As I’ve grown older and a bit wiser, my love for the local church as grown. The people of God gathered are together a witness to the truth of the gospel. Instrumental in my growing love and understanding of the church has been Bob Heppe. Here are a few of his thoughts about the church:
“The church is part of the gospel.” (John Stott) The kingdom of God is most fully and clearly expressed in the people He has redeemed, the community of the kingdom, who have been forgiven, cleansed, delivered from the powers of the kingdom of darkness and come under the liberating power of Christ.
We believe the church, as God’s new community, is the primary and best expression of the gospel, and so the locus and agent of God’s missionary purposes. It is the sign, instrument and foretaste of the gospel.
We, therefore, should be seeking corporately to incarnate in our body the vision, values, and characteristics of the redeemed community of the King. These include:
- encouraging one another in making Christ the centre of our devotion,
- deep and intimate fellowship,
- the radical sharing of our lives both spiritually and practically,
- acceptance of others who are unlike us,
- and sacrificial Christ-like love, both for the church community,
- and for those outside our community.
The way we live together and enjoy and love one another is a first fruit of the new age of the Kingdom which we have entered, and a dynamic power that reaches into a world of fractured relationships and broken lives. The church should be the ideal extended family, and more.
The transformation we long for is intimately connected to the church. Created in the image of the triune community, humans can be restored only in community.
Thus God’s gospel purpose of restoration necessarily includes and requires the church, the only place in the world where Biblically functioning community can properly exist. It follows that discipleship and sanctification (the process of restoring the image of God in man) is inherently corporate and communal.