I believe in the Church

Apostle's Creed  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Scripture and Introduction

Matthew 16:15–19 NIV
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Statistics of the church:
Pew Research Center
In 2009 those who attended church around once or twice a month exceeded those who attend church only occasionally or not at all
Those numbers are introverted today: 54% of Americans nowadays say they attend a few times a year compared to those that attend at least monthly.
In this decade weekly church attendance is down 6% as seldom or never is up 3%
in a decade:
16% of millenials left the faith (millenials are leaving the faith, Gen Z and future generations are never in it)
While online attendance has grown in churches by average of 288% as of April (giving the need of more investment online)
In person attendance as of April and May while most restrictions had started to be removed.... only about 57% of what it was in January 2020.
(Transition about the church)
We get to this part of the creed and I can feel you scratching your head....
Close relative, grew up in the church....why do we say we are catholic?!
What are we catholic now?
And some of you catholics…are like see, I knew it!
What is being said here?
Well before we can understand what the creed is getting at, we need a little biblical work to paint the picture. We need to ask what is a theology of the church, what does the bible say about the church? I wish Paul sat down and wrote out a manual on his church planting and what a church is to be. But we can do a survey and learn from what the bible says:

Ekklesia: the called out ones

The greek word that is mostly translated to church in the new testament is ekklesia. Think of Jesus speaking to Peter in that conversation of, who do people say that I am? Upon the correct answer Jesus tells disciples and specifically Peter, it is upon you that I will build my church. So what is the biblical understanding of church?
OT perspective:
Now the way we look back into the old testament and see when a similar understanding comes through is by something called the septuagint. The septuagint is the greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. So where the greek word ekklesia shows up in the septuagint would show us where in the Hebrew bible a similar idea would be present.
Now, in the OT the idea of church is refers to many different things:
the gathered people to receive the law in Joshua 8
or the assembled people of God used several times of Deuteronomy…literally referring to “the assembly of the Lord”
Or even God’s people called together for battle in Judges 21
Or gathered to receive God’s message from King David
The new testament has a diversity of usages as well:
1. People of God, especially when they are gathered together
1 Corinthians 11:18 NIV
In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it.
2. Group of Christians living in one place.... as in the “church at Ephesus”
3. Or house assemblies of Christians, like in Acts where people were meeting in homes under the care of disciples named Priscilla and Aquilla.
So what is the ekklesia?
So what is common in all of these, because they are so basic? Well I think two things that will help us consider the ekklesia of Church in general and Marvin in specific:

Identity and Mission

Identity and mission are what we can pull out of all of this.
Identity: The church’s identity is primarily and wholly based on the truth that we are called by God
First, the identity was primarily and wholly based on this truth…that they were called by God.
the root word for ekklesia, is Kaleo…yeah you are getting your greek in. It means Called. Ekklesia quite literally means the ones assembled that were called by God.
the identity of these groups had nothing to do with what the people looked like, where they met, who their specific leader was, where they had rock and roll worship band or choral and incense, identity was not based on how nice they were (though they should be), or how great their missions was or childcare and children’s ministries....the identity began with those people are called by God. Individually and collectively they are a community that has seen God and is responding to God.
This means that Marvin is not a support group, though we provide support. Not a social club, though you will undoubtedly make friends here, it is not a non-profit, a political club…we boldly and confidently stake our claim on this truth....we are an assembly that has been called by God. Nothing else has the power of transforming the world because God is not a part of it.
Mission: The church is built and shaped by a shared purpose
the other thing we get from the biblical understanding of ekklesia is that they shared a purpose, God’s purpose.
The only time in the gospels that Jesus speaks and this word ekklesia shows up is in Matthew. When Jesus tells the 12 and Peter that it is upon them that he will build his church he is declaring the calling to “become a light to the nations, that God’s salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (Is. 49:6)
Marvin we are a people called by God with one thing on our mind.... being a light to the nations, bringing God’s salvation to the end of the earth.
If we at Marvin stop asking, How are we doing this....how are bringing God’s salvation....then we become salt that is not salty, useless. We stop being ekklesia.
So this brings us to the creed and gives us the right framework....

Holy catholic Church, Communion of Saints

To this point we have covered the holy Trinity and now there is another turn. This time away from the trinity and to an expression of the trinity in the world.
“Because God is three-persons-in-relationship, the only way we can realize the imago Dei in humanity is to form a community of persons-in-loving-relationship: the church. The church, then, is the community of God, not only because it has been created by the triune God, but because the church shares in the triune community itself.” -Kevin Vanhoozer
This is why it goes straight here in the creed from the trinity. The expression of the trinity in the world is the church.
Our creed has three statements here in these two phrases:

I believe in the holy Church

First part of this is the declaration that the church is holy. Holy means set apart from the world. The church is set apart for righteousness, godliness, beauty, and the spotless bride of Christ.
Now some of you are immediately suspicious here. Some have come here because you have been harmed from another church. Or you have spent your adulthood deconstructing unhealthy things from your childhood faith. Some of you are in this room thinking, what I have experienced at Marvin is far from holy.
The institutional church is not perfect. It is far from it, as we continue to see difficulty throughout our own denomination. Another major denomination is facing a purging as decades of covered up abuse against women by major leaders comes to the forefront. The church throughout history has caused harm. That is because the church is built with broken people. It does not excuse it, no, instead it calls for a greater pursuit of justice and integrity, because that is not a part of what Jesus is building.
See in Matthew when Jesus tells Peter that he is going to build his ekklesia....he says he is going to build it upon the confession and allegiance to the truth that Jesus is the son of God, the messiah of the world.

I Believe in the Church catholic

Catholic means universal. lower-case C. We are not a protestant professing allegiance to the Roman “C”atholic church. This means the church everywhere always built on this confession. The ones called out to be holy with shared identity and mission.
Listen, when people ask me about the methodist church, I will tell people that this is not the only way to be faithful to God, but I think it is a really cool way to follow Him.
This should also remove any arrogance about our local church. There are 1000s of faithful churches large and small all around our region.
This should humbled our western sensibilities. That America is some how the epicenter of Christianity. When actually the georgraphical center continues to move East. There are regions sending missionaries to the United States. Friends, I encourage you to engage with cultures other than your own as often as you can. Go on a short-term mission trip.
I have worshipped in Haiti with people that have very little to their name and desperately worship in a corrupt and conflict riddled country. Spent time with Costa Ricans who gather to pray and worship every night. Praying for a revival in their city. My friend Ada from Nigeria, who had a vision of God show her that she was called to preach the gospel or die, and so she has given her life to it, cook me dinner and pray prophetic prayers over my life.
I believe in the church catholic, is a celebration that right now everywhere there are Christians all over the world praising our Jesus.

I believe in the communion of Saints

Then the creed turns local. Now it turns to the local gathering of the beloved. The universal exists only in that there are locations of the saints in communion. Stanley Hauerwas puts it this way:
Saints cannot exist without a community, as they require, like all of us, nurturance by a people who, while often unfaithful, preserve the habits necessary to learn the story of God. -Stanley Hauerwas
Through out the history of the church, the church has contained the following marks:
Marks of the Church:
True preaching of the word
“The word is the appointed means by which God’s grace is made known to men, calling them to repentance, assuring them of forgiveness, drawing them to obedience and building them up in the fellowship of faith and love.”
Scripture is fully sufficient for all that is necessary for salvation
Administration of Sacraments
“Where no one is baptized, there is no church.” This is the doorway to the church
The Lord instituted meal in which his presence is most profoundly communicated and experienced
Disciplined Christian Life
discipleship, helping people to follow Jesus.
Listen friends, I will come back to where we started. These growing trends in the church is concerning. Less and less are regularly here. For too long we have separated membership from actual participation in the body.
If you invited me to your party and I said “sure I will be a part of your shin-dig, but I will not be able to be there.” You wou’d be rightfully confused.
I love our commitment to online, to making everything accessible, but we need to be together and committed to one another.
This week VBS was beautiful. 450 involved plus dozens of others to decorate. The church present in communion. One young girl praying to receive Christ for the first time. It was holy…not perfect. But holy. It cannot just be a program. The statistics of these young people that will be in the church when they leave for college or leave the home is astoundingly low (75% will leave the church when they graduate).
What will we do to be the church?!
of the 28% of millenials that stay....it is because of a close connection to an adult mentor.
My life....
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