For the last quarter of a century my occupation and vocation are the same. I am a minister, a preacher, a Christian who shares what he learns from his study with an audience of people – what we typically call the church. I try to regularly preach through the Bible – both Old and New Covenant, these books include wisdom literature, poetic literature, prophets, historical narratives, the gospel accounts, and letters to early churches and individual Christians. I teach the inspiration of scripture and hold to a plenary view of inspiration (fully inspired by God using the personalities and experiences of the individual writers).
As I study to understand and to teach (Ezra 7:10), I am continually learning and re-evaluating what I know or think I know. Recently, I am beginning to think we (I) have some things wrong concerning the church. There are things that need changing.
STOP! Do NOT get angry. What we need to change most is a simple mindset, I will share that later (at the end of this post – don’t skip the rest to read it). I wrote that statement about changing the church to get your attention. I wanted you to begin to understand what the Jews of Jesus’ day were feeling when Jesus started turning their religious beliefs and traditions upside down. Their anger is why John records, “And this is why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is working until now, and I am working.’ This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.” (John 5:16-18). Jesus claimed God as a His personal Father and abused the Sabbath rituals.
Who is this Jesus?
Jesus is the Father’s Emissary. Without Jesus, the Christ, on earth we would not know God. The Old System (Law of Moses, Writings, and Prophets) brought people to the Christ. The New System is about, from, and of the Christ (Galatians 3:24-29).
Jesus is the Giver of Life. John 1:1-4 tells of Jesus’ role in creation. But not only did He create our physical life, He came do give us a wonderful life now and for all eternity, “I came that they might have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10).
Jesus is the Judge of All Mankind. “And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.” (Acts 10:42). As Judge the Christ judges the living and dead righteously. He is always fair, just, and right. The standard is the Word He gave, “The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.” (John 12:48).
Jesus is the Assurance of Faith. Assurance not insurance. We purchase insurance in case there is a catastrophe. Assurance is a guarantee of no catastrophe. Faith in Christ is Eternal Assurance. “But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.” (2 Timothy 1:12).
This was revolutionary to the Jews. Jesus’ teaching and mere presence was destroying their religious system and in many ways their way of life. Can you imagine how you would feel if someone told you everything you believe in and that your parents believed was wrong? Can you imaging hearing that all that you knew up to this point was just to bring you to something completely different? No wonder they wanted and tried to destroy Him.
Oh, you still want to know what needs to change about church? You want to know what we have wrong? Here is my answer:
Too many times and for too many years we use “church” as the location or the gathering of people. Although the concept is correct that the church is the assembly of those called out of the world and to God, we have made a mistake. We somehow think that we need to bring people to the building or the assembly to reach them for Christ. So we have revivals, meetings, special events, and VBS and say we are reaching our neighbors. Then we try new paradigms and methodologies (some even inconsistent with Bible teaching) to bring people to the assembly so we can teach them about Christ and we call that OUTREACH. Although some of these things are good. Admittedly, some are even very effective. They are not what we are called to do.
The “Great Commission” does not say, “Advertise and bring every creature to the building or event, making them disciples of your ministry or program . . .” Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20). As the church we are to go to where people are. As an individual member of the Body of Christ, I am to share the message of the good news of salvation with those I have contact and influence with. Growing the church does not mean simply increasing the numbers at the building, but reaching people where they are with what they need. As the title of Ivan Stewarts 1974 classic book says, “Go Ye Means Go Me.” Until we reach out we have it wrong.