Inherent in the history that animated the life and doctrine of the Church is a strong stance against teachings and practices that were deemed inimical to the progress of the Church. A rigorous step was taken, as it were, to safeguard the Church’s vitality. This occupation was to those who were actively involved, a defense of their own life─apologia pro vita sua (Latin: “defense of one’s life”). Indeed, there is a truth that is ever intrinsic to this stance of the early Christians who have gone ahead of us: the Church is integral in the process of laying hold onto the life that flows through Christ to people within and without the Church. It is ever true that extra Christum nulla salus (outside Christ there is no salvation). The nourishment for this salvation towards its fulfillment in Christ has the Church as its storehouse. The Church is the hub, if not the fountainhead, of the vitality which flows from Christ onto his people.
In this peculiar position of the Universal Church, the local church’s role need not be belabored. The local church is the focal point of the abundance of life ebbing from the Lord Jesus Christ to the partakers in “the faith which once delivered unto the saints.” It is within the local church that the grace of Christ is concentrated. A decision to reposition the local church is indeed a move to draw attention to this great place of the local church in the workings of God. It is to make a decision to defend lives. Repositioning the local church is a defense of our lives─apologia pro vita sua.
The Local Church is Our Mother
To put things in perspective, it is relevant to give a definition of what the local church is. In simple terms, the local church connotes the immediate meeting or gathering of believers in the finished work of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, after their translation into full fellowship, for worship, sharing in the word of God, partaking in the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper among other Christian liturgies. A new believer in Christ is encouraged to join the local church in view of his or her nurturing in Christ. This suggests that discipling believers in Christ towards consolidation of their faith in Christ is done in the local church. The exhortation to “desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2, NJKV) establishes the local church as the place of Christian growth, vitality and maturity.
In his discourse with Nicodemus, Jesus pointed out that his (Jesus’) concept of new birth is strikingly distinct from childbirth in the natural sense (John 3:3-7). In effect, one does not need to enter into his or her mother’s womb again to be born again. From natural knowledge, after birth, the newborn would have to be nurtured. The essence of motherhood is further appreciated here; providing warmth for the baby, food, healthcare, and teaching the young child basic life skills. Albeit, others apart from the primary mothers may contribute to this nurturing. The whole of the activities of nurturing is an act of motherhood. The nurturing role of a mother finds a resemblance with the role of the local church post-new birth. When one is born again in Christ, his or her upbringing lies strongly with the local church. When one imagines the nurturing of a newborn person in Christ, the motherhood role of the local church strikes.
Blessed are those who find themselves in a local church whose motherhood is impeccable. Such people, undoubtedly, grow most excellently and mature pleasantly in Christ. Their Christian vitality is admirable. Indeed, the local church is our mother. It is a training ground for people on whom the salvation of this world rest, significantly. I plea thus, “Dear local church, we have come to you our mother, nurture us that we may grow. Our vitality in Christ, even our very life, depends on you. Deny us your motherhood and we shall not be anything better than orphans.”
Repositioned in Defense of Our very Life
The tragedy of a local church comes to light when it is diagnosed that there is a shift in its position. Such a church loses its God-mandated stance in the world. It disturbs the flow of the life of Christ onto people and nations of the world. The principles of the Kingdom of God it is strategically positioned to reveal to the world are not seen. This church suffers loss. It is in the presence of this kind of church that societal decadence gets a field day. Such a church stands aloof in the face of social evil. The church forgets that it is a hub of hope for a dying world.
To bring back the local church to its locus of influence is an attempt to protect the life we have received from Christ. This life is supposed to ever flow onto eternal life. It is this life that gives us a dear position before God. It is a life that must necessarily be protected. The position must be defended; the life must be defended. This repositioning then becomes an issue of life and death. The search for the fountain of life that is flowing through Christ is appreciated primarily when one encounters a local church in its divinely appointed position. It is this position that enables the revival of people who are dead in sin back to life. This rightful place of the local church consequently nurtures these infant lives till they blossom, becoming a people of power and their impact felt within the larger society.
Concerning a repositioned local church, its members have genuine faith in God. This faith is nurtured by the sincere word of God. Their knowledge of God is deep-seated; their experience of God is authentic. In all, its spirituality is fervent. True worship and fellowship are witnessed. This church is a healing community. It promotes the wholeness of the life of the people therein. This church understands what it means to be saved in Christ and the peculiar responsibility that places on the redeemed people of God. The ministry of reconciliation which God has committed to his people is on point in this church since with joy it bears the burden of reaching out to the lost. This work of reconciliation finds expression in every facet of society, planting the principles of the Kingdom of God everywhere. The structures it puts in place to ensure its impact on the larger society are in a revived state. Such a church is to be desired.
The question remains, “what unit of a gathering of people has God strategically positioned to manifest his glory the world over?” Is it not the local church? It is within the local church that there is a first encounter with the revelation of who the Almighty is; his nature, and his work in the world in reconciling the world to himself. The local church is the embassy in which God dwells among men. The local church in the mind of God is a people that bear the mark of the Kingdom of God. Repositioning the local church is a survival mechanism for the Universal Church. To this end, to identify the reason for the decline of the Church in nations, regional blocs, and even continents, the compromise of the vital position of the local church would always be implicated. The local church in its rightful position is a life-giving gathering of people on whom the Spirit of God is resting. Repositioning the local church is a defense of the very life of nations.
Written by Dr. Stephen Ofotsu Ofoe
These points are so true, I’ll appreciate more of your writings…