Tuesday, 27 October 2009

The Phantom Church

The Phantom Church

I recently read the article by Frank Viola on the subject of what he calls “The post-church phenomenon.”< http://www.ptmin.org/postchurch.pdf> in which he insists that only where believers are meeting regularly together in a locality is there true church. Those outside such fellowships are by his definition “The Phantom church.” This set me to reviewing once more where I stand in relation to Church and what it is, because I am one who has no such regular meeting together with fellow believers, as I am sure are a multitude of others.

I first went back to Scriptures which have been so crucial to my own story. In 1 Corinthians 12:13 Paul says, “We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body.” And in v. 27 of the same chapter, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” Thus I can be sure that, as a believer I am incorporated in the Body, the Church.

Then in Ephesians 2:19-22 I received fresh encouragement specially from The Message, “God is building a home. He’s using us all irrespective of how we got here in what He is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now He’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day, a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.”

Again, in the same epistle 2:19-20, “So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in who you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

In 1 Peter 2:4-5, an epistle interestingly enough written to “exiles”, the Apostle tells us that, having come to Jesus, we are being built (not we are building) into a spiritual house. Then in v.9 he says , “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people.”

From these and a number of other Scriptures which I could quote, I am absolutely assured that I am in God’s Church, and I continue to be in it whether I am meeting regularly with others in a gathering or not. I have known the blessing of being built along with other believers in frequent meeting. Now, I do not have that particular joy, but I still meet together with others who visit me, or whom I encounter during the day or share a meal with. I talk with brothers in different parts of the world on Skype. In all of these situations I am experiencing Church.

I have said before that it is a small step from organism to institution, and when one starts to make rigid and exclusive definitions of what true Church is, the seeds of institutionalism are already present. Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his little book “Living Together” has this to say in its first truth-filled chapter, “Life together under the Word will remain sound and healthy only where it does not form itself into a movement, an order, a society, a collegiam pietetatas, but rather where it understands itself as being a part of one holy, catholic Christian Church.” And Thomas Kelly in “The Eternal Promise” writes, “It was a tragic day when the fellowship of the early church groups faded out into church membership.” And ,”From Fellowship to Membership is to cross a great and tragic divide.”

There is no “Phantom Church” but only one Church of the Lord Jesus Christ which He Himself is building and we who belong to Him are in it wherever and however we may meet.


Blogger Kilauea Poetry said...

Powerful words..well put! Thanks for being here- your such an encouragement1

27 October 2009 at 3:18 pm  
Blogger pepoithesis said...

Jack, tremendous words of wisdom and may I add, just as usual! It truly is sad and mind-boggling to me to see many a believer so easily swayed into pursuing a myriad of paradigms. Personally, I have come to the conclusion that Christ's church needs no labeling or branding of any kind such as HC, simple, relational, and so on. It is plain and simple--it is HIs! Period. Thank you so much once again for such awesome, heartfelt truth! Blessings from South Central Texas and hopefully one day we can gather down in lovely NZ! Maranatha!

31 October 2009 at 4:32 pm  
Blogger Mishi said...

Thank you for sharing what the Lord reaffirmed in your heart. The church is His body. It's not something you do it is who you are. It is as Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spiritb gives birth to spirit. 7You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

That's the church. Everyone born of the Spirit and it functions just like the Spirit does because it is filled with His Spirit. So, it blows where it pleases, you hear its sound but you cannot tell where it comes from or where its going.

6 November 2009 at 9:42 am  
Blogger RON MONTGOMERY said...

I was dialoging with my family on this very thing. We are one huge body... thank you for your insight. Continued grace and peace in Christ brother...

17 November 2009 at 2:01 pm  
Blogger Peter said...

Hi Jack, I enjoyed your article very much. Very much the stuff we experience .... and it is good to see others experiencing the same. The verse comes to mind: "Eye has not seen or ear heard or entered into the heart of man, what God has prepared for those who love him".

3 December 2009 at 12:47 pm  
Blogger dgoodwin said...

Hi Jack,
I seem to have an outdated email address for you. If you email me a current address at dgoodwin@xtra.co.nz, I will send you our newsletter. Blessings
Richard (Dick) Goodwin

7 January 2010 at 8:45 pm  

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