For the purpose of this post, I will be assuming the complementarian view. You are free to disagree with me on your own, but this post and any resulting comments are not intended to debate the relative merits of egalitarianism.
As I look at the Bible, I notice that marriages are found throughout. It begins with man and woman being brought together to form a union. God made woman out of man in order to complement his role in expanding the glory of God throughout all the world. They were to share the same goal, but each of them had unique strengths, and by utilizing these strengths together they could more accurately reflect the glory of God upon creation.
Marriage is celebrated throughout the Bible and is used as a picture of God and His people both in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. Israel is portrayed as His bride, the church is portrayed as His bride. God is not a polygamist. God is not an adulterer. There is not one bride for each person of the trinity. But these discussions are not the focus of today’s post either.
The Bible ends with the Marriage of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6-9) as the consummation of the marriage between God and His people. Marriage permeates the Bible as a picture of God and His people. Marriage between a man and a woman will continue in this life until it is concluded in the next life, for the fulfillment will be present and the types and shadows will no longer be necessary. (Matthew 22:30) God is the husband, the church is the bride. Because I presuppose complementarianism, I can assume that the following things must also be true.
- It is intended that God and His people be working toward the same goal, namely to reveal His kingdom and glory across all of creation.
- God is capable of meeting His goals apart from us, but lovingly includes us in His task.
- It is better that God incorporate us into the plan than excuse us from any activity. The result are more glorifying to God with our roles being carried out.
- There are roles that God will perform in the building of His kingdom and there are roles that we are to perform.
- To pursue the role that the other party is responsible for is to demonstrate a distrust in the other’s ability to accomplish that role.
So what are these roles that the two parties are to play? Let’s look to the words of our Lord to decipher this.
Jesus will build His church
…on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18 ESV)
That looks pretty straightforward to me. Jesus is the one who will gather His people all around the world, despite the resistance from the forces of darknes. It is the triune God who gathers the church together. The husband in our metaphor is gathering His people to Himself. That is His role. Our role is not the same as His role, but our role is meant to complement His role as we work toward our shared end goal. We do our part, we trust Him to do his part, which is the obedience of complimentarianism.
And what are we to be doing as we work toward this goal? Our husband has given His bride her instructions.
We are to make disciples
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)
We are to make disciples, as we trust God to build His church. Making disciples is not the same thing as inviting your unsaved friends to your church gathering, though that can play a role in our task. But do not assume that making disciples equals building the church by inviting everyone lest you drift into the lane that our Husband is driving in. We are to do our part and allow Him to work with us in His part.
Therefore, I would say that any church growth movement or program designed to put butts in seats (and money in coffers), while well intended, is approaching the mutual goal between Christ and His bride from the wrong angle. We are trying to do God’s job instead of the job He has instructed us to perform. Why don’t we, instead, trust our God to accomplish His task with the complimentary assistance of His bride, who is making disciples by baptizing and teaching?
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42 ESV)
This sounds a lot like disciple making to me. The early believers devoted themselves to discipleship. And the Lord added to their number (the Church) daily those who were being saved.
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:44-47 ESV)