It was back in the late 1950's. I was an first-year undergraduate at the University of Queensland. The Newman Society was running a mission and I went along out of interest and curiosity. The Catholic priest who was speaking laid strong emphasis on Peter as the Rock on which the church was built and that the Catholic Church was the only true church.
With innocent boldness I asked a question (made a statement?) at question time. Wasn't it true that there were two different Greek words for "rock" in Matthew 16.18? Jesus was saying "You are Petros (a piece of rock) and upon this petra (bedrock) I will build my church." And doesn't Peter himself describe Christ as "the living Stone" on which we are built as "living stones" (1 Peter 2.4-5)?
The level of inter-church debate and ecumenical relations has shifted since that time, though the recent document from the Pope suggests that elements of the old Catholic self-image are still present.
Come to the late 1990's and I hear a pastor telling a small prayer group, "I believe the Lord means me to have a big church." Whose church will the Lord build?
For some time I have been concerned that we aren't concerned about the Lord's church – we are too absorbed in our own! We talk about "the Kingdom of God", but in reality are in the business of building our own kingdoms!
"I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols" (Isaiah 42.8 NIV). Doctrinally we agree with that, yet secretly want to share a bit of God's glory. Some churches put up billboards advertising themselves for their friendliness or their healing miracles. The Uniting Church to be rather special to God because we are "uniting".
What nonsense! When will we get rid of our private (yet not invisible) agendas? When will we stop putting ourselves up instead of the Lord? When will we single-mindedly seek his glory alone?
When God has sent revival in the past, it has meant a humbling of the Lord's people and the blessing has flowed over all his people, not just one congregation or denomination.
Whose kingdom will have no end? Whose church will be proof against the gates of Hades?
Let us heed again the Lord's words to Solomon – "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7.14).
Don't just pray for the Uniting Church. Seek to understand the Lord's Kingdom, the Lord's Church. Seek opportunities to pray with other Christians for the fulfilment of the Lord's Great Commission in your community.
Humble yourself and seek a pure heart that longs only for his glory. Allow him to surprise you with blessing beyond your imagining.
© Peter J. Blackburn, NFFR Onward, March 2001