But words like ‘National Assembly’, ‘councils’, and ‘denomination’ can often suggest images of a dead institutionalism which exists for the sake of itself, rather than the kind of dynamic, localised vitality that we think should characterise Jesus’ church.
Terms aside, the New Testament church was an interconnected partnership of churches, which believed that their connectedness to the larger network was as important as their authentic local expression of Christian community.
In Acts 15, the larger network were essential in providing wisdom and clarity about the Bible’s teaching and avoiding the local church in Antioch being ripped apart. Many New Testament writers write the same letters to churches in many different cities, e.g. 1 Peter 1:1-2. In 2 Corinthians 8-9, Paul relates the gospel-driven generosity of ethnically Greek churches in Macedonia as they provided financial relief for the struggling, ethnically Jewish churches in Judea.
It’s to these churches that Paul writes from prison in Rome:
‘I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.’ (Philippians 1:3–5 ESV)
When it comes to the other followers of Jesus we’re connected with, in other towns, other cities, other states, it’s easy to fall into a state of ‘out of sight, out of mind’. But the New Testament church shows us something different: an purposeful, practical and prayerful partnership for the sake of the gospel.
Live it: As the National Assembly meets, pray for the meetings and the delegates, that they would express real partnership in the gospel. Give thanks for them, for the churches they represent, and pray that God would multiply churches with whom we can partner for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ in Australia and across the world.
– Clint Lombard