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What is it like to be a Christian?

 
What is the Church and what is its purpose in the world? What does the Church look like?

Rationale

From the beginning God did not intend for us to live as individuals, but as those who are in fellowship with others. So, he created us in his image so that we might know him, he established marriage and hence families as the foundation of society and he called out a people for himself, Israel in the OT, and the Church in the NT, as those who together would worship and love the Lord. To be a Christian then is to live in fellowship with God and with fellow believers, so beginning to fulfill the prayer of Jesus in John 17 that we would be one and the Father and Son are one, and fulfilling the command that we love each other as Jesus loved us, John 15:12.
 
In the Old Testament God’s people were the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and they lived in what is today Israel as the nation of Israel. In the New Testament the people are not God’s people because of their parents but because of their own faith in Jesus Christ. They are those who have trusted in Christ and are now indwelt by the Holy Spirit who gives them fellowship with the Father, the Son and the Spirit. These new people of God are called the Church and the New Testament uses a number of metaphors to describe this body. They are the people of God, they are a holy nation, they are a family, they are brothers and sisters, and they are the Body of Christ and so on. Each of these metaphors brings out an aspect of what the Church is and also what it should look like and what it should be doing in the world. Specifically the Church should be a people who are created again in the image of God and so should live by loving God with all their hearts and loving their neighbour as themselves, for this is God’s nature. The Church has been charged with the specific task of making disciples of Christ of all the nations.
 
The nature of the Church is also brought out through the Sacraments, or Ceremonies of the Church. For Protestant Churches these two, Communion/Lord’s Supper and Baptism, are centrally important. While there are disagreements on the exact nature of these, and how to administer them, yet there is a common fundamental meaning. In addition to these the nature of the Church is also brought out by corporate worship, the singing of songs together, by joint prayer and by the teaching of the Bible.
 
Note: Depending on the school, many students may have no church background, so the classroom and the school becomes their experience of the Church, and they learn as much by seeing and experiencing as they do by instruction.

Key concepts

  • God’s plan for us was to live in community with others - Gn 1:22,27; Gn 2, John 15:12, John 17:21, Acts 2:42-47
  • The nature of the Church is brought out in the NT by a series of metaphors which in turn highlight different aspects (See Scripture References below)
  • God has a plan for the Church. Some parts are:
    • Be God’s light in the world
    • Glorify God
    • Present the Gospel to others - outreach, evangelism, mission
    • To disciple the nations by teaching them to do everything Jesus taught
    • This includes teaching from God’s word, guiding and supporting
    • Gathering together for fellowship, worship, prayer, teaching
    • To be Christ's hands, feet, heart and eyes etc., to both believers and non-believers
    • To attract people to God by being the like Jesus, especially loving one another as he loved 

Scripture References

  • Ambassadors for the Lord - 2 Cor 5:20
  • Body of Christ, different roles/gifts, under the headship of Christ, inclusive, supportive, all contribute and play a part - Romans 12:4-5, 1 Cor 12:12-27
  • Bride of Christ , Christ is the bridegroom. He will return for his bride (Church). He is a blessing to us; we can have an intimate relationship with Him. The bride is to remain pure for her groom, and yet by the blood of Jesus is already pure - Isaiah 54:5-6, Ephesians 5:25-27
  • Citizens of God’s kingdom, our home is with God, eternally, in heaven - Philippians 3:20, Hebrews 11:13-16
  • Children of Abraham, because we share the same faith Abraham had and so are also his children - Romans 4:16, Galatians 3:29
  • Ecclesia “called out ones”, used of local congregations ( e.g. 1 Cor 1:2), all believers through the ages (e.g. Acts 8:3; 9:31), specifically they are the ‘called out ones’ who belong to God (1 Cor 1:2, 2 Cor 1:1)
  • Family - God is our Father; we are heirs; we are adopted. Matthew 6: 9 (Our Father), Romans 8:15 Share the same Spirit of adoption; hence brothers and sisters in Christ
  • Fellowship of Believers - Acts 2:42-47, Hebrews 10:24,25; 1 John 1:3
  • His masterpiece - Eph 2:10
  • Holy Nation - set apart for God’s purposes - different to the world. 1 Peter 2:9
  • Household of God - Eph 2:19, 1 Tim 3:15
  • Light of the World, Salt of the Earth - Matthew 5:13,14
  • People of God, belonging to God; ‘purchased’ by Jesus’ blood - Exodus 6:6-7, Acts 15:14, I will be their God and they will be my people
  • Royal Priesthood - 1 Peter 2:5
  • Pillar and Ground of the Truth - 1 Tim 3:15
  • Stewards of the mysteries of God - 1 Cor 4:1
  • Team of Athletes - 1 Cor 9:24-25 with Phil 1:27; running the race together
  • Temple/Building of the Lord - link to holiness of God; place where God meets his people. His Spirit dwells within each member. 1 Peter 2:4-10
  • The Lord’s Army 2 Cor 10:4,5, Eph 6:11,12
  • The Lord’s Field - 1 Cor 3:6-9
  • The Lord’s flock - Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2-4
  • The Lord’s inheritance - Eph 1:18
  • The Lord’s school- Matthew 28:19,20 (make disciples and teach them)
  • The Way - Acts 9:2
 
The Book of Acts - the establishment of the Church See especially Acts 2:42-47

Romans 12

1 Corinthians 11:3 - Christ is the head of the body

1 Corinthians 12:11-31 - Body of Christ

Matthew 16:18 - The power of hell will not conquer the Church

Ephesians 4:11-16 - Equip God’s people to build up the Church

Resources

Christianity is a world religion, with a history going back 2 000 years. There are many styles of worship. Students can be introduced to some through Youtube. Here are some examples:
 

http://www.bible.ca/ntx-what-is-the-church.htm

http://christianity.about.com/od/churchandcommunity/a/thechurch.htm

 

Ideas/Strategies for Lessons

Children can illustrate the various metaphors or collect other materials, maybe over the term to create a poster, a collage or even a montage
Break the metaphors into categories, e.g. inward looking, outward looking, discuss why for the various categories
Develop concrete action points for a selection of the metaphors
Watch YouTube videos of various styles of worship and make it a discussion point
Students run a church service, with songs, prayer and a short message
The various Jewish Festival and seasons in say the Anglican Church calendar are designed to both teach the faith and to create and enjoy the community which is the Body of Christ. These can be taught and acted out to allow students to experience their faith in a different way
View Communion and Baptism and discuss, even do them in the class
Teach students to pray, and give them space for a quiet time, with Bible reading and discussion afterwards
Ask children to imagine they are all doing the same thing, e.g. Every one is a famous soccer star: What jobs would/would not be done? What would happen then? Result = they couldn’t even play soccer to be a soccer star.
Discuss how everyone is given different gifts, desires and abilities because God have made us all different. We work together to complement each other.

If our body was just an eye/ear/hand etc, what could/couldn’t we do?

Draw cartoons/illustrations of the above.

Use ICT to make mini movies of the above.

Using a large body outline template, cut it into jigsaw pieces to suit the number of students in the class. Ask each student to decorate the jigsaw piece with a skill or talent that they are good at. Create a mosaic body with all the parts and display in the room. Put the face of Jesus as the head or put the mosaic inside a picture of Jesus.
Same as above but each student writes a learning goal on their piece of jigsaw