It often seems that the visible Church is doing its best to become the invisible Church. Historically, the terms visible and invisible were used to show that not all those who profess Christ in this life will prove to be part of His eternal Body in the next. Those distinctions have largely fallen out of use, along with the idea that the Church is to be a visibly distinct body from the world, using its city-on-a-hill status to guide unbelievers toward Christ.
Anymore, the biggest concern for too many local assemblies is how to look just like the world in order to get the world to come. We call it being "relevant" or "contextual," hoping perhaps that fancy terminology will somehow whitewash our misguided efforts. Since when did Christ tell us to be relevant to our culture? Instead, He calls us to speak universally relevant words of repentance, faith and salvation to a lost and dying world.
Trying to get the world into the church before they've accepted the truth of the Gospel is backward. The Church, rather, is meant to be a place where Christians are ministered to through the preaching of the Word and the sacraments, and from which we go out into the world to make disciples among every tribe and nation.
If the Church is going to regain this prioritization, she must learn to organize herself to accomplish the tasks at hand. Anarchy can never produce solidarity or purpose, and leadership is needed for any successful enterprise among humans. A church's government gives form to the assembly, and is the mediator of Christ's living authority to the group and to the individuals within it.
Christians since the time of Christ's earthly ministry have argued about the nature of legitimate Church government. The particular branch of theology concerned with the Church's function and form is ecclesiology, and many books have been written on the topic, many denominations formed based on divergent understandings of it, and many schisms established in its name.
At Exodus Books, we support a more traditional Reformed ecclesiology. John Calvin was very clear on the distinction between the visible and invisible Church, but he was also adamant that there was only one true Church, that there could only be one Body of Christ to which every elect man, woman and child belongs.
We affirm Calvin's view, and our prayer is that the Church visible would turn from contemporary concerns of relativism and contextualization, toward a biblically-rooted view aiming to make the visible face more consistent with the invisible substance of Christ's Body. The books we offer reflect this passion, and we uge both laypeople and pastors to read them prayerfully, not to be swayed by mere human opinions, but to see the Church as Christ sees her, and as He has determined to make her.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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