A few years ago (2011), we had the pleasure of hosting C. René Padilla in our home. I had been at the 10 year review of the Micah Declaration. René was there, as were other important majority world mission leaders such as Melba Maggay, C.B. Samuel, and Vinoth Ramachandra. On the Sunday René was to preach in our home church. We had a BBQ on the Sunday afternoon and invited various students to come and chat.As is his wont, René spoke a great deal about the church. One of the students asked, “but René what is the church?” He replied “simple, ‘where two or three are gathered in my name'” (Matthew 18:20).
I tell that story because, in my conversations and reading, I am increasingly getting the feeling that we really don’t know what the Church is. This simple, almost reductionist answer reveals a great deal.
I spoke last Sunday at that same church on Matthew 1-2; a Nativity play not for the children and one thing I emphasised was from Matthew 1:23, which quotes from Isaiah 7:14, ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).‘ God with us is the presence of the living God among humanity. At the end of Matthew the Great Commission ends with a promise, “And I will be with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
Returning to René’s quote of 18:20
These three verses–Matthew 1:23; 18:20 and 28:20-point us to the essence of Church.