Did you ever hear the old saying,

DYNAMITE SOMETIMES COMES IN SMALL PACKAGES

I’m thinking especially about books that have made an impact on my life. Some of the most powerful books have been little paperbacks. I have a dear friend that is an avid reader, and that’s putting it mildly. He once said to me, “I don’t do paperbacks!” But I said, there are some precious little gems that only come in paperback. “Well”, he said, “I guess I’ll just have to wait until the hardback edition comes out, won’t I.”

Some of my most treasured books over the years are paperback classics, I’ll just name three: Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer,Harper & Row (1954), 122 pages,and The Obedience of Faith, by Paul S.Minear, SCM Press (1971)110 pages. I wish every Christian in America could read these as well as the third one I’ll mention now, regardless of which church tradition they call mother kirk.

The third little treasure is a little book on the church, Body Life, written by Pastor Ray Stedman in 1972, and telling the story of the Peninsula Bible Church in Palo Alto, California. The basic message of this little book and what it represents is still dynamite today. The Church, PBC, and their vibrant ministries are a testament to that.  

 He makes this statement in the early part of the book after discussing many of the negative ideas that come to mind when the word “church” is mentioned: 

“Let’s be honest: The church has been all of these things at one time or another. Again and again, it has justified every bitter charge, every gripe and criticism that was ever leveled against it by angry atheists and disillusioned agnostics.

“Yet–despite all its obvious flaws, weaknesses, hypocrisies, sins, and excesses–the church has been the most powerful force for good on the face of the earth, century after century, from the time of the apostles right up to this present moment. It has been light in the midst of the blackest darkness. It has been salt–both a preservative and a delightful seasoning–in a corruption-prone, unsavory society.”

He goes on to ask the obvious question, “How can this be?” And his answer is one we need to ponder very very carefully today when the world desparately needs what only the “True Church” was designed to provide.(see my earlier post on,”I Belong To The One True Church“.

Two Churches

How can we unravel this paradox? How can the church be both sin-ridden and salt and light? How can the church be both a source of disillusionment and a source of illumination at the same time? The answer, as found in the Bible, is this: What we call “the church” is really two churches! One is selfish, power-hungry, and sinful. The other is loving, forgiving, and godly. One has a long history of stirring up hatred, conflict, and bloody persecution, all in the name of God and religion. The other has always sought to heal human hurts, break down barriers of race and class, and deliver men and women from their guilt, shame, fear, and ignorance.

One is a false church, a counterfeit, masquerading as Christianity, but whose head is Satan. The other is the true church, founded by Jesus Christ, mirroring His authentic character through acts of love, self-sacrifice, courage, and truth.

Well there you have the gist of what I really believe about the Church and all of her many different manifestations and the urgent task of unity. To read more of this chapter from the late Dr.Stedman’s book, go here.

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