What is the nature of the local Christian church? I’ve been thinking much about that question lately as my local or visible church of over 25 years is going through some rough times. This is not new as we readily see the ancient churches in Corinth and Galatia had struggles within 10-20 years after they were started.
A church is a community that is to be growing as a body of individuals who have “the mind of Christ” and who are led with that mind to care for others. But it is easy to lose sight of Jesus and be consumed with developing our minds about what the church is and be focused upon the needs of others. And if you are successful in helping others one gains a reputation as being a good Christian. Yet, we may have more and more the “mind of the community” rather than the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 1-2).
Another challenge we face is that we develop the mind of R.C. Sproul, or John Piper or Andy Stanley, etc. And I could easily be accused of cultivating the mind of Henri Nouwen. If we allow others to mold our thinking through their persuasive speech or insightful teaching, we risk losing our focus on the work of Jesus Christ. As Paul reminds us, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?… For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Cor. 1:13,17).
So, why is prayer the language of the church? Because prayer, as a dialogue, is our conversation and connection with the head of the church. The church is sometimes identified as the “bride of Christ” and as such we have only one husband. We are monogamous. And our love language is directed to our husband. And with a common husband, we are brought into community as we relate to him together. Jesus creates this community and there is no greater acknowledgement of his being the creator of this community than by talking to him together.
God said through Isaiah that “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Isaiah 56:7) And the context of this declaration is in a discussion about eunuchs and foreigners. The Lord says that there are no strangers in his community. There are no handicapped and no outsiders. All are made insiders by his calling. And how will they experience their “insiderness”? Through prayer all will speak the same language. The language of a community following Jesus is a praying fellowship. Jesus famously repeats the declaration about his house (and remember the church is people, not a building) being a house of prayer when, in contrast with the mind of Christ, his house has become filled with the minds of men.
Prayer is the recognition that God is in our midst and it is recognition that the community exists at all. Without the language of prayer, we are a social club or clan or clique that exists for itself and has it’s origin in the mind of man. But we have the mind of Christ. We do not instruct or advise him. He instructs and guides and calls us. And we respond to him in thanksgiving and amazement.
Speak to our hearts, Lord. May we only look to you for wisdom and knowledge.