Friday, February 10, 2017

Jesus Will Build His Church

I Believe Him

I believe Jesus will build His Church.  I also believe Jesus will build it His way.  His ways may not be the approach of the contemporary Christian.  

Reading the book Awakening: How God's Great Move Inspires & Influences Our Lives Today by Matt Brown precipitated this consideration.  The book is a worthwhile read.  It served as a springboard for jumping into the pool of the Church.  I have spent time, energy, and money in this process.  It is not without sweat, pain, and success that I come to look at these ideas.  I, like many other followers of Jesus, would like to do whatever it is we do with Jesus’ Church the way Jesus would want it done.  

I am convinced Jesus is very gracious with His people.  He gives us the latitude to attempt things in His Church. Things that aren’t really right on target yet He allows them.  As humans, it is easy to evaluate something in Church work that appears successful based on a measure we invented and run after it.  The Lord is gracious.  I am glad of His grace.  But there may be in Jesus’ way of building His Church another way to do things that doesn’t fit the way things are done.  Jesus is glad for His people to get busy and touch others in this world.  That could take on a lot of different philosophies, theologies, and methodologies.  I find that encouraging. But Jesus may have something different for us to consider.  If you would like to follow along in this consideration, read this section from Awakening.  

Philip Jenkins, professor of religion at Pennsylvania State University and prolific author, writes in his groundbreaking books The Next Christendom and The Lost History of Christianity about how much more diverse the Christian world has been than we ever realized, and how diverse it is increasingly becoming. He also suggests how important it is that our faith reaches across diverse spectrums of society and that all the parts don’t look exactly like each other. He writes, 

Churches succeed when they reach broadly across sections of society and make their religion part of the ordinary lived reality of a diverse range of communities. They also survive best when they diversify in global terms, so they are not dependent on just one region of the world, however, significant that region might appear at a given time. 

What Jenkins as a historian and sociologist suggests to keep Christianity from tapering off, we see as God’s great desire for every nation and people on earth. God doesn’t want to keep people out of his kingdom. He gave everything in his Son Jesus to get them in. Let’s do the same.[i]

Jesus said He would build His Church.  I believe Him.  We have a final account of the victory of Jesus’ in building His Church recorded in the book of Revelation. 

After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. And they were shouting with a mighty shout, “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!” Revelation 7:9-10 (NLT) 

The report of a crowd too great to count from every diverse people group and language standing in front of God and the Lamb at the throne is awesome.  It is an end view of Jesus’ accomplishment in building His Church.  He does it on earth, and it is seen in heaven.  What strikes me as I read statements that say I can keep Jesus from getting the job done is this, “I am not that powerful.”  Here is the summary statement on Jenkins.  

What Jenkins as a historian and sociologist suggests to keep Christianity from tapering off, we see as God’s great desire for every nation and people on earth. God doesn’t want to keep people out of his kingdom. He gave everything in his Son Jesus to get them in. Let’s do the same.

Jesus said He would build His Church and He will.  As a follower of Jesus, I can participate with Him in His work of building His Church, but He will build His Church, and I am not a huge obstacle to His getting the job done. 

There is the idea of my enhancing the number of people coming to Christ which means more for the Church and more in heaven.  And that, of course, is a good thing.  Jesus said He would build His Church, but I am told I can make a huge difference in this if I join in the great movement of God.  Take a look.   

Don Osman explains the power of simply pointing one person at a time to the goodness of Jesus. 

If I were a big-time evangelist and every year I led 30,000 people to Christ, over a 22 year period, I would have led 660,000 people to Christ. But if I decided as a strategic evangelist to reach one unsaved person and disciple that one person so that he or she would reach another person, over a 22 year period, through a multiplication process, I would have reached about 1.04 million people.  

The impact we can all have by simply obeying the simple words of Jesus is astounding. As you can see, if we are all a bit more intentional, and take our efforts deeper into relationship with people, we can make a huge difference in our generation. So let’s all agree to join in the great movement of God in helping people see the same awakening we have experienced in our own hearts and lives.[ii]

As I read this section, I come away with a sense of exhilaration at being part of something so vast and wonderful, or I feel crushed at the immense failure that I am and the millions of people who will not experience salvation because of me.  However, I don't have to feel that way because I believe Jesus will build His Church.  I can join Him in the process or not, but He will build His Church.  You may ask if we should have evangelists or be intentional in helping people see the same awakening we have experienced in our lives because of the great movement of God.  The answer is yes; we should have evangelists and be intentional.  We are invited to be part of what God is doing.  But my participation is not about impact.  My participation is about love.  Loving God with all I am overflows into loving relationships with others and allows for connections with God to be established.  Jesus points to this in His words in John.  

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”                              John 13:34-35 (NLT) 

This love approach is powerful.  The commandment can become another rule to follow or human designed strategy to implement, but it is not intended to be either.  Human love is limited and faulty.  Divine love is unlimited and pure.  Jesus lived life on earth being in a relationship with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.  Jesus did what God led Him to do.  Jesus was empowered by the Holy Spirit to do many wonderful things.  The fruit of the Spirit includes love.  God is love.  

 Love flowed through Jesus not because He kept a good rule or was practicing self-sacrifice, but because that was who He was.  When Jesus says to His followers that they should love as He has loved them, it was out of that divine level of love for the good of all, and so the world will know.  It is the flow of the Holy Spirit alive in Him and in His followers, that loveGod’s kind of love bursts forth.  

How should we as followers of Christ live?  Should we be intentional about our impact?  Should we be relaxed in the knowledge that Jesus will build His Church and we may participate in His work by loving God and loving others?  

I have lived the intentional-about-our-impact life.  It beats doing nothing.  But after experiencing that life compared to being relaxed in Jesus and putting my efforts into loving God and allowing the overflow to radiate to people I will have to go with being relaxed.  I am, however, intentional about it.  Jesus makes a point of this in Matthew.  

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)

Jesus is a master of giving comfort, encouragement, and instruction all at the same time.  I have had a weariness and heavy burden in my concerned to make an impact in this world for Christ.  Jesus says, “Come to Me.”  I needed that.  I need Him.  The rest He offers is substantial.  Taking His yoke which by the way isn’t doing anything, but joining Him in doing what He is doing His way.  His yoke is easy to bear.  His yoke isn’t about my impact on the world and how many I can get into heaven to help Him with His Church.  His yoke is about my going with Him into the work He has for me with His guidance, training, friendship, and strength.  His yoke is easy to bear, and the burden He gives is light.  The burden I take on myself thinking it is my job to save the world is heavy, and the world already has a Savior.  And He will build His Church. 

Something I have observed in the way followers of Christ do church things is the tendency to listen to the views of the community and to copy another church’s program if they somehow received some attention or gathered crowds for it.  Like this idea of canceling Sunday services. 

A group of churches in the Twin Cities took a step like this last year and canceled their Sunday services one weekend a year to get out and serve their communities’ felt needs. Something about this speaks volumes to those outside the church— that we do not simply want to be a holy huddle, but we care about serving people. This is an idea other groups of churches in other cities need to pick up and run with as well.[iii]

This idea of not having church, picking up trash, and spreading paint speaks volumes to those outside the church?  So, the views of those outside the church determine what those in the church are to do?  What?  

How does the author know about the group of churches in the Twin Cities actions?  Local TV news coverage maybe.  Surveys among the people of the neighborhood could have been taken and published in church newsletters.  

I watched a TV interview of a church doing a similar thing.  Services were canceled, and the people went out to help others.  The interview took place at a house next to the church parking lot where a single mother and her teen daughter lived.  The youth group was there picking up fallen limbs and debris around the yard as the interviewer talked to the pastor.  Cars from the church were parked facing her house and yard.  The mother said she appreciated what they were doing.  She went on to say the huge limbs that had fallen three years ago were more than she and her daughter could deal with on their own.  And the story goes on to praise the church for caring.  Caring?  They parked at the edge of the woman’s house for three years, and no one cared to give her a hand.  They didn’t get involved until the TV cameras were bringing attention to how this church cared. These efforts do make inroads and have an impact at times.  God allows good to come.  God may have another way to show that His people care. 

There are those in churches all over who attend church services and are part of the holy huddle and then take off work or change personal plans to go clean up someone’s fallen limbs.  Without one reporter being notified they help another person in need.  Jesus explained it this way. 

“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”  Matthew 6:1-4 (NLT)

The kind of good deeds that Jesus is talking about comes from a person who is rich in relationship with God.  The overflow of a close intimate relationship with God manifests in good deeds.  Not an obligation to do good, but a manifestation.  That person knows the Father and is aware of His personal attention.  There is trust between this person and God.  And what is missing is the need to be praised or appraised by the people around them.  God the Father, who sees everything, will reward them. 

There is much more to be said, but this is sufficient consideration for the time being.  Jesus will build His Church.  He said it.  He is doing it.  I am resting assured that it will be done.  I am glad to be invited to participate with Him in the process. 

And they sang in a mighty chorus: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered— to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.”
Revelation 5:12 (NLT)

[i] Brown, Matt (2015-02-10). Awakening: How God's Great Move Inspires & Influences Our Lives Today (Kindle Locations 1471-1481). Leafwood Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[ii] Brown, Matt (2015-02-10). Awakening: How God's Great Move Inspires & Influences Our Lives Today (Kindle Locations 1563-1570). Leafwood Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[iii] Brown, Matt (2015-02-10). Awakening: How God's Great Move Inspires & Influences Our Lives Today (Kindle Location 1367). Leafwood Publishers. Kindle Edition.