Friday, October 20, 2006

Levels of language

Sharp as ever, Wulf quotes 2 Peter to suggest that Paul's language isn't always clear or simple. And having recently completed a short commentary on Galatians (due out in the Crossway Bible Guide series in mid-November), I'd have to agree.

My point in the previous post was a slightly different one. It is that Paul chose words to describe the gatherings and leadership of the groups he was planting around the Mediterranean rim that were not 'religious' but were drawn from the business and social world of his day.

After all, the message (euanggelion another case in point, as Philip notes) was in places hard enough. So Paul appears to have been keen to put no stumbling blocks in the way of people hearing and having the chance to respond to that message.

Sometimes I think there's a danger that we do the opposite: our language about membership gives the impression that the good news about Jesus is for a special group of enthusiasts who know what the words mean and we use those words to exclude rather than include.

1 comment:

Wulf said...

Maybe we overspiritualise the meaning of membership? Instead of describing it as a sacred covenant, with attendant blessings and responsibilities, we should recognise it , perhaps church membership should be recognised as exactly the same kind of thing that keeps other organisations going?

Entering into Christian faith is becoming part of covenant relationship with God. We recognise that we belong to him and find our fullest satisfaction in him; we lay down our rights and selfish desires in favour of glorifying him, loving our enemies and working in harmony with our fellow Christians. It is to God we will answer about how we measure up to those things.

Church membership would then be freed up to be a much simpler deal about committing to help a local assembly of the wider church body grow and develop (in return, being empowered to cast votes when crucial decisions are tested by ballot).

Arguably, church membership is not an essential requirement of Christian faith; it is an essential mechanism whereby congregationally founded churches maintain themselves as places (physical and conceptual) where Christians and seekers after truth can meet, learn and grow.