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Rethinking Church

If you asked 100 random people on the street what they thought of when they heard the word “church,” what do you think they would say? Some people would have positive thoughts about church, others negative. A lot of people would probably think of buildings with steeples, crosses, and stained glass windows.

How many people would say, “When I hear the word church, I think of me”?

Though it may sound strange, this should be the correct answer for anyone who calls Jesus Lord.

We Are His Body

When Jesus walked the earth, his hands healed the sick, and his feet carried the good news of the Kingdom of God everywhere he went. His mouth spoke God’s truth, and his heart felt compassion for the poor. He worked many miracles, casting out demons, restoring sight to the blind, and even raising Lazarus from the dead.

And yet, as a human being, he could only be in one place at a time. While he ministered to the multitudes of people who gathered around him, countless other multitudes in other locations longed to see him but could not.

Today, Jesus Christ is much more present in the world than he was when he walked the earth. Today, Jesus Christ lives in the heart of every believer through the Holy Spirit (Colossians 1:27). While previously he only had one pair of hands and one pair of feet, today he is working in the world through the lives of millions of believers who follow him as Lord.

Having ascended into heaven to take his place at the right hand of God, Jesus Christ is no longer physically present in the world. And yet, he is physically present in the world through us! Jesus calls his disciples to be his hands and feet in the world today, promising, “whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).

In 1 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul describes the Body of Christ as being composed of many members, each with different functions, yet all vitally important. In Ephesians 1:22-23, Paul writes that God has given Jesus Christ “to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.”

The Greek word translated “church” is ekklÄ“sia (Strong’s 1577), literally meaning a community of people who have been called by God. Church is not a building, an institution, or an organization. Church is the Body of Christ – a collection of individual believers in all parts of the world – gathering together in fellowship and community to follow Jesus Christ as Lord.

The first century church described in Acts 2 did not have elaborate church buildings – or any church buildings! They met in homes, gave up everything they had, and shared all things in common. They were totally sold out and committed to Jesus Christ and they were able to work incredible miracles.

Why is it that in the two thousand years that followed, the concept of “church” has become so mundane, religious, even boring?

Why are so many Christians gathering to worship God on Sundays but living only for themselves on Monday through Saturday?

Why are millions of dollars spent on enormous “megachurch” buildings, but on average less than 2% of church finances go toward foreign missions?

Why is much time and energy devoted to church “programs” while little time and energy is spent building relationships with people?

Why are some believers going hungry while others store up riches?

Why do we rarely see the kind of miracles that the early church experienced?

In the words of Casting Crowns:

If we are the Body,

Why aren’t His arms reaching?

Why aren’t His hands healing?

Why aren’t His words teaching?

And if we are the Body,

Why aren’t His feet going?

Why is His love not showing them there is a way?

I believe the answer to all of these questions lies in the fact that many Christians have an incorrect understanding of what church is.

Church is not a building we go to, or an activity we do once a week.

Church is who we are – the Body of Christ.

“Your vs. You’re”

How many times has someone asked you where your church is? How many times has someone asked you what church you’re a part of?

While these questions may sound identical, this seemingly insignificant difference in grammar reflects a huge difference in thinking.

For many Christians, church is something we possess – “I have a church.” And yet, if we are truly members of the Body of Christ, church is not something we own but something we ourselves are a part of – something we are. If you’re a believer, it’s not your church. Rather, you are the church!

As Christians, we are called to be the church, not only on Sundays, but every day, and everywhere. The way we be the church is through radical obedience to the commands of Jesus Christ in all areas of life.

Being the Body of Christ means total commitment to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). It means continuing the exact same work that Jesus did when he walked the earth. It means radical forgiveness, loving enemies, sharing the gospel, being a peacemaker, healing the sick, casting out demons, visiting those in prison, and caring for the poor.

If we’re not doing these things, what are we doing?

Although we typically think of a Sunday morning service when we think about what church is, in reality, the way we live our lives Sunday through Saturday defines what the church (the Body of Christ) is. The world judges Christianity not on the quality of our Sunday services, but on the integrity with which individual Christians live their lives each and every day.

Sunday services are an awesome thing and an extremely important tool for preaching the gospel and edifying the believer. But our faith can’t stop there. It must be lived out.

Matthew 25:31-46 is very clear. When Jesus returns he won’t be judging us on whether we sat in a certain building at a certain time each week. What ultimately matters is obedience to him in daily life.

Where we go to church is not nearly as important as whether or not we are the church.

Church is not a location. Church is a lifestyle.

Church is not four walls. Church is a billion people.

 

Coming next week: A look at the issue of unity vs. division in the church.

2 Responses to “Rethinking Church: Your vs. You’re”

  1. on 30 Apr 2013 at 10:40 amGeorge

    Wow,that was great!Called out,when I got in the word years ago a mob was called out I found that very interesting when compared to a building!You are The LORD Gods Best,Love george

  2. on 30 Apr 2013 at 2:39 pmBethany

    Great thoughts!

    Came across an inspiring poem in my studies which fits right along with what you are saying.

    Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)

    Christ Has No Body

    Christ has no body but yours,
    No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
    Yours are the eyes with which he looks
    Compassion on this world,
    Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
    Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
    Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
    Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
    Christ has no body now but yours,
    No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
    Yours are the eyes with which he looks
    compassion on this world.
    Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

  

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