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The Church Car Seat, Part 1

Posted by Joshua Claycamp on

Soft music played in the background. Carts squeaked by on wobbly tires. Women glanced furtively in my direction. Curious perhaps, or maybe they were annoyed at the obvious intruder lurking in their domain. In an aisle designed exclusively to cater to mothers, I was the lone man.

With a sigh of "whatever," I glanced back at the boxes. I had every right to be here. I was officially a dad. Looking the boxes over, I noted the obvious. One was more expensive. The other appeared to be more girly. But those factors didn't weigh heavily on my decision. After all, I was sure that coming in the color pink was not the most important consideration. I continued to stroll up and down the aisle while moms passed me. I was bringing my daughter home later that week, and I had to purchase a safety car seat for her to ride in. Decisions, decisions, decisions.

This much is true: having just met my daughter earlier in the day for the first time, I was prepared to spare no expense in getting her the nicest, safest, sturdiest, and most protective car seat on the market, bar none! Did I really want a car seat? Not really. Did I want what was most precious to me to be protected? Yep.

Now, obviously, I'm a pastor. I tend to think about things pertaining to the church that most of you would dub "religious" or "institutional." To me, the church is rather important and not just because this is how I get my pay-cheque at the end of the week.Perhaps you should give it a little more consideration as well. Let me tell you why.

I've come to the conclusion that, in a way, churches are like child's safety car seats. Like a child's safety car seat, the church is God's carefully designed and tested instrument for carrying the good news of Jesus Christ safely to the ends of the earth. This means that things like church structure, polity and governance are very important. In short, ecclesiology matters. We find that, in the same way adults utilize a child's car seat to protect a child from harm and to safely carry their child to the intended destination, God's design and intention for the church is to be the protective carrier for the Gospel.

However, the church is not as simple a device as a car seat. It is much more than a plastic carbon fiber case that can be strapped into an automobile. The church is dynamic. Considerations of comparing the church to the automobile itself would lose the dearness, tenderness, and love that God has toward both the church and the Gospel message. In retrospect, no analogy really suffices to explain the dynamic people that form God's church. This is especially true when you consider that the church itself is slowly changed, always metamorphosing more and more into the image of Christ through the daily task of carrying forth the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

Sad times have come upon churches, though. Criticized by those outside as "institutions" and derided as "organized religion," one wonders if the church can survive the twenty-first century. As if the insults of the uninformed weren't bad enough, the church is denigrated by those on the inside as well. In an effort to unite around the Gospel, there are many who decry the need for clear ecclesiology, clear church structure. In fact, many do not even know what that word (ecclesiology) even means. Painfully, (and I do wince when I hear this) it is becoming too common a refrain to suggest that the Gospel is the main thing and everything else is "secondary" or even "tertiary," and therefore, unimportant.

In this vein, particular church polities, governance structures, and denominational distinctions are deemed simply 'less-important.' This sounds good to some, but it actually results in critical differences becoming unimportant and disregarded. Issues such as church governance and Biblical church polity tend to take a back-seat to things such as the truth of the Gospel. Now, the Gospel is the most important thing -let there be no doubt -but the church has been constituted by the Word of God through the Gospel, and as a result, it is important to Him. Those individuals who comprise the church were first transformed by the Gospel. Therefore the church is a reflection of the Gospel, the out-working of the Gospel message. So church structure, polity, and governance, in very concrete ways, are an out-working of the Gospel as well.

While I affirm that the Gospel is the main thing, if God has given commands to so-called "secondary issues" such as church structure, church leadership and church governance, then He has done so for a good reason. Obviously, there must be harmony between the church structure and the implications of the Gospel message that all believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and one day will reign with Christ. So we cannot ignore the commands that He has given regarding the church's structure and leadership. After all, that which is most precious to Him is being entrusted into the care of the Church. It would be like suggesting that the child is the most important cargo in the car (which is true), and then concluding it isn't necessary to pay so much attention to the design and construction of the car seat in which the child rides.

To this we must respond with incredulity, "Isn't it because the child is so important that we must pay so much attention to the construction of the car seat?"

Church structure and leadership matters, friend. It really matters. It is not a secondary issue. It is the car seat in which God's children, you and me, ride safely into eternity. It is of primary importance. I will be turning my gaze to the Bible to see what our heavenly Father prescribes for an appropriate car seat in which to ride into eternity during the weeks ahead. I will lay out God's Biblical framework for the structure of the church (or to put it differently: let God build His own car seat for His own child), and I invite you to dialogue with me about it.

Here are some of the topics we'll cover:

  1. Scripture: The Lordship of Christ over His Church
  2. Baptism: The Initiation Rite
  3. Pneumatology: The Priesthood of the Believers
  4. Congregationalism: The Kingdom Rule of the Believers
  5. History and Tradition: Denominations, Denominations, Denominations
  6. The Autonomy of the Local Church
  7. The Interdependence of the Local Church

Some of you may be challenged in the weeks ahead. Thinking about what a church ought to look like, and how a church ought to be governed may be foreign concepts to many of you. My prayer is that some of you will be convicted to start shopping for a half-way decent car seat to carry the Gospel in.

Tags: car seat, baptist polity, church structure, church governance, ecclesiology