Having previously considered the mandates concerning government, labor, and family, we turn our attention to the church. As previously noted, these are treated in greater detail in my most recently authored book The Divine Mandates. They were also considered in briefer form in A Guide to Christian Ethics. As graphically expressed, they serve to view life as under a sacred canopy.
"The Christian church was founded upon a story of peoples’ experience with Jesus and a vision of God’s reign in human history. Throughout the church’s ‘history’ this story has formed and transformed, sustained and changed the community’s faith and life" (John Westerhoff III, Living the Faith Community, p. 27). "A story concerning peoples’ experience with Jesus, as when he saw Levi sitting at the tax-collector’s booth. "Follow me," Jesus enjoined him, and he got up and followed him" (Mark 2:1-2).
"Only two words, they speak volumes. As pertains to the cost of discipleship, the means of grace, and the need for righteous resolve. Thus setting a priority with manifest promise. Coveted as such from one generation to the next" (p. 111).
"This results in privileged corporate memory concerning salvation history. While those outside the fellowship characteristically retain a more limited recollection, not uncommonly distorted by alien influences. Although those within the fellowship are not altogether immune from such."
"Along with a vision of God’s reign in human history. ‘Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?’ Jesus rhetorically inquired. ‘Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them’ (Matt. 6:25-26). ‘But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these thing will be given to you as well.’"
"As a vision, in contrast to the current disparity. While experiencing an earnest of things to come. When the cosmic struggle will have ceased, and shalom is pervasive. Giving rise to eager expectation and ready service."
"By which life is formed and transformed. Formed by way of Christian nurture, and transformed by the indwelling Spirit." ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come. All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation’" (2 Cor. 5:17-18; pp. 111-112).
"Sustained and changed the community’s faith and life. Sustained that which had been passed on to them, while applying it to changing circumstances. Both as pertains to their corporate convictions and consistent life-style. In a manner which is creative and compassionate."
As implied above, "the church mandate involves both the invitation to come, and the exhortation to go. As for the former, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest’ (Matt. 11:28). Given Jesus’ disposition to comfort those afflicted. Rather than burden them with meticulous obligations.
"As for the latter, go to herald the gospel. And to serve as the opportunity affords itself. Not reluctantly, but with a hearty enthusiasm.. While returning good for evil, and undaunted by opposition."
"Without equivocation, the church is apostolic. ‘They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and the fellowship, of the breaking of bread and to prayer’ (Acts 2:42). Moreover, the New Testament was embraced as the repository of apostolic teaching."
"If the church is genuinely apostolic, then also resulting in unity. Not uniformity but constructive diversity. In greater detail, ‘The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts’ (1 Cor. 12:12; p. 114).
"If apostolic, the church is likewise holy (sanctified). Which is to say avoid the evils of this world, as a suitable means of achieving God’s righteous purposes" (p. 115). No longer conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of the Holy Spirit.
"Finally, if apostolic, then catholic (universal). This, in turn, recalls a time when I was invited to participate in an ordination service in West Africa. At one point in the service, I along with other participants, were enjoined to place our hands on the head of the kneeling candidate for a dedicatory prayer. As I looked down, there were several black hands along with one larger white hand—my own. I was suddenly struck by the universality of the Christian faith" (p. 116).
"Some churches have sustained a more structured worship service, while others encourage spontaneous expression. Some churches have attempted to minister to a select group, although others provide increased variety. Mission churches characteristically carry over elements derived from their foreign mentors, coupled with cultural features from their own. All with the intention of responding to the church mandate: its Christ centered focus and constructive diversity" (p. 121).