This past Sunday at St. Jude’s Mission we were treated to a quasi-pastoral visit from the AMiA’s regional network leader, Alan Hawkins. Alan is the pastor of the Church of the Redeemer in Greensboro, NC. Boasting over 90 regular members, Redeemer is a veritable “mega-church” for AMiA circles.
Alan preached on Ephesians 1:9-10 and 2:11-22 (St. Jude’s is in the midst of an intensive study of this epistle on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings). The uniting of “all things in Him, in heaven and on earth” was presented in a way that differed somewhat from the old dualism I was taught years ago. Hawkins’ exposition of the passages was in line with more recent scholarship: that God is uniting in Christ Jew and Gentile, law-keeper and law-breaker, and – eventually – heaven and earth (Douglas Moo, who sees in Rom. 11:23-27 a large-scale conversion of Jews to Christ at the end of this age, has done some exciting biblical study on the physical renovation of the earth to take place in the ages to come).
That is not to say that Alan’s sermon was deeply theological. His focus was on what kind of local church our fledgling mission would want to be. “Do you want to be a ‘New Testament’ church?” he asked. “Do you really want to be a New Testament church? Which one? Corinth, with its incest, pride, and divisions?”
His point was not lost on his hearers. Heresy and trouble began in the churches long before the apostles left the scene. The point is not to look back exclusively to the churches of antiquity for a pattern, but to look squarely at God’s revelation of His purpose in the Church for the ages. The propitiatory, expiatory and efficacious death and resurrection of Christ not only answered how sinners can be made right with a holy God, but paved the way for the new community that God has created for His habitation. Among other things, the Church is the vanguard of the union of all things in Christ, the risen and ascended victor. The local church must aim at upholding that purpose and displaying, even now in abject weakness (1 Cor. 1:26-31), the wisdom of God. It should continue to do so until God’s salvation is finally revealed at the end (1 Peter 1:4-7; Col. 3:3-4; Rom. 8:18-23).
Afterwards during lunch Alan reminded us that the profile for the typical Christian in the world today is “a 26 year-old black African female.” The white man’s Christianity of Britain and America is a drop in the bucket. That’s a sobering perspective.