It’s no accident that our Jewish sisters and brothers celebrate the giving of the law to Moses on the same week that we prepare for Pentecost. And it’s especially apt for us Reformed since our respect for law as gift from God characterizes one of our contributions to the greater church.
So we understand that God shapes not only our individual lives, but our life in community and in communion. Torah teaches us how to live in a way that includes our institutions. So the order of the church can be understood as how the church’s communal life is shaped in obedience to God. For that reason, church order cannot, for Reformed, be relegated to the functional. Said in more ecclesial language, church order is part of the esse of the church! And church order is a gift of the Spirit! The Spirit works in countless ways, but those ways include the gift of Torah.
I might add that when the definition of minister of Word and Sacrament was altered a couple years ago to focus the minister’s task was “to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and to the ministry of the Word of God,” proclamation pointed the church outward and ministry of the Word had to do with how God’s Word shapes both our individual lives and our corporate existence.
The MSTF report misses the point when it views church order as little more than a function of whatever goal exists for the church. Church order does that in a fashion. But the real import of the order is to allow the church to be formed around the one who calls it into existence, the Word.