Summary: The church Jesus built is His body called for a special purpose in the world.
UNLEARNING THE CHURCH
Matthew 16:17-19; Col 1:18,24-25;
Thesis: We have adapted so many unhealthy and unbiblical views and practices we call the church, that we have almost rendered the church irrelevant and ineffective. We need to recover what Jesus expects or dreams the church will be.
There’s a lot of disenchantment for the church these days. Someone I know identifies herself as “Tired of the church, hungry for God.” A few days ago I came across an article titled, “I quit the church.” That said article was an excerpt from a book written by this former pastor who quit his church for several years. He says it helped him a lot to quit the church. It helped him to understand life. I am not sure if I agree with such an observation. I am sure there’s a lot of disgruntled people who look at the church as irrelevant, a waste of time, and a useless endeavor.
Some people see the church as an institution – highly organized and political. For a lot of people the church is nothing but a business – out to make a profit at the expense of people in the name of religion. For others it’s for entertainment. The church is a place to go to enjoy good music and interesting sermons. For others the church is for learning. Some people think of the church as a source for sermons – preached word. It does not matter if the sermon comes from a TV; a radio; the computer. The church is a school. You get to learn some stuff you don’t get anywhere. Someone told me this week that in some parts of the world, the church has become a talk show. You get to this place, and you get into the program. You are told when to applaud. Say Amen. Or make some unique sounds. I remember serving in the Philippines where some people came to the meetings because of the aircon.
For a lot of people the church has nothing to offer to life. It is irrelevant. It does nothing for the good of society. I remembered today the Immigration Officer who asked me the question: “what good does your church do for Hong Kong?” “What contribution do you make to our city?”
Not only is the church irrelevant to some, it is a menace to others. They look back in history and point back to the “Crusades” to those church sponsored attacks on non-Christians.
A lot of Christians seem to have forgotten the value of the church. For some it is nothing – a place one could go to. Some have lost the meaning, the purpose, and the joy or church. We hope to recover some of those today.
This week after sensing what Jesus wants me to share, I looked up into the word “church” and discovered a few wonderful things. Jesus mentioned the church only 3X, but the rest of the NT writers mentoned it 111X more. Paul writes the most (62X); Dr. Luke’s Acts mentions it 23X; John in Revel. 20X, the rest mentions it 6X.
First, we note that the church is God’s called out people. The Greek term ekklesia, originally referred to the assembled group of people who have been called out from among the citizens. They met to make decisions, to be instructed. After the meeting, these called-out people went back to their homes and communities to inform the rest of the people. They serve both as messengers and at times implementers of the decisions of the assembly.
God has done the same. He came into the world and called out people out of their sins; from out of the kingdom of sin, and Satan; Jesus called them out of their miseries, to make them into a new society. He has come preaching and inaugurating His rule on earth, and He called people to become a part of this especial body called the church whose main purpose is to become a “VISIBLE DEMONSTRATION OF HIS KINGDOM.” The church demonstrates that Jesus is here. The church is aimed at showing that God’s kingdom is here; the calls of forgiveness, of repentance, of turning to God will be heard through Jesus’ voice the church.
Second, Jesus says the church belongs to Him. It is his church. Matthew 16:18 records the first instance the term is used in the New Testament that we have today.
“So I tell you, you are Peter. On this rock I will build my church, and the power of death will not be able to defeat it.” (NCV)
This is an amazing statement. Jesus describes his church as an overcoming body. The power of hell could not stop the marching church. Then Jesus calls the church his church. The apostle Paul later would help explain why Jesus claims ownership of the church. In Acts 20:28, Paul states,