This is pretty much what was said on Twitter last night, and it felt like I was punched in the stomach. For someone who is struggling with church and trying to repair his relationship with Christ, to be told I’m effectively of no more use to God until I do find a church is almost crippling. The tweet in full was:
Christians detached from a local church, no matter how spiritual or mighty, play no part in broadcasting God’s wisdom to the world -Eph 3.10
This just made me want to get even further away from the church, and add it to the list of things I’ve been labeled. After some pleading with God for reassurance that I was in fact still of use and had a part to play, a soothing phone call with Sarah (and some sleep) I looked up Ephesians 3:10:
His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,
Context though is vital so if we back up a few verses in chapter 3:
Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power (Ephesians 3:2-3,7)
No mention that if you are not a member of a church, you play no part in broadcasting Gods wisdom. Revelation it seems is not limited to churches and Paul is proof of this, he wasn’t even a member of a church when he wrote to the various churches that he had visited. There’s no evidence Paul was a member of any church during his ministry, or any of the disciples. So what does Paul mean by it’s Gods intention to use the church to make known his wisdom? Well, Jesus once said:
For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them (Matthew 18:20)
This does not have to be in a church or even as a church, this can simply be 2 or 3 (or more) Christians gathering around someones house, or in barn, or a beach or; you get the idea. It’s not about membership, church isn’t a golf club, it’s about being together as followers of Christ. The context of the above verse is dealing with sin, but do you really think Jesus won’t be there because we talking about something else? People often say that church is about community. I absolutely agree, but you don’t have to go to a church to find community a Christians. The person who posted the original tweet went on to say “People get saved into community“. The perception of what church is between then and now is radically different in some ways, but the concept of it being a community is still there.
Coming back to Ephesians 3:10, who are these “rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” Paul speaks of? He didn’t seem confused between heaven and earth as his letters showed. One commentator views it as follows:
This was one things, among others, which God had in his eye in revealing this mystery, that the good angels, who have a pre-eminence in governing the kingdoms and principalities of the world, and who are endued with great power to execute the will of God on this earth (though their ordinary residence is in heaven) may be informed, from what passes in the church and is done in and by it, of the manifold wisdom of God; that is, of the great variety with which God wisely dispenses things, or of his wisdom manifested in the many ways and methods he takes in ordering his church in the several ages of it, and especially in receiving the Gentiles into it. The holy angels, who look into the mystery of our redemption by Christ, could not but take notice of this branch of that mystery, that among the Gentiles is preached the unsearchable riches of Christ. And this is according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord,
I’m not going to pretend I fully understand all of that, but it sounds very grand and very powerful; far more than merely needing be connected to a church to play a part. It does seem God is being put into a box where he can only use the church, and completely disregards anyone who is currently having problems with church. Many of these issues are very legitimate. and many have walked away so that the true message of Jesus can be found and preached. Statements like the one made at the outset of this simply give the impression that God has abandoned them, or comes across as power plays and control; not to mention just beating on people already struggling.
If you’re not currently attending a church, God hasn’t abandoned you, neither are you of no use to him. I have found the stories of people in a similar position to me very helpful during this time of searching. The tweet did help me with one thing though, it helped me rediscover what “I follow Christ, not Christians” really means.