The Case Studies: Church and Work
As the authors stated at the start of this chapter, the case study on church is the least controversial of the three and the content of the chapter itself is therefore quite clear. For this reason, I thought it might be a good chapter to test out using the diagram from the last post, to see how it helps us think about the categories of Christian understanding we use as we make decisions. You will notice that the numbers are not in order. This is because the circles are not a set of steps to be followed. The numbers were simply to connect the information from below the circles to the circles themselves. The diagram is meant to help me keep the different aspects of God’s guidance in my head so I can then consider how those areas relate to my particular decision.
So lets look at the content of the chapter using the circles:
1. In God’s sovereignty we can be assured that He is bringing about His plans and purposes. One of the functions of this circle is to refocus us on this fact rather than starting our decision-making with thinking it’s all up to us. It also comforts us in knowing that even if we foolishly make a wrong decision about a church, God will not be thwarted by it and we will not somehow end up with God’s second best plan for us.
2. One of the key features of this chapter is that it shows us how God has revealed His guidance for church in His Word. He has revealed what a church is, what its purpose is, why Christians are to gather as the church and what should happen there. God has revealed to us the important things about church and from this we can also work out which matters are unimportant: such as which denomination a church belongs to (see page 130 for a summary list of the areas of righteousness revealed to us in God’s Word regarding church).
4. Page 123 gives a good summary of the goal that God is guiding the church towards. It says “The church is Christ’s bride, and she is being prepared for her wedding day by pursuing righteousness. God leads the church to continue in Christ and to grow, so that she will be presented ‘pure and spotless’ on the Great Day”. Knowing this is the goal helps us in choosing a church and then being a member of the church.
3. Within the guidelines set out by the Bible (a genuinely Christian church that has God’s Word as its authority), most of us are then free to choose which church we go to. I say ‘most of us’ because unfortunately there are many areas of both Australia and the rest of the world where this freedom to choose does not exist because finding one genuinely Christian church is almost impossible. If you have this freedom, thank God for it! While the authors may suggest not moving to these areas (page 130), for the sake of those already living in these places, lets pray that some Christian church planters will move!
5. The Holy Spirit helps us in choosing a church. Not by giving us a set of signs or circumstances that lead us to St Blogs instead of X community church, but by helping us to read and apply God’s Word. He helps us to discern which areas are matters of righteousness, and therefore necessary in any church we consider, and which matters are areas of freedom.
6. When we do have freedom, we are guided by wisdom in choosing one Christian, Bible believing church over another. These are areas of ‘good judgment’ such as those listed on page 131.
Finally, as our mind is increasingly renewed by Word and Spirit, the issues of page 129 come up. That is “[t]he overriding importance of church – of gathering with God’s people to build them up – should affect our decision-making in other ways". It should affect our weekly lifestyle (time priorities) and our basic living decisions (where to live etc). In a sense decision-making becomes easier as our hearts and minds grow to be more and more in sympathy with God’s desires. The better we know God, the better we understand His priorities and the more we allow these priorities to become our overriding principle in making decisions.
So that’s my attempt at ‘categorising’ the case study on church. The authors have very helpfully given us their own similar summary on the ‘work’ case study on pages 150-151. In case I have confused the issue: their ‘matters of righteousness’ are what I call ‘God’s revealed will’; their ‘matters of judgment’ are what I call ‘wisdom’ and their ‘matters of trivia’ are what I call ‘Christian freedom’. The other categories from my circles are ones that help us get to these three.
I will leave looking at the case study on marriage until the next blog as it is more complex than these two and I have a few questions about it! Stay tuned …