Jesus told us explicitly what to do. We have a manual, just like the car owner. He told us, as disciples, to make disciples. Not convert to Christianity, nor to some particular "faith and practice." He did not tell us to arrange for people to "get in" or "make the cut" after they die, nor to eliminate the various brutal forms of injustice, nor to produce and maintain "successful" churches. These are all good things, and he had something to say about all of them. They will certainly happen if but only if—we are (his constant apprentices) and do (make constant apprentices) what he told us to be and do. If we just do this, it will little matter what else we do or do not do.
Once we who are disciples have assisted others with becoming disciples (of Jesus, not of us), we can gather them, in ordinary life situations, under the supernatural Trinitarian Presence, forming a new kind of social unit never before seen on earth. These disciples are his “called out” ones, his ecclesia. Their “walk” is already “in heaven" (Philippians 3:20), because heaven is in action where they are (Ephesians 2:6). Now it is these people who can be taught to “observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” ln becoming his students or apprentices, they have agreed to be taught, and the resources are available, so they can methodically go about doing it. This reliably yields the life that proves to "exceed all expectations."
Dallas Willard, The Great Omission, p XII (2006).
The church is a community of people on a journey to God. Wherever there is supernatural togetherness and Spirit-directed movement, there is the church—a spiritual community.
It’s time we paid whatever price must be paid to become part of a spiritual community rather than an ecclesiastical organization.
It's time we turned our chairs toward one another and learned how to talk in ways that stir anorexics to eat, multiples to integrate, sexual addicts to indulge nobler appetites, and tired Christians to press on through dark valleys toward green pastures and on to the very throne room of heaven.
It's time to build the church, a community of people who take refuge in God and encourage each other to never flee to another source of help, a community of folks who know the only way to live in this world is to focus on the spiritual life—our life with God and others. It won't be easy, but it will be worth it. Our impact on the world is at stake.
Larry Crabb, The Safest Place on Earth, p 20f (1999).
He (CHRIST JESUS) is the Head of the Body of the Church (Col.1:18)
He is the head of the body, that is, of the Church. The Church is the body of Christ, that is, the organism through which he acts and shares all his experiences. But, humanly speaking, the body is the servant of the head and is powerless without it. So Jesus Christ is the guiding spirit of the Church; it is at his bidding that the Church must live and move. Without him the Church cannot think the truth, cannot act correctly, cannot decide its direction. There are two things combined here. There is the idea of privilege. It is the privilege of the Church to be the instrument through which Christ works. There is the idea of warning. If t man neglects or abuses his body, he can make it unfit to be the servant of the great purposes of his of his mind; so by indisciplined and careless living the Church can unfit herself to be the instrument of Christ, who is her head.
William Barclay, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, p 120f (1975).
The good and beautiful community is not made of merely comfortable Christians but Christlike men and women growing in their life with God and each other. In order to become that kind of community we need a new narrative, a biblical narrative, to reshape our behavior. Here is the true narrative regarding the rights and responsibility of the community: the community exists to shape and guide my soul. The community has a right to expect certain behavior from me, and, can provide the encouragement and accountability I need.
From the beginning the ecclesia of Jesus has practiced soul shaping through many means: corporate worship, the breaking of bread, the teaching of the apostles, corporate fasting and holding each other accountable to live godly lives. Transformation into Christlikeness has been the aim and responsibility of the church from its beginning (Hebrews 10:24-25).
James Bryan Smith, The Good and Beautiful Community, p 129 (2010)
John Wesley was right when he described Christianity as essentially a ‘social’ religion, and added that to turn it into a 'solitary' religion would be to destroy it. This is not to deny that it offers individual salvation and calls to individual discipleship; it is rather to affirm that the church lies at the center of God's purpose. Christ gave himself for us, we are told, not only 'to redeem us from all wickedness' but also 'to purify for himself a. people that are his very own, eager to do what is good'.'
John Stott, The Contemporary Christian, p 219 (1992).
Dallas Willard has said, "The aim of God in history is the creation of an all-inclusive community of loving persons, with Himself included in that community as its prime sustainer and most glorious inhabitant." Such a community would live under the immediate and total rulership of the Holy Spirit. They would be a people blinded to all other loyalties by the splendor of God, a compassionate community embodying the law of love as seen in Jesus Christ. They would be an obedient army of the Lamb of God living under the Spiritual Disciplines, a community in the process of total transformation from the inside out, a people determined to live out the demands of the gospel in a secular world. They would be tenderly aggressive, meekly powerful, suffering and overcoming. Such a community, cast in a rare and apostolic mold, would constitute a new gathering of the people of God May almighty God gather such a people in our day.
Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, p 162 (1978).
But when the church, through its faithfulness and its discernment of the times, lives truly "in" but "not of" the world, and is therefore the City of God engaging the City of of Man, it touches off the secret of its culture-shaping power. For the intellectual and social tension of being "in" but "not of" the world provides the engagement-with-critical-distance, that is the source of the church's culture-shaping power
In short, the decisive power is always God's, through his Word and Spirit. But on her side the church contributes three distinct human factors to the equation: engagement, discernment, and refusal. First, the church is called to engage and to stay engaged, to be faithful and obedient in that it puts aside all other preferences of its own and engages purposefully with the world as its Lord commands. Second, the church is called to discern, to exercise its spiritual and cultural discernment of the best and worst of the world of its day, in order to see clearly where it is to be “in” and where it is to be "not of" that world. And third, the church is called to refuse, a grand refusal to conform to or comply with anything and everything in the world that is against the way of Jesus and his kingdom.
Os Guinness, Renaissance, p. 84f (2014).
The most convincing testimony to the truth of God for postmodern people will be the incarnation of God's love by, and the embodiment of his purposes in, the Christian community of those being formed by the Scriptures to be Church.
The Christian community, to be genuine gift to the postmodern world, must deliberately be an alternative society of trust and embodied faithfulness to our story and its God. Rather than becoming enculturated and entrapped by the world's values of materialistic consumerism, of narcissistic self-aggrandizement, of solitary superficiality, and of ephemeral satisfaction,
members of Christ's Body must be Church by choosing his simple life of sharing, his willingness to suffer for the sake of others, his communal vulnerability, and his eternal purposes. Leaders in the Christian community must constantly equip parishioners for the mission and ministry of communicating the Christian meta-narrative, of enfolding the world around them in God’s love of deliberately choosing and living out the alternative values of the kingdom of God.
Marva J. Dawn, A Royal “Waste” of Time, p. 54f (1999).
Both the individual’s and the community’s life turns upon the existence of a personal relationship with God. Everything hangs on this point. There will be no reality either in our individual or corporate Christian living and spiritual life except on the basis of a personal relationship with the God who is there. And any concept of a really personal relationship with the God who is there turns upon the fact that God exists and is personal and that I, a man, am made in his image and therefore I am personal. God is infinite. I am finite. But if he is personal and I am personal, made in his image, it is not unnatural that I should be in a personal relationship with the God who is there.
Let us understand that the beginning of Christianity is not salvation: It is existence of the Trinity. Before there was anything else, God existed as personal God in the high order of Trinity. So there was communication and love between the persons of the Trinity before all else. This is the beginning.
Francis A. Schaeffer, The Church of the End of the 20th Century, p. 46 (1970).
I use the term “community of practice” here to describe the ancient and enduring historical phenomenon of whole-person apprenticeship to Jesus. It is the way that disciples to Jesus have always been made. When Jesus proclaimed the immediacy of God’s kingdom, he asked for a whole-person response: “Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15). Eugene Peterson’s dynamic paraphrase highlights this text as a call to action: “Time’s up! God’s kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the Message.” In other words, dream up your whole life again—because there is a new way to be human. Those who first heard his message began making dramatic changes in their lives based on his instructions.
Mark Scandrette, Practicing the Way of Jesus: Life Together in the Kingdom of Love, p. 17 (2011).