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Thursday, August 22, 2013

What is Ecclesiology?

As we have worked our way through some deep theological questions on Sunday mornings recently, we have seen that our theology has practical implications for how we live our lives.  What we believe determines how we act.  The doctrine of God’s sovereignty and the related doctrines of grace impact us on many levels, from how we regard suffering in our lives to how we go about sharing our faith.  Theological study should not be an extra-curricular activity for saints.  It is inherently practical.
One often overlooked area of theology that affects the way that we live is ecclesiology.  Ecclesiology is the doctrine of the church, or the branch of theology concerned with the nature, constitution, and function of the church.  The Bible gives us remarkably detailed teaching regarding what the church is and what the church is to do.  Just as remarkable is that in spite of this clear teaching many local bodies do not closely resemble what the New Testament prescribes.  Perhaps because of unfamiliarity with the Bible, some of us believe we have an abundance of freedom regarding who should lead the church, who should be in the church, what the church should do, etc., when in reality God has given us precise instruction on these matters.  We would do well to periodically measure ourselves against the plumb line of Scripture to see if we are conforming to God’s design.
For this reason, we are going to begin a study on ecclesiology during our Wednesday night teaching time, beginning on September 4.  If your children are involved in AWANA and you are not an AWANA worker, why not spend your Wednesday evenings with us next door at Partners in Prime?  Over the course of the Fall and early Winter, we will answer such questions as:
-       How does the church fit into the big story of the Bible?
-       What is baptism, who should be baptized, and who is qualified to baptize others?
-       Is there anything magical, mystical, or mysterious about the Lord’s Supper?
-       Why is church membership such a big deal?
-       Why should we thank God for church discipline?
-       What are the spiritual gifts and how do I know what my gift is?
-       What are the offices of the church and how should they function?
-       In what capacities should men and women serve in the church?
-       What does Paul mean when he writes, “women should keep silent in the churches”?
-       What is the place of “mercy ministries” and “social justice” in the church?
-       What kinds of decisions should the church vote on?
-       Why does it matter how we “do church”?
While these may seem like curious or unimportant questions, they actually lead to very consequential things like:
-       How I may be damaging the church by not confronting a brother’s sin
-       How the exercise of my spiritual gift serves to build unity in the church
-       Why it is unloving to neglect the gathering of the saints
-       What are and are not good reasons to leave a church
-       Why I should carefully examine the life of an elder or deacon candidate
-       Why submission to authority in the church exalts Christ
-       Why I should consider “difficult people” in the church to be gifts of God to me
-       Why I should seek to differentiate between my convictions and preferences and how this benefits the church
Ecclesiology is intensely practical.  Like any other area of theology, if God has given us teaching on these things, He has a good reason for it.  It is in some way “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17).  Join us this Fall as we seek to answer all these questions and discover how ecclesiology matters in our day-to-day lives.
 Posted by Greg Birdwell 

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