life as well as their corporate worship life. Why do we forget about the fact that “work” was the first holy activity of man when he tended the gardent and named the creatures?

  • Better do it quick, they meet tomorrow in New Orleans! Knowing them, they’d slap me on the back and give me a raise!

  • Interesting List Seth. I would humbly like to offer my own and provide proper reasoning for the changes.

    1. Prayer

    I agree with you that prayer needs to remain a central tenet of any functioning church. Having said this though, the cadence and direction of prayer cannot be self-consuming, but rather outward looking.

    2. Inclusion

    Most churches are fatefully flawed with the natural propensity to dogmatically, ethically, socially, etc. separate themselves from the rest, claiming some form of infallibility. This is simply rubbish and needs to be done away with. Having said this, a church needs to actively seek the inclusion of new members who are currently being ostracized or victimized by the currently social order within their respective paradigm.

    3. Preferential Option for the Poor

    This tenant is often misunderstood by most people who believe that by practicing a preferential option for the poor, they are against the affluent. This simply isn’t true and the following story will exemplify this claim. A Jesuit here at Boston College recently told me a story when he would go out into the strawberry fields of California and literally stand with migrant workers, in order to make sure that they were not physically abused by the plantation owners. Here, the Jesuit was not opposed to the plantation owners, but rather understanding the current power arrangement of this situation, he realized the need to practice an option for the poor, given the fact that they lack the necessary capacities needed to defend themselves. So in summation, a preferential option for the poor is not a posture against the affluent, but rather is born out of a realistic understanding of the ways in which society inequitably distributes resources among a community. A preferential option for the poor is a humble attempt to compensate for this structural shortcomings of a capitalistic free-market society, where the value of a person is solely predicated on his/her ability to positively contribute to the economy.

    4. Solidarity

    The cadence of Christ’s ministry can sufficiently be described in one word, “Solidarity”. From his birth through the time of his last breath, Christ was always forming “community” with those who remained on the margins of society (tax collectors and the poor alike). Any church that claims to be “Christ-centered” must emulate this trait. Unfortunately, people like Ted Haggard (Pastor of New Life Church) and James Dobson (Focus on the Family) continue to enunciate, through their actions, the errant belief that God desires his people to remain in the company of the powerful. Though I recognize the advantages granted by association with people in powerful positions, I would strongly encourage both these men to leave the cozy confines of their “Middle-America” pulpits (or radio booths) and live in solidarity with a specific people group living in the margins of society, instead of blindly espousing their myopic and uncritical stances on over-publicized issues such as “gay marriage”. By doing so, they would equip themselves with personal life-experiences that most closely mirror the ministry of Christ and could share these experiences with their countless followers. America would be a better place if they were to do so.

    Though I recognize the need for teaching and fellowship, I believe that the lessons can be more effectively learned through the acts of service. Furthermore, I would like to know a more specific definition of “Worship” and “Sharing”. If worship is myopically defined as the act of singing, I believe the church would be a lot of effective if the amount of this practice was drastically reduced. As for sharing, I need to have a working definition in order to know where I stand on the idea.

    Thanks for your thoughts Seth and I look forward to reading tomorrow’s blog.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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