We hear lots of voices from different churches. Everyone is claiming to be “the one true Church.” How can we discern if we are following God’s will? Christa Petzold provides us with some biblical advice to help us understand the “marks of the Church” and discern which churches are faithfully preaching Jesus. The following has been adapted from Gathered by Christ: The Overlooked Gift of Church.
“The church is not a building.” Have you ever heard someone say this? I know I have! This statement is true on its surface—the church is the whole people of God, called from among every nation to belong to the Body of Christ. The church is also the gathering of these people in a specific location around the Word and Sacraments that Jesus has instituted for us. When people say, “The church is not a building,” what do they mean by that statement, and is the sentiment expressed true or false?
For some of us, church is a word that stirs painful memories, which keep us away from the pews on Sunday morning. Others of us go to church each week and shake our heads sadly at the sight of empty pews, mourning for those people we no longer see in them. For those of us who love the Church and are committed to a life lived as part of the Body of Christ, we can still struggle daily with trusting the future of the Church to the Holy Spirit.
When you hear the term “gender roles,” your first thoughts may be of gender stereotypes. This may bring to mind ideas such as women raise the kids and take care of the home while men are the “breadwinners.” Or guys enjoy physical pastimes like sports and girls like dolls, fashion, and dance. You might associate gender roles with past eras of history and the “traditional family.” Or you might think about modern tendencies to break stereotypes: women can work outside the home, men can show emotion, and so on. You may believe that gender roles are antiquated.
My husband recently made this statement in a sermon: “As Christians, we believe in an alien identity and an alien purpose. We believe that our identity and purpose come not from within, but from above.” These days, that kind of statement can be an unusual way to talk about identity!