Welcome to the first issue of 2008. We believe this year will be an especially important year for Christian Education and Publications and the Presbyterian Church in America. We ended 2007 with the topic of the church. The church and the kingdom will be the main themes for 2008 because we want to reflect the mind and heart of our triune God, and both the church and the kingdom are the objects of His deepest affections and concerns.
It becomes more and more obvious that people are deficient in understanding the church and the kingdom; hence, they have not embraced nor understood them as clearly as God would have. As a result, from a human standpoint, the church is taking a licking. People, lacking a biblical view of both, are saying things that should not be said about either. There is apparent confusion about how the local church fits into the universal church and then how the universal church, including the local, relates to and is part of the kingdom.
When we must from time to time critique the church, realizing that we as professing Christians are the church, we must remember that the church is the bride of Christ. It is His body, made up of many members. I think we should be very careful of how and what we say about the church that would suggest it is non-essential, out of date, or that our relation to the church is an elective. Using the marriage analogy of the church as the Bible does, there are times when the bride may need some counseling or help in the marriage; but there is never a time when the bride is to be abandoned or put down.
As Reformed, Bible believing Christians, we have a high view of the church. It is the place where we can demonstrate our love for God and our neighbor as ourselves more clearly than with any other institution. The church plays a key role in our spiritual lives, and how the church functions will be determined by how Christians are discipled. If that process does not include a “twenty-four/seven concept” of the Christian life and “doing all to the glory of God,” then the church will not have served the kingdom in a positive manner.
CEP is committed to assisting our local churches to be equipped to serve the kingdom. Through our training and resources, we focus on the triune God and how we best serve His purpose to this generation. The PCA’s concept of being a missional church focuses on the same, but how effective we are in that mission requires seeing the church holistically and not as separate parts. The lead article by Dr. Roy Taylor, Stated Clerk of the PCA, is a summary of a seminar from our 2006 Women in the Church conference. The article underscores the significance of our understanding the connection of the local churches. Of course, there is the sense in which all churches committed to the triune God, the Scriptures as God’s authoritative Word, the saving work of Christ on the cross and His Lordship seen in the lives of His people are connected; and we must look for opportunities to express that broader connection. However, there is a unique way in which our understanding of the church links us together with those of like mind doctrinally and missionally. It is simply not true that we can do ministry better independently. We are interdependent, and we need one another.
The truth is that you cannot serve the kingdom without a deep love for and involvement in the church; because it is to the church that God has given the assignment to disciple, train, and equip people for ministry.
CEP will be sponsoring a discipleship conference November 13-15, 2008 in Atlanta – Making Visible God’s Invisible Kingdom. It will feature speakers such as Chuck Colson, Christian Smith, myself, and a host of others. The conference is designed for those who want to make visible God’s invisible kingdom. We will keep that event before you, here, on our website, and by other means of publicity.
Our commitment to the ministries mentioned in this issue is to help and encourage local churches, and thus the PCA, to demonstrate a kingdom world and life view; to provide training and resources to equip people, young and old, to know how to interact with the ideologies of the world in order to be able to give a credible reason for our hope and faith in Christ. Our challenge is for the church to regain its God assigned position of helping its people know how to think God’s thoughts after Him and apply them to daily life. We have turned so many of those things over to other institutions that the church is “hovering on the brink of irrelevance,” and its influence is being continually marginalized, neutralized, and compromised. We must make every moment count, as we serve the King.
Our prayer is that this issue will be helpful and challenging to you, first to pray for your local church and the PCA as a whole more intentionally and then that you will determine in no area of your life will you fail to serve His purpose to this generation. Pray that our denomination will have a kingdom perspective that will make a difference.