ep. 84 the local church

Susan Hunt

ep. 84 | The Local Church with Susan Hunt

On today’s episode of the Journeywomen podcast, I’m chatting with Susan Hunt about the local church! One of our mutual friends rightly stated that Susan bleeds ecclesiology, which means the theology of the church if you haven’t heard that term before. I could NOT agree more.

Ya’ll, from everything I know of Susan, she does just that. She gets into the trenches and loves and serves the family of God and I can’t think of anyone I’d rather hear from on this topic (or any topic, let’s be real). So you’ll know her a little better, Susan has been happily married to Gene Hunt, a retired PCA pastor, for 55 years. Susan formerly served as Coordinator of Women's Ministries for the PCA and she has authored several dozen books for women and children.

  1. Can you tell us a little about who you are and what you do?

  2. What is the local church? Who makes up the local church?

  3. Can you explain the difference between the local church and parachurch organizations and online ministries?

  4. What is the function and purpose of the local church?

  5. Why is it important for us to seek membership in a local church?

  6. What is the importance of being deeply involved in a local church, and not just Sunday morning involvement, but really doing life alongside other believers in the local church?

  7. How does the gospel undergird and empower our time together in community?

  8. What is the joy of being involved in the local church?

  9. What encouragement do you have for women who have had a difficult time finding a local church, who aren’t currently a part of the local church, or who don’t feel like they connect with their local church?

  10. For those listening who aren’t a part of a local church body, what are some practical next steps?

THREE QUESTIONS I ASK EVERY GUEST

  1. What 3 resources would you recommend for anyone in the local church?

  2. What are your three simple joys?

  3. Who has had the greatest impact on your own journey with Jesus?

NOTEWORTHY QUOTES

“I can barely speak the word ‘church’ without weeping in wonder at the very idea! The Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, the family of God! The church is the people of God in all times and in all places! We’re those who were chosen in Christ in eternity past! We’re being redeemed, justified, adopted, and sanctified in him! The church is those who are in-dwelt by God’s Holy Spirit! Think of that! The very Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead! We’re the ones with the potential to make Jesus known! To reflect the glory of God in a dark, broken world! So, the church is the people who have been entrusted with the living Word of the living God.”

“In the local church Jesus is King. There is an authority and an accountability structure. In the New Testament we see that churches were established, elders and deacons were elected to preach and teach the gospel and to care for the needs of the people and to shepherd the flock. The marks of the church are traditionally understood as the faithful preaching of God’s Word, the faithful administration of the sacraments, and then discipline. When we join a church we place ourselves under the oversight of the elders of the church who are charged with the care of our soul. Each of these marks is an expression of the one great mark of the church which is submission to God’s Word as our authority for faith and life.” 

“Para means to come alongside. Most of these organizations come alongside the church for specific ministries.”

“Jesus gave us our great and glorious commission when he told us that the church is to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and to teach God’s people to observe and obey all that he commanded. These three gospel imperatives, it’s important for us to see, are bookended by his strong statement that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him and he is with us! So, what seems like an impossible mission is possible because of who he is! This is what the church is to do.”

“If we are in love with Christ, we will want to be a part of a local church. We’ll want to be a part of his Body. Our adoption in Christ means that we are united to his other children. We are a part of the invisible church, but we live out that reality in time and space by connecting ourselves to a local body of believers. We’re supposed to get down in the trenches with this concept.”

“It’s really not about the cultural issues that are involved, but more about what Scripture says.”

“They maintain their family identity, but they were to put the tabernacle in the middle of the camp and the various families and tribes were to camp around the tabernacle. They were to be facing it. The tabernacle represented the presence of God. The distinguishing characteristic of that covenant community was the presence of God in their midst. When any family stepped outside of their tent, they saw all of the other families in reference to the tabernacle, the presence of God. Now, carry this thought out. If any Israelite family decided they really didn’t like community life or they weren’t tickled with the neighbors next door to them and they decided to travel through the desert alone, their vulnerability would have been unimaginable. And so is ours when we decide to travel alone. That is not the way God created us to be. He created us to live interdependently.”

“The chapter in the Westminster Confession on the Commune of saints says, “All saints that are united to Jesus Christ by his Spirit, have fellowship with him and his grace, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory. It does not stop there. Much of Christendom today would put a period there, but the Westminster divines did not. All saints that are united to Jesus are also united to one another in love. And it goes on to say, they have communion in each other’s graces and are obliged to the performance of such duties, public and private, as due to their mutual good both in the inward and outward man. That’s radical in our culture that says independence is power. We are to live interdependently. We are to be united. And we actually have communion. Your gifts and graces belong to me. I need your gifts and graces and you need mine. We are actually obliged--that’s a strong word--but we are obliged to perform these things for the mutual, good. Thinking of the common good rather than our own good again, runs against the grain, but it’s right and it’s good, and it’s the way we are supposed to live.”

“Christianity is intensely personal, but once we are united to Christ we are also united to his other children. It’s in the context of these covenant relationships that we live out our faith. It is there that our faith is expanded and strengthened. Marriage and relationships in the church give us the kind of committed, up close relationships that help us to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus as we love one another, serve and forgive and care for one another, as we rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. It’s very important to seek out membership in a church, even if it’s only for a short time.”

“Because we have access to God through Christ we’re given three gospel imperatives. The first is let us draw near with a true heart and full assurance of faith. So, we’re to draw near to God. And then let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering because he’s faithful. We’re to be steadfast in hope because he’s faithful. And then the third one is let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging each other and all the more as we see the day approaching. So, we’re not to keep church at a distance.”

“When I go to church how can I stir up others to love and good deed? How can I encourage them? This is not just about church hopping, this is about living covenantally, living out our relationship with God and our relationship with other believers.”

“Scripture commands one generation to tell the next generation the mighty acts of God. It’s in church that we can do this.” 

“There is no covenant community without gospel power. We hear a lot about community today, but covenant community is different because it is gospel-initiated, it is gospel sustained, it is Word based, it is not based on where we live or our interests or any of those things, it is all about the gospel. We become a part of the covenant community because of the gospel, but then it’s also the gospel that sustains and empowers this community.”

“If we can just get our eyes on the bigger picture of God’s glory and of him putting his glory in us and writing his gospel story in us and we start looking for that in each other rather than getting all upset over things that really don’t matter, then the church becomes exactly what he prayed it would be. And people look at that and think, ‘How can there be such a thing? How can people live that way? How can people love that way?’ And then they’re drawn to the gospel.”

“Go to the Lord and ask him to help us think biblically about his church.”

SUSAN’S RESOURCES

The Bible

Consider the historic creeds (like Westminster Confession of Faith and the Heidelberg Catechism)

Discover a biblical perspective of our womanhood and God’s calling for us as women in our church

Find a small group of women to dig into the Word with other women

SIMPLE JOYS

Early morning time and place with the Lord

Sitting at the table full of her people

Seeing God’s majesty in the mundane (heavenly hugs)

SCRIPTURE REFERENCES

Ephesians 4:11

1 Peter 2:9

Numbers 2:2

Acts 2

Hebrews 10:22

Philippians 3

John 17 - Jesus’ prayer

Psalm 92


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. What is the local church?

  2. What is the purpose of the local church?

  3. How were you uniquely designed to be a part of the local church?

  4. What are some of the joys and hardships of being involved in the local church?

  5. How have you been shaped by covenant community?

  6. What are you going to do or implement as a result of what you’ve learned this week?


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