|HOME - The Essence of the Church|
|ARTICLE:||THE ESSENCE OF THE CHURCH|
|Experience versus Essence|
|The Essence of the Church|
|Renewal for What?|
|Introduction||(back to top)|
I used to think that when the Holy Spirit led us 'into all truth'
, that this would mean being inundated with new piles of truth! But I am now convinced of two things -
|Of the Essence|
The word 'essential' refers to the real 'essence' of something, and you can immediately see that they
each derive from the important Latin word esse, - 'to be'.
People used to distinguish between the nature of a thing's essential 'BEING' (esse) and the elements that existed for its mere WELL-BEING (bene esse).
|A Tasty Example|
Take an omelette.
What is the essence of an omelette? Or, to put it another way, what remains when non-essentials have been removed?
We can probably make an omelette without water/milk, salt/pepper, ham/cheese/tomato/mushrooms. These things improve an omelette, but are non-essential. The real 'essence' of an omelette is EGG + HEAT. Since an omelette cannot exist without egg-and-heat, egg-and-heat are of its essence.
The Holy Spirit is ever active in our spiritual lives to draw-together, unite, and give order. The Devil works to demolish,
divide and bring disorder. He knows the essentials of the Christian Church, and his prime task is to undermine by
eclipsing or distorting them.
An over-commitment to non-essentials tears the Church apart as our energies get wrongly diverted to secondary matters at the cost of the Church's two tasks - worship and witness.
|Experience versus Essence||(back to top)|
Let me explain the heading of this section. Most of us could describe our experience of cars. It takes considerable
mental effort to discern correctly the real essence of a car - our experience actually gets in the way!
We need mentally to get far beyond the radio, heater, chrome trim, clock and cigarette lighter if we are to find what a car really is.
Since their invention, cars have accumulated a hundred years' worth of extras!
What is the essence of a car?
Now we have learnt to understand a car, we're well on the way to understand the Church because the process of discernment
is the same. Our experience of the Church is misleadingly different from her essence, due to twenty centuries of added
Similarly we need to do a great deal of stripping away to find her essence.
(What is immediately apparant is that our buildings - confusingly called 'churches' - are later additions to protect the Church from the weather.)
If you've time list six items you think comprise the essence of the Church before you read on...
(Later take your list and mine to your Christian minister, who will advise you if I've got it wrong!)
|The Essence of the Church||(back to top)|
Nothing that the Church can survive without is of her essence, and nothing of her essence can be removed without destroying
or changing her.
These six items are the Church's essence -
Like a car, the Church's essence lacks much that we generally assume and experience. What about Sacraments, Scripture, Doctrine, Priesthood, etc. ?
Such things are the cherished first-generation children of the Church. They derive from her essence, born of her for her well-being.
Put simply, it might be suggested that -
The Risen Christ comes to his followers: These gathered disciples recognise God's Revelation of himself in Jesus. They acknowledge him as Lord. They rejoice in his Presence. They are sent-out and Spirit-empowered for mission.
|Renewal for What?||(back to top)|
Importantly for us, Spirit-empowering is of the essence of the Church, but its purpose is to equip the Church for
The disciples were FIRST commanded to go out, and THEN received their Spirit-empowering.
Is it fair to suggest that for the most part our Spirit-empowering has been enjoyed behind church doors? Is it also possible that the non-essentials of the Church consume so much time and energy that we have little of either left for our mission to the world?
Evangelism is not optional, but 'essential', i.e. of the Church's true essence. Its absence is like a two-wheeled car, it casts doubts on her authenticity! "The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of its non-members".
Our spiritual renewal is not for the blessing of the Church, but to equip her to bless the world.
|Copyright John Richards 2002, but waived for users of www.helpforchristians.co.uk|