Today marks the last Friday devoted to a conversation about Jon Wilson’s fine study of the church called Why Church Matters. Next Friday we begin Tracy Balzer’s Thin Places: An Evangelical Journey into Celtic Christianity.
Does suffering play any role in your understanding of the church? in your understanding of the Christian life? What about your understanding of power?
Jon Wilson combines the two in this last chapter to say that suffering is a “pervasive practice” of the church. Not only this, but he contends that the claim to powerlessness is often a claim to a kind of manipulative power. [This point is worthy of serious discussion.]
The power of the church, Wilson argues, is the power to participate in the kingdom of God. That power comes to the church in the Spirit because of the resurrection. When the Spirit came, they had the power to witness, the power to participate in the kingdom. Notice this one:
“The power of the Spirit does not confer upon the church status or privilege or blessing, except as the church participates in the kingdom” (136). And when they witnessed to Christ in the Spirit’s power, they suffered.
The power of the Spirit, he says, “is the power to suffer as witnesses to the good news of the kingdom of life in Jesus Christ” (137). Suffering is the consequence of witnessing in the power of the Spirit “in a world that is rebellion against that kingdom” (137). Suffering is the price of social nonconformity — not because we are weird or curmudgeons but because we live in the Spirit as witnesses to the kingdom of God.