According to the Bible, God wanted people to relate to Him through love and worship. (Exodus 19:3-6 & Deut. 6:5.)
The Old Testament is about that desire, its frustration through the choices made by people, and God’s plan to restore to Himself a people who love and worship Him.
The New Testament is about God’s redemptive program, accomplished through atonement, and how He calls to Himself a worshiping people (1 Pet. 2:4-8). This group of people are the Church.
Christian theology is more complicated than this very short summary of the Bible, and therefore the definition of Church may appear too simplistic for some.
Christ’s followers are widespread through a diverse spectrum of churches divided into several denominations. Many of these churches do not have the capacity to mobilize their members to carry out the God’s New Testament program of taking His redemptive plan to every nation.
EMAS Canada volunteers come from many denominations. We are trans-denominational, rather than non-denominational. However, we are limited to our understanding of what Jesus teaches about the Church; our leaders consider that the goal of becoming like Jesus overrides denominational differences.
The diversity because of the many denominational beliefs and practises, notwithstanding one universal Christian tenet is that the Church is central to God’s redemptive plan*.
The Church is the visible and all encompassing expression of the infinitely great and eternal plan of God to reconcile to Himself both the physical and spiritual, the visible and invisible. (Eph. 3:7-12.)
A frequent theme in the Old Testament is that people gathered at special places to encounter God. The New Testament teaches that God now chooses to reside in His people or His Temple and that He operates through this Body to accomplish His purposes. (Eph. 2:19-22)
God resides in His Body. (1 Cor.3:16.) The importance of Church is further endearingly expressed by the name: Bride of Christ.
It is to this spiritual, yet very human organism, EMAS looks to for community. Here, we are fellow-citizens with every other Christ’s followers—partners of God on earth, with the promise of the life of God now and for eternity; the basis for this is the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Almost all EMAS volunteers are members of the many and different local units of the Church in which one God lives by His Spirit. We openly invite new volunteers to come and experience Church with us, giving them the opportunity for belonging without insisting on their believing as we do.
Many functions of Church: evangelism, caring for one another, worship, discipling, and, fellowship can be experienced in EMAS teams, but there are limiting factors. For instance, our teams are mostly of healthcare professionals, and due to specialization, some teams represent a small branch of medical practice. Therefore, no team is truly representative of the Body of Christ the way a local church would be. The team lacks the wider scope in age, education, and socio-economic status found in most congregations. Naturally, the various gifts of God’s Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:1-31) by which we corporately experience His presence will be limited to the degree that a team has self-selected for special mission goals.
Spiritual leadership in the teams differs from leadership in the church; we certainly do not have the mandate to exercise spiritual authority and discipline the way the local pastor or church elders have. There are certain important functions of the Church, like baptism of new believers that some team leaders may not be comfortable performing.
We therefore depend on local churches for a more comprehensive following of Christ, for doctrinal teaching, and for the life-long spiritual nurturing essential for growth in Christ-likeness.
We encourage all team members who are believers to be active in a local church.
Across Canada, numerous local churches are homes to our volunteers. We are worshippers with them, and they nourish us with God’s word; they care for us when we are in need, and provide a place of rest and encouragement when we return tired from our missions. Many churches where we serve are our hosts, providing a spiritual home away from home.
The churches of EMAS are too many to list and for some that are in sensitive parts of the world, a public listing would risk persecution.
To learn more about EMAS and the Church, or if you are on an EMAS Team and want to connect with a church near you, connect with Peter Agwa
A physician and surgeon in his native Kenya, Peter has a passion for Christ-centred healthcare and has a wealth of experience both hosting and sending short-term mission teams.