These are some thoughts still very much in progress, but I thought I’d put them out for discussion. I’d appreciate your comments.
I. The Church exists to worship God and to represent Him on Earth.
a. The Church is creational. It existed prior to sin and the Fall. The Garden of Eden was a prototype of the temple, and Adam was the high priest. His task was worship.
b. This worship involved special meetings with God, as well as time when God withdrew his immediate presence. Thus Adam would have special worship times, as well as common or vocational times.
c. Adam was to rule, an act involving creating, ordering, and defending. The Church continues these tasks in their appropriate current forms.
d. Adam was also expected to battle against evil when Satan appeared. Where he failed, Christ succeeded. It is the Church’s current duty to follow Jesus in this regard, defeating evil through spiritual warfare.
e. After the Fall, the Church took on a redemptive function. This continues today through the ministry of reconciliation. The gospel is preached in word and sacrament, and the Church is an aid to ongoing sanctification in the life of its members.
f. After redeeming a people, Jesus gave an evangelistic mandate for his Church to make more disciples. Thus the church exists both for discipline and missions.
g. The Church is also a glorious bride. She is to cultivate beauty, in outward form and inward truth. Wisdom, maturity, and loveliness should characterize her routine practices.
II. The Church exists in two forms: the gathered liturgical assembly and the vocational life of all believers.
a. The Church does not carry out each of its tasks in the same way. Special worship is conducted within the gathered assembly, under the oversight of elders and the direct command of the Word of God. Other legitimate ministries are carried out through the vocation of the laity, as well as various para-church organizations. They do not compete, but rather support one another, as diverse parts of the one body.
b. The essentials of the gathered liturgical assembly are derived from specific commands and clear implications taught in the Word of God. They do not change with space or time, but rather model heaven in a permanent form. Though certain externals and occasions may change, the elements and order of worship do not.
c. This permanent liturgy is doxological, sanctificational, and missional. It serves each of these tasks objectively by conducting its worship aright.
d. The “common” ministry (not ununique or profane, but rather done equally by all believers) of the Church is carried out daily in all of life, and is governed by principles of Biblical wisdom. It may be crafted to suit the needs of time and place.
e. This common ministry need not be legislated by the officers of the Church, though they should understand their natural role of leadership and organization.
III. Jesus is the lord of the Church in every aspect of her life.
a. Both special ministry and common ministry are empowered by Jesus Christ and represent his rule on earth.
b. As such, the success of both lies in Christ. While human responsibility may not be denied, it is not the primary cause of visible success.
c. All that the Church does should faithfully represent Christ. It should look like him, and it should behave like him.
IV. The human response is faith and obedience.
a. Our duty is to believe God, and all obedience must stem from the primacy of faith.
b. Principles are not to be compromised for short-term goals, but rather maintained in hopes of achieving the final goal.
c. Merely existing as Church is an effective ministry. It is not to be despised.
d. Additional ministry is to be encouraged, but used wisely and appropriately where needs arise.
e. Spiritual warfare is spiritual, and the weapons of the Church are truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, the Word, and prayer. These weapons overcome powers.
f. The creational mandate must be fueled by the Spiritual weapons. The creational mandate is not superseded, but rather fulfilled by the gospel.
V. The future victory of the Church has been accomplished already in Christ and is being applied gradually in the present.
a. This truth gives all believers comfort for all times. Even when we do not see the victory, we believe it, and thus we live accordingly.
b. The Church must be confident, yet humble. We reign through service. We conquer through suffering.
c. The renewal of the cosmos is taking place in time, though spread over the entire world. Where one kingdom seems to be falling, many more are rising to glorious heights.
d. We eagerly await and expect the day when all shall be summed up in Christ, bringing in the fullness of the new heavens and the new earth.