“And God placed all things under His (Jesus) feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”
Unfortunately, when we hear the word church, we think of a place, or an institution, or a doctrinal statement.
We think of it more as a place where we go than as something we are. We talk of “going to church” or “it’s time for church”, or ”church was good today.” It seems as if we have reduced the church to nothing more than times or programs or schedules or locations or buildings. Some folks only experience church on television and others only on Christmas and Easter. Sadly, that’s the view we have of ourselves. I’m not even going into what the world’s view might be.
We have come to a critical place in the body of Christ where we may have to rethink “church.” Internally, in both definition and function; externally, in both perception and reality. The way we define ourselves, and the way we are defined by the world must be seriously considered as we move forward. And, as we move forward, we must make sure that the Body of Christ is effective in it’s practice and message in light of the quickly changing societal opinions. The way we do things is a vitally important aspect of the way we are viewed. If all we can present to the world are buildings and programs, we have lost our vision of the kingdom and have forsaken our mission as the CHURCH. At that point we are defined by our buildings, not by our message. But I believe that the message of the church is much more important to consider and maintain. The church without the Gospel message is nothing more than a hollow institution, at best, or a breathless corpse, at worst.
There are cultural, political and economic pressures that are being brought to bare on the church that are trying to influence, and even gain control of the church’s message. We are labeled intolerant because we believe Jesus is the only way to God. We are considered old fashioned because we teach “love your neighbor”, and radical because we teach “love your enemy.” We are being told that our stance on certain basic biblical issues amounts to nothing more than hate speech or hypocrisy. “They” would like to marginalize and discredit the Gospel message and neuter the influence of the church. And, too often, we give them powerful ammunition to use against us when we get distracted from our purpose and calling as the church. We must make sure that our focus stays squarely on the Gospel, and on our mission to bring the world out of darkness. Should picketing and demonstrating and boycotting become our go to, we might as well shut the doors of our buildings, and go home. At that point, we have lost our purpose.
Simply defined, the church is “those who are called out.” It is made up of people from every nation, every walk of life, every back ground, every denomination who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus. We, the redeemed, are the church.
The New Testament church stands squarely on the Rock and foundation, Jesus Christ. It was birthed on the day of His resurrection, given it’s charge and mission on the day He ascended into Heaven, and given impetuous and power on the day of Pentecost. Divine providence initiated it, divine grace sustains it, and divine power propels it into the world. And finally, when all is said and done, and the dust settles, the church will still be standing. No power leveled against it can possibly win the battle. Listen to the words of Jesus in Matthew 16:18,“...I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.”
The church is not identified by architecture, nor denominational affiliation, nor is it found in your GPS by address and zip code. It is not defined by the doctrines of human legislature, but is self defined in the Word of God as the “Body of Christ”, the “Bride of Christ” or the “Temple or Building of God.”
The Body of Christ speaks of the church as His physical, living, breathing expression in this world. The church is an extension of God in the earth. Our feet carry us swiftly into the mission to which He has called us; a field that is ”ripe unto harvest.” Our hands dispense His grace and mercy with care and compassion. Our eyes are clear with a vision of His purpose. Our ears hear the voice of God and the cries of the lost. Our mouth speaks the Word of God with power and truth and unwavering courage. By His grace He has chosen us, the redeemed, to be His ambassadors to the world. We represent God! How awesome and frightening is that? God designed the Body with the ability to heal itself, but we need the corporate times together in order for that healing to be administered. In other words, we need one another. The only God some people will ever know is what they see in us.
The bride of Christ shows the church as the object of His love and favor. He loves us and we love and serve Him. It is a union where each one lays down their life for the other. Not only Christ for His church, or us for Him, but also us for one another. We are here to edify each other, the bride, the church, not just go to church. This is a union determined and blessed in Heaven, is lived out for all to see in the earth, and is a union that is eternal in duration.
The building or temple of God emphasizes His dwelling place in the earth; not a brick and mortar structure, but the lives of the redeemed. Let me say it again; we, the redeemed, are His church. We are the body, Christ is the head and the Spirit indwells and empowers us. The church is God at work in the midst of His creation. When we neglect assembling as the church, we are not just ”not going to church”, we are neglecting an opportunity to minister to the body of Christ, and to receive ministry from the body of Christ. ”Going to church”, or not going, is not about us and our needs, but about God’s desire and the needs of the Body. No one group, or organization, or denomination can presume to have exclusive rights to revelation from God. At that point we would get lost in the arrogance of our self-righteousness and legalism.
The church has been thrown into the midst of a society transforming pandemic, as well as a cultural revolution. We have been set in the middle of this upheaval because we are the church. We have been placed there by God to make a difference. But the consequences of being in such a position are monumental. Much of what we believe, or should I say, what we are presumed to believe, is called into question at every turn. Such persistent pressure has, and I fear will continue to have, a profound impact on the course of the church. If ever there was a time when we need to seek God’s will for His church, it’s now. Hear the Word in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
We need the fulness of the Spirit to guide us through this mine field. The Holy Spirit will guide the church into the coming years as long as we listen intently to His direction and obediently follow His leadership. We cannot allow the world, or any cultural perversion, to dictate or shape the message or agenda of the church. We are the Body of Christ, we are the Temple of God, WE ARE THE CHURCH.