Today’s post is by Joel Hylton. Joel leads WHM’s apprentice program here in London and is part of the core group which is seeking to start New City IPC. This post was first published in the New City News.
To be part of a new church, you have to believe a lot of things about the gospel. You have to believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ is really good news for the world, that the answer to life’s most important questions lie in a relationship with the creator of this world and that he actually wants relationship with his creation. You have to believe that God is in the business of reconciling himself to the world and is powerfully active. You have to believe that the church is at least one primary way of getting this good news out. We believe even more than that about the church. We believe that when scripture says that Christ is the head of the church and that we are the body of Christ, it means that we the people of the church are what the world sees of Christ.
When I ponder that fact, I’m often astounded. I’m stunned by the awesome responsibility and privilege given to us by God. John says, “God is love” but that love is not only a warm feeling; it is somehow inclusive of justice and mercy and acts of kindness that may be wholly misinterpreted by the world. Scripture tells us that humans are made in the image of God. Church is a group of redeemed image bearers calling to other image bearers to live out that image. Preposterous to the secular world!
Even if you consider that written history most often ignores the little people and therefore the good influence of sincere Christians throughout history, the church has a lot to answer for. Why does God use a bunch of people who still sin to represent him to the world? Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2 that we are the aroma of Christ “among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” At best my scent is Essence of B.O. Paul knew his own frailty as well. He went on to write, “Who is sufficient for these things?” And then, “Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God.”
To be involved in starting a new church, you have to believe a lot of things about the gospel. You have to believe that God does make his power known through our weakness as individuals and as a group. As a new church, we must not deny our weakness but we must speak about it so as to glorify God. Hiding it is pretending that we are more than we are and we need him less than we do. As a new church, we need to help each other solve the daily puzzle of embracing our weakness in a way that is not despairing, in a way that quietly shouts to people that we take joy in our saviour rather than our own goodness or strength. We will need each other!