The Church – in Unity and Mission (By Manik Corea)

The picture that first comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘church’ reveals a great deal. If you thought of anything other than people, you were being decidedly un-biblical. The Church is not a place we go to, but a people we are.

‘Church’ in the New Testament always means the people of God. It refers to the assembly of ordinary people blessed and made holy in Christ. It refers to everyone who belongs to and participates as a disciple of Jesus in the life and mission of a local community of faith where Jesus is obeyed and God is glorified. At the same time, it includes all Christians everywhere in the world, at once both local and global.

NAMS as a missionary order of Christians seeks, as our Rule (point 7) states, ‘to work with, and be in unity with, the faithful church throughout the world,’ that is, the ‘church that submits to Christ.’ We see ourselves as relating, through the Anglican family of churches, to the ‘one holy catholic and apostolic church.’ What does this mean and why is this important?

The Apostles, taking after Jesus, taught the earliest Christians the oneness and unity of the Church existing in the local as well as catholic (i.e. universal) Church.[1]

They taught that each Christian was part of a much larger community, that the body of Christ they had been baptised into was established everywhere after the same pattern of faith and practice delivered once-for-all by the Apostles (see for example 1 Corinthians 4:17; 11:2,16; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; Jude 3).

The historic Nicene Creed expresses the biblical belief that there exists only ‘one holy catholic and apostolic church’ — a Church that is indivisible, sanctified and universal, founded after the teachings and tradition of the Apostles.

Through the ages, the centrality of the Gospel and Kingdom rule of Jesus Christ, the revelation of God the Father’s perfect will in the Scriptures (both Old and New) and the sustaining, purifying and guiding work of the Holy Spirit have been the common ground and centripetal forces of unity amongst many diverse parts and places of the Church.

Such a unity, a ‘unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,’ as Paul highlights in his letter to the Ephesians (4:3), is to be kept and pursued. We all are part of one body of Christ, we have all received one Holy Spirit, and we are all called to one common hope. We have only one Lord we obey, one saving faith to live by, and one baptism we have received (4:4-6).

On the other hand, one cannot truly love others while denying truth. Truth determines the tenor and common ground of our unity. Christian leaders must discipline false teaching and immorality within their churches, and distinguish themselves and their churches from those who have gone astray and are no longer faithful to Gospel truth.

We live in perilous times, when hostility towards and persecution of Christians, even in the once-Christian West, is on the rise. Even as the contagions of heresy, immorality, compromise, and open ridicule assault the faithful church in our world today, we cannot afford to neglect or abandon the mission to which God has called all His church: to proclaim the Gospel to all peoples, to seek His Kingdom and righteousness first, and to make disciples-making disciple by planting disciple-making churches.

This is our work – but it is also the work of all who belong to, pray, and work for the vitality and health of the ‘one, holy catholic and apostolic church.’ Since such a Church must of necessity follow in the Apostolic footsteps of those original ‘sent-out’ ones, we are sent too into a world lost and hopeless without Jesus and His Gospel.

[1] 1 Corinthians 12:12-14;Ephesians 2:19-22, 4:4; Colossians 1:18, 3:11; 1 Peter 2:5.

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The Church – in Unity and Mission (By Manik Corea)

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