Thursday, June 07, 2012



Today we are returning to the 75 secrets with SECRET #58: The follower of Jesus is the church, when he walks with other followers of Jesus.
We discussed earlier that Jesus never intended for His followers to be 'going to church", because Jesus was not launching a ministry of buildings called churches that a person could go to. The term "church" is not a special, holy word. I was taught in my first Greek class that it was created as a highly charged, powerful term, meaning "called-out ones". It was presented to us as a spiritual term-a Christian term, but in actuality it wasn't. There was no special religious significance whatsoever. It was used for any common gathering-a city council or gathering for any specific purpose. The term means assembly or a group of people congregating-a congregation. A church is a community of people. It's interesting to note that Jesus, Himself, only uses the term "church" on two occasions.

In a snapshot of the earliest of gatherings that might be called a church or assembly in the 2nd chapter of the book of Acts there is a description of what was going on: They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

It's interesting to note there are two locations mentioned-at the temple and from house to house. This goes along with our idea previously mentioned about orbiting around the temple or big C Church. The location isn't the emphasis here nor is there a certain belief system mentioned other than the teachings of Jesus. The most important things seem to be what they did when they came together. They interacted around the teachings of the apostles (Jesus' teachings), they enjoyed fellowship, ate and prayed together. This kind of gathering can happen most anywhere! The power and unifying factor was in gathering together in the name, spirit and teachings of Jesus. Although there is mention of how the early gathering of Jesus' followers seems to multiply, the emphasis is all about people and their coming together.

Jesus practiced this principle of churching, assembling or gathering with even just a few. It's very clear that Jesus spent most of His time with only three men-Peter, James and John. This is the essence of the Jesus fellowship movement. Jesus also was careful to send out His disciples in small teams, usually two by two.

Even the first twelve disciples Jesus chose to be with Him are listed in pairs: Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him. These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them. (Matthew 10)

SECRET #58: The follower of Jesus is the church, when he walks with other followers of Jesus. When you wrap your brain and heart around this principle, you will find a new awareness of the presence of Jesus in your midst. Small groups take on a greater purpose. Coffee shop meetings become Jesus gatherings-practicing the church of Jesus wherever you have come together. It's one thing to follow Jesus; it's revolutionary to do life with others who are following Jesus. Following Jesus will change your life; following Jesus with others who are following Jesus can change the world.



"Going to church" was never the intent of the Jesus movement. All my life I have heard quoted a passage that has been used to keep people going to church. It is in the book of Hebrews in chapter 10: and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. This has become the Christian mantra for making sure everyone goes to Church whenever the doors are open.
Going to church. The idea of going to church limits God and His presence to a location. The idea of going to church misses the concept and practice of the presence of the Kingdom. The idea of going to church leads to building monuments rather than joining a movement.

The whole idea of "going to church" distracts you away from the most miraculous thing that has ever happened to mankind-GOD DWELLS IN YOU. So, your walk with Jesus and with others is not that you are to "go to church", but to be the church of Jesus. The Kingdom-the presence of the King-is already among you all, therefore practice it-live it out in your life-live out the King's presence in your life together. You are the church of Jesus as you gather together anywhere in His name.

Going to church as a location rather than a movement takes away the active, revolutionary nature of what Jesus intended for those who gather in His name. In Matthew 16 Jesus makes an incredible declaration. He says, "I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it or prevail against it." This sounds like the gates of Hades will not be able to bring it down. Now, if Jesus is talking about a church location or local organization, then He was mistaken. You see, many churches are brought down, defeated and closed down every week in the USA. The Message by Eugene Peterson nails the meaning of this passage and captures the essence of the original word "overcome" when it says, "This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hades will be able to keep it out."

Do the see the difference? It is not that the gates of Hades will be powerful enough to overcome the church, but that the gates of Hades will not be able to withstand or keep it out or stop the powerful thrust and energy of the Jesus movement-the always moveable gathering of Jesus. The powerful thrust of the church of Jesus gathering together as a movement is due to spiritual transformation through the power of Jesus in each follower's life.

So if we who are followers of Jesus are the church of Jesus-the gathering of Jesus, and it isn't about "going to church" but "being the church", what does Jesus want us to do with the organized Church today? 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 today. There are three observations that seem most relevant to us: 1. You don't find Jesus or the disciples bashing the Synagogue (Church). 2. You don't find Jesus or the disciples starting new Synagogues (Churches), because of inadequate teaching or worship. 3. You find Jesus and the disciples using the Synagogues (Churches) to worship together, to enjoy the reading of the word and then orbiting around them. This is what I see as SECRET #57: The follower of Jesus practices the Kingdom lifestyle and orbits around religious institutions.

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-a Kingdom purpose. They were there to introduce more and more people to the preeminence of Jesus. When interest was expressed, they invited them to eat together and practice the presence of the Kingdom.

Here's the bottom-line. Don't spend your time, treasure and energies building the church; that's Jesus job. He said He will build His church. Don't build the church or go to church, revolving your life around a monument. That monument may someday be empty as the cathedrals of Europe. BE THE CHURCH OF JESUS! Now that's a powerful movement that cannot be stopped and will always be filled with the love and power of Jesus and His Kingdom.

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 him into the revolutionary fellowship of Jesus with you. SECRET #57: The follower of Jesus practices the Kingdom lifestyle and orbits around religious institutions.