RESET: The Church
I love the church. I haven’t always. Like some of you, I rejected “institutional religion” when I was younger. But when I came back, I came back with a passion and with a mission.
I love the church. It’s flawed, it’s sometimes ugly, it is far from perfect, and sometimes hurts and alienates the very ones it should help. Yet in spite of the flaws and problems there is something that Jesus sees in us and loves so much. Listen. You may see all the problems, and divisiveness, and sheer stupidity enacted in the name of the church. But that’s not the church. That’s people using the church for their own agenda.
I have seen the church operate with a lot of resources on massive scale, and I have seen small gatherings of believers in poverty come together and share life and love each other. I got to preach the first public service for a body of believers in Sophia, Bulgaria that met in a nearly abandoned hotel. I’ve preached in a church that met in an apartment in New Jersey where 40 or 50 people and two or three cats crowded. Harvest City Church in New Jersey met in a Mexican restaurant before Covid hit. None of these churches had money. None owned a building. They had no social clout. But they had a confession: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. It’s an incredible and beautiful thing when we see what Jesus intended His church to be. Let me pull back the curtain for a moment.
1). The expression of Jesus’ presence on earth
We are the body of Christ. The bride of Christ. We are members of Christ and of one another. We need each other. 85% of Americans say you can have a healthy, flourishing spiritual life without ever going or belonging to a church. I don’t know which Bible they got that from, but it’s not in the one I use. The same Bible that tells you Jesus is the only way to eternal life tells you that your physical involvement in the body is not optional, but essential! It is not an individual deal; it is a relationship with one another. (One another’s)
The 59 “One Anothers” of the New Testament*
- “Be at peace with each other.” (Mark 9:50)
- “Wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14)
- “Love one another.” (John 13:34a)
- “Love one another.” (John 13:34b)
- “Love one another.” (John 13:35)
- “Love one another.” (John 15:12)
- “Love one another.” (John 15:17)
- “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” (Romans 12:10)
- “Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10)
- “Live in harmony with one another.” (Romans 12:16)
- “Love one another.” (Romans 13:8)
- “Stop passing judgment on one another.” (Romans 14:13)
- “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you.” (Romans 15:7)
- “Instruct one another.” (Romans 15:14)
- “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (Romans 16:16)
- “When you come together to eat, wait for each other.” (I Cor. 11:33)
- “Have equal concern for each other.” (I Corinthians 12:25)
- “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (I Corinthians 16:20)
- “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (II Corinthians 13:12)
- “Serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13)
- “If you keep on biting and devouring each other … you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:15)
- “Let us not become conceited, provoking, and envying each other.” (Galatians 5:26)
- “Carry each other’s burdens.” (Galatians 6:2)
- “Be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)
- “Be kind and compassionate to one another.” (Ephesians 4:32)
- “Forgiving each other.” (Ephesians 4:32)
- “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” (Ephesians 5:19)
- “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)
- “In humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
- “Do not lie to each other.” (Colossians 3:9)
- “Bear with each other.” (Colossians 3:13)
- “Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.” (Colossians 3:13)
- “Teach … [one another].” (Colossians 3:16)
- “Admonish one another.” (Colossians 3:16)
- “Make your love increase and overflow for each other.” (I Thessalonians 3:12)
- “Love each other.” (I Thessalonians 4:9)
- “Encourage each other.”(I Thessalonians 4:18)
- “Encourage each other.” I Thessalonians 5:11)
- “Build each other up.” (I Thessalonians 5:11)
- “Encourage one another daily.” (Hebrews 3:13)
- “Spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)
- “Encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10:25)
- “Do not slander one another.” (James 4:11)
- “Don’t grumble against each other.” (James 5:9)
- “Confess your sins to each other.” (James 5:16)
- “Pray for each other.” (James 5:16)
- “Love one another deeply, from the heart.” (I Peter 3:8)
- “Live in harmony with one another.” (I Peter 3:8)
- “Love each other deeply.” (I Peter 4:8)
- “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (I Peter 4:9)
- “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others.” (I Peter 4:10)
- “Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another.” (I Peter 5:5)
- “Greet one another with a kiss of love.” (I Peter 5:14)
- “Love one another.” (I John 3:11)
- “Love one another.” (I John 3:23)
- “Love one another.” (I John 4:7)
- “Love one another.” (I John 4:11)
- “Love one another.” (I John 4:12)
- “Love one another.” (II John 5)
Love one another 16 times. Greeting with kiss 5 times. Encourage each other 5 times.
Can I be real with you for a moment? Our message to the world is not believed because our love inside the church is not supernatural, Jesus birthed love. The world will know we’re Christians because of our love for one another.
2). The extension of Jesus’ mission in the world
I’ve told you before that churches are like cruise ships, whose mission is making the customer, the traveler on the ship, comfortable. Right? Been on a cruise ship before? It’s all about you, isn’t it?
But churches are not cruise ships. They are aircraft carriers. We are on this planet to carry out a mission, and the mission is to move against the enemy who is occupying this world. We don’t exist to see what a nice experience we can have while we’re here. We exist to pay the price necessary to do the mission. Why does an aircraft carrier exist? I spent 24 hours on the USS Enterprise a few years ago and let me assure you: They do not exist to make ANYONE comfortable! They exist primarily to launch jets into their mission; refuel them, rearm them, and send them out again. And EVERYBODY on that ship knew that!
WHAT DID JESUS SAY ABOUT THE CHURCH?
In Matthew 16, Jesus took the disciples to a place called Caesarea Philippi. The Romans had renamed a city known as Paneios, named for the Greek god Pan, after Caesar Augustus. Paneios was a place of pagan worship and of much idolatry. The altar to Caesar was just one more “god” on the religious buffet.
So, when Jesus stopped in Caesarea Philippi and asked this question, He asked it in this marketplace of false deities and pagan religious ideas. “Who do men say that I am?”. “Who do YOU say that I am?”. (“Y’all”)
While Peter’s answer gave a framework to how the church would be grounded (“You are the Christ…”) the church was not born until Acts 2. But Jesus told the disciples some important things about the church before it became a reality.
1). The church is an organism, not an organization
The word “church” (ecclesia) was not a Biblical word. It was actually used of a special group of Roman citizens who were called out from the general populace to legislate on behalf of the Roman government. The ecclesia represented the power and authority of the Caesar granted to the citizens of the empire.
The church is not just a group of folks who gather together on Sunday morning to sing, and go to groups, and fellowship for an hour. The church is the official representation of the Kingdom of God on earth. It is the place where eternity speaks into history, and heaven speaks to earth. The principles, the laws, and purposes of the Kingdom and of our King Jesus are to be spoken and to address earth from heaven. We are legally authorized by God to be this voice. We are not a self-improvement society or a self-help organization. We speak with God’s authority through His Word. The church is like the embassy of heaven.
The church was never organized. It was born. Jesus gave it birth upon Peter’s confession of faith, “You are the Christ, the Son…”. Upon this rock I will build my church. “Petra,” the word Jesus used to refer to Simon Peter, is a small stone…usually a group of stones. Connected stones.
What material does Jesus use to build His church? 1 Peter 2:9, we are called “living stones” being built into a “spiritual temple.” Any brick or stone in a wall is resting on a foundation of other stones or bricks under it, and it has other bricks or stones resting on it. It is an interdependent process, and as it says, “being built,” a continual process.
If you pull yourself out, something that was leaning on you or needs to lean on you for support will be lacking. God is building us together with one another! The wall is stronger as all the bricks are in place.
2). The church belongs to Jesus, not to us.
“I will build my church.” (1 Peter 2:9). Jesus is the builder. We are the building blocks. Jesus is the owner. We are the servants. Jesus is the cornerstone. We are the “petras” stones; the little stones. Jesus is the Rock. Big R.
3). The church will prevail, not fail
I know the number of churches reported closing year to year (about 5-6 thousand) might sound like the church is on life support. It isn’t. The pandemic did not stop the church. A virus can’t kill the church that Jesus died to form. The communist regime in power in China right now is seeking to stop the church by tearing down the buildings where they meet, but they can’t tear down the living stones that make the church what it truly is!
The gates of hell will not stand against the church. We get this image wrong sometimes, I think. We see this as a picture of the church all huddled up in a sanctuary together with hell pounding at the door trying to get in. But the “gates of hell” is representative of the legal authority of hell.
The gates, in the Bible, was the place where legal matters were discussed and decided. Hell has no authority to advance. The church has that authority. (Keys of the kingdom…not given to a government. Any government. Given to the church). The Kingdom of God will arrive, not through any government or man-made entity, but through the church.
Jesus gave us a picture of the church victorious moving against the gates, or strongholds, of hell in the world! Hell cannot stand up against the forward progress of God’s church. Let’s say this again. Jesus is building His church and it can’t be stopped. Hell wants to stop it. You’re on the victorious side of the conflict. Hell can’t stop what God is doing.
- You do not love Jesus passionately if you don’t love His church
- You cannot serve Jesus effectively if you refuse to serve His church
- You cannot follow Jesus obediently if you reject His church.
Patrick McGinnis, a FOBO: Fear of better options. Leads to indecision, regret, and lower levels of happiness. Make a decision. You can literally attend one church a week for over three years just in the metro Jacksonville community and still not be in all of them. You ready to do that?