When living in Brazil, our team constructed a two-track model as key to planting churches. We envisioned the model like a railroad track.
On one rail was our team church. We functioned as a congregation of God’s people. We used a geographic location designated Southwest Church.
Sent from the North American church, we possessed a greater abundance of resources than new national Christians could handle. They needed incremental tasks, not overwhelming responsibility.
The North American church made it possible for the Southwest church to work on a nationwide level with Bible correspondence courses, national radio broadcast, an airplane for follow up, a Christian camp, printing, Bible distribution, a training school, and evangelistic campaigns.
In addition to our membership with the Southwest Church, we each worked on the other train rail of national church plants.
I was a member of a young Brazilian local church. My responsibilities were evangelistic, pastoral, and teaching. Nurturing an “infant church,” we were careful not to strangle it with steak and pork roast from the North American abundance.
Were the young members of the church plants to be strapped with the scope and the budget of the Southwest church of the North Americans, the outcome would have been disastrous.
The two churches with the mental picture of dual railroad rails provided a simple way to keep our tasks straight and to plant multiple churches.
I like to use the railway analogy to think of Christ’s church.
There is the celestial rail. This is the perfect, pure bride of Christ. This church, established by Jesus, is the fulfillment of all prophecy. Perfection comes through His blood. My only role in this church is to belong. I can’t make it better, nor can I mess it up. God designed it as eternally perfect.
When I placed my faith in Jesus and went through the symbolic watery grave of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, He placed me in His church. As long as I remain in Jesus, I will ride this church rail to eternal victory.
On the second rail is the church on earth. The local church is composed of we sinners attempting to show Him and the world our thankfulness for the cleansing blood of Jesus.
Christians compose the local church as we meet to pray, worship, encourage, learn, and remind one another of our gift of daily cleansing received through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
The perfect celestial church I get. Its only requires me to belong. Unless I belong to the celestial church, to fellowship with a local church makes little sense.
The church on earth is problematic. I and its other members descend from Adam and Eve. While in my human body, perfection will always elude me.
The Lord Jesus charges Christians to live a witness of love and unity before all humankind. The truth is we are not very good at our “one anotherness.” (OK, I know that is not a Webster word.) Each of us finds it hard to let Jesus help us with personal stubbornness and selfishness.
The result is a church on earth that undermines its own witness.
I invite you to go with me as we attempt to discover how we can better reflect God’s glory in our own lives and through the witness of the local church.
Stay tuned. – Gary J. Sorrells