FOR AUDIO VERSION CLICK HERE.This week I want to clarify some of my thoughts on the organized Church today. I know some of you no doubt feel that I am against the Church, but this is not true. You see, I am striving to understand what Jesus intended and what Jesus did, in fact, launch as the church of Jesus. Much of the time we have added man-made doctrines and methods to His teachings. These doctrines and methods may be good in themselves, but Jesus had a better idea in mind. It's very important to say that I am not against the organized Church, but seek to support it in its many ministries and to encourage leaders and laymen alike to get back to the heart of Jesus as they conduct their Church ministries.
When I teach what Jesus said and did with His disciples and what He intended with respect to the future disciples of His disciples, it is clearly different from what we know and love today in the Church. And as I teach these things the contrasts are very clear, therefore it may seem that I am blasting the Church in the process. That is not my heart at all. I see the organized big C Church in much the same way as the early Synagogues and the Temple in Jerusalem. When you frame the Church in this way, it becomes clearer how the Church fits within the Jesus movement.
The Synagogue and Temple were the mass meeting places where believers would come to pray, confess, offer sacrifices, worship and hear the written Word of God read each week. The Synagogue had instruction for children through adults. Jesus and His disciples attended Synagogue, never spoke against it, didn't seek to change it, and didn't start another one to compete with it. There just wasn't any bashing of the Synagogue.
The Church today is the same as the Synagogue. It's a place where believers can gather in mass to pray, worship, hear teaching and enroll their children in some sort of spiritual instruction. It serves the consumer needs of the people. The mega churches provide programs that are unequaled and very helpful, especially to the needs of families.
So, the big C Church has its place in the plan of God, however it's too easy to miss what kind of thing Jesus intended. I call it the little c church. The term "church" is not a special or holy word as many believe and teach. It literally means "called out ones" and was used to describe city council meetings or any kind of assembly where people are called out to meet for a purpose. It simply is a gathering of followers of Jesus. The simple gathering of followers of Jesus on any day and at any location is a church. These gatherings Jesus launched revolved around four ingredients-fellowship, food, prayer and the apostles' teachings (teachings and principles of Jesus).
The big C Church by its very nature tends toward making most people spectators; the little c church is all about relational participation. The big C Church is founded on a set of beliefs or doctrines-a system of do's and don'ts; the little c church is founded completely on a personal relationship with Jesus and as we gather seeing Jesus show up. The big C Church is a place where you go; the little c church is not a place to go, but wherever you go you are to be the church-the gathering in the name and power of Jesus. The big C Church is an organization; the little c church is a live organism-organic in every way.
Check out these observations: FIRST-the church of Jesus is a movement. You cannot get your arms around it, visit it, or even see it. It's like the wind. You can't see the wind, but you can definitely see the effects of it. It's not a monument that one builds; it's a movement around Jesus that is contagious and must be caught. It's not a denominational or religious organization to be joined; it's a living movement through which Jesus captures your heart.
SECOND-the church of Jesus is everywhere and all around us-wherever followers of Jesus gather together in His name. No matter the location (coffee shop, living room, bar, race-track, battlefield, school, office), no matter the culture (Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Christian and even agnostic), and no matter the level of society (the powerful or the poor), you can find the Jesus movement making a difference in His name.
THIRD-the church of Jesus is a relational, participatory dynamic where people encounter Jesus and walk with Him together. The Jesus movement is not driven by a certain doctrinal system; it's driven by a real, personal relationship with Jesus, Himself.
FOURTH-the church of Jesus is out of control-man's control-and under the leadership of Jesus, the Head. Maybe the one most deadly move we tend to make in life is to be "in control".
We are given a strong clue to what Jesus came to do in His prayer to the Father in John 17. He said, "Father, I have finished the work you gave me to do." Let's listen in own this prayer: "I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me. But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. I have given them Your word." Jesus came into this world to invest His life in a few men and now He sends us out to do the same. "As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world."
This is the essence of the church Jesus came to build-a movement consisting of a few followers who gather in His name in such a way that they are able to know the Father personally and intimately. He says, "I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me."
So, are you caught up in the dynamic, participatory movement of Jesus-being the church-or are you satisfied with being a spectator-going to church?