FOR AUDIO VERSION CLICK HERE.NOW before I begin, let me make it clear again: I am NOT against the organized Church. In our consumer-oriented world, the organized Church is the vehicle that can be a solution to the many community needs-to grow up as a family, to assist parents in strengthening the family, to provide a place of worship and prayer, to address the real needs of the community-hunger, clothing, housing and counseling.
Embracing Jesus' emphasis and intention with respect to the movement He was launching continually makes it seem that He was against the Synagogue (the modern-day organized Church). But this is not true. Jesus respected the Synagogue (the organized Church). However, Jesus came to launch a dynamic movement-a few here and a few over there, gathering together in His name. This is where He promised to show up-where two or three are gathered together.
And when Jesus shows up among the gathering of the few, He changes lives dramatically. This is a very critical thing. The church of Jesus is all about transformation. My friend, Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church outside of Chicago, has probably trained more pastors and church leaders than any other. Within the last two years Bill and his staff came to the conclusion that all they had done building their church was sorely missing the mark. They found that their ministry had been emphasizing the wrong things-asking the wrong question, which was "How many people were in attendance?" The bottom-line is that the people were not experiencing transformation! They are now reworking their approach to ministry, identifying where each person is on his or her spiritual journey and ministering to their needs specifically. This was quite an admission, to say the least, and rocked the Christian world as the news spread.
My friend, Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Community Church in Orange County, California, shares a similar frustration. He shared with me his consternation over the glaring fact that the big C Church is just not changing the culture. Rick has been diligently training pastors as Hybels over the years and sees the reality that the big C Church is not having the Jesus movement impact on our society. Even though the mega Churches are more visible than ever, there are still 60-70 smaller churches closing each week. The net impact on our population is not increasing. It's like the big C Church in many ways has become a holy huddle in the midst of a troubled and lost world. But we cannot settle for this.
For the most part the leadership of the big C Churches sees the vital need to make the Church experience more intimate, so they break down the larger assembly into smaller contexts. One level of the smaller context is found through affinity groups-like couples with children or singles. Another level of the smaller context is an educational approach through offering a variety of classes. Then there are the smaller groups that meet in homes during the week to study a given topic. A final smaller context is more short-term, but proves to be quite effective and transformational-mission trips or retreats.
Any attempt to get smaller is better and creates an atmosphere that invites participation. But just because you are meeting in a smaller context doesn't mean you are practicing the Jesus movement. Most small groups never reach the level of intimacy and unity for which Jesus prayed. They usually drift into gentle friendships, which are good, but are not the revolutionary fellowship movement Jesus envisioned.
There are 3 dynamic, Greek words with a message of encouragement that can help you to stay on track with Jesus and to participate in A REVOLUTIONARY FELLOWSHIP THAT TRANSFORMS THE WORLD!
FIRST-parakoloutheo-Keep on recommitting yourself to follow closely after one another! It means "to follow close up, or side by side", "to accompany, to conform to", or "following" teaching so that you practice it. There is a sense of following so closely that you can more fully know a person or persons. (Check this out in Mark 16:17; Luke 1:3; I Timothy 4:6 and especially pay attention to II Timothy 3:10.)
SECOND-katartizo-Keep on restoring one another! In I Corinthians 1:10, Paul writes: "I appeal to you that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought." The words "perfectly united" are a translation of the Greek work, katartizo. It is used in several ways in the New Testament: to restore, to perfect, to fit, to prepare, etc. Possibly the most interesting use of the word is "to mend" a net. Fishermen around the world spend as much of their time mending nets as they do fishing. The maintenance of close relationships requires our attention to mending as well. It's even used for a physician to reset broken bones.
So, this word has 3 basic meanings: (1) To mend or repair the nets-Matthew 4:21; Mark 1:19. (2) To complete, furnish completely, to equip or to prepare-Luke 6:40. (3) To prepare and perfect ethically and spiritually-I Thessalonians 3:10; Galatians 6:1; Ephesians 4:12; II Timothy 3:17: I Peter 1:10.
THIRD-haplotes-Keep on reminding one another of the simplicity of Jesus! "But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ" (II Corinthians 11:3). This is a fascinating word that has more to it than simply simple. This simplicity carries with it a sincerity, a single-mindedness, an unaffectedness. There is also a notion of generosity and bountifulness in this simplicity. In other words, the simplicity of devotion to Jesus has a single-minded abundance to it-an overflowing fullness and liberality about it.
As you can plainly see the church or gathering that Jesus intended has to do with experiencing a revolutionary fellowship with Jesus and those who are also following Him. Although this isn't the primary purpose of a week-end big C Church service due to the nature of its size, you can experience a revolutionary fellowship within the big C Church.
So, what does Jesus want us to do with the organized big C Church? Reading through the 5 gospels (Matthew-Mark-Luke-John-Acts) it is clear what Jesus and the disciples did with the "organized Church". Let's view the synagogue as the organized Church. There are four observations that seem most relevant to us: 1. You don't find Jesus or the disciples bashing the Synagogue (Church). 2. You find Jesus constantly correcting the leadership of the organized Synagogue (Church), teaching and practicing living in the Kingdom. 3. You don't find Jesus or the disciples starting new Synagogues (Churches), because of inadequate teaching or worship. 4. You find Jesus and the disciples using the Synagogues (Churches) and then orbiting around them.
Several years ago I read a book, ORBITING THE GIANT HAIRBALL--A Corporate Fool's Guide To Surviving With Grace by Gordon MacKenzie. MacKenzie worked at Hallmark Greeting Cards for 30 years in the creative department. He found that he was unable to be very creative, if he had to spend his time in corporate meetings. So he learned to orbit around the corporate bureaucracy and not be entangled in it, freeing him to create. He also makes it clear that the hairball was absolutely necessary. Without it there was nothing to power the orbit and the hairball paid the bills. This is exactly what the early fellowships of Jesus did. They participated in the Synagogue, yet they were in orbit around their Synagogue, their communities and around the marketplace. They went to Synagogue (Church) every Sabbath, yet they were there for a higher purpose. They were there to introduce more and more people to the revolutionary fellowship and person of Jesus.
There are two clear action steps here: FIRST-participate in the revolutionary fellowship movement of Jesus inside or outside the big C Church. SECOND-orbit around the big C Church, looking for those who are interested in Jesus and His movement. Once someone leans in with interest, invite them into the revolutionary fellowship of Jesus with you.