As we continue our look at the Church relating it to what people are looking for in a local church fellowship we are discovering that the Lord is moving in the hearts of people of all ages causing a serious inner discontent and thus a disconnect from the church as it is today. Those who are responding to this spiritual discomfort are often referred to as revolutionaries.
This is not to bash the Church. Christian churches have an incredible 2,000 year legacy of pursuing God and faithfully doing His work. An extraordinary repository of life-changing results emanates from the Church. The Church is not a perfect group of people or a perfect institution; it is populated by sinners – like you and me – whom God dearly loves, despite our debased nature. And despite its faults and flaws, a spiritually healthy church will always have a valid and valuable role within God’s Kingdom on earth.
The point is simply to recognize that there are some basic and foundational things that need to change within the local church if it is to actually be healthy and if we are to continue to speak to the people of today about Jesus and His Kingdom.
Also, if we place all our hope in the local church, it is a misplaced hope. Many well-intentioned pastors promote this perspective by proclaiming, “the local church is the hope of the world.” Like most advertising slogans, this notion is emotionally appealing. The trouble is, the sentiment is not biblical. Jesus, and Jesus alone, is the hope of the world. The local church is one mechanism that can be instrumental in bringing us closer to Him and helping us to be more like Him. But, as research data shows, churches are not doing the job. If the local church is the hope of the world, then the world has no hope.
Again, the point we have been making is simply to recognize that there are some basic and foundational things that need to change within the local church if we are to continue to speak to the people of today about Jesus and His Kingdom and if the Church is to, once again, function biblically. Some very big changes.
There is nothing inherently wrong with being involved in a local church. But realize that being a part of a group that calls itself a ‘church’ does not make you saved, holy, righteous, or godly any more than being in a baseball stadium makes you a professional baseball player. Participating in church-based activities does not necessarily draw you closer to God or prepare you for a life that satisfies Him or enhances your existence. Being a member of a congregation does not make you spiritually righteous.
Being in a right relationship with God and His people is what matters. Scripture teaches us that devoting your life to loving God with all your heart, mind, strength, and soul is what honours Him. Being part of a local church may facilitate that. Or it might not.
Sadly, many people will label this view “blasphemy.’ However, you should realize that the Bible neither describes nor promotes the local church as we know it today. Many centuries ago religious leaders created the prevalent form of ‘church’ that is so widespread in our society to help people be better followers of Christ. But the local church we have come to know and cherish – the services, offices (sacraments), programs, buildings, ceremonies – is neither biblical nor unbiblical. It is aBiblical – that is, such an organization is not addressed in the Bible.
If you read through the New Testament you will find no allusions to or descriptions of a specific type of religious organization or spiritual form for the church. The Bible does not rigidly define the corporate practices, rituals, or structures that must be embraced in order to have a proper church. It does, however, offer direction regarding the importance and integration of fundamental spiritual disciplines into one’s life.
Sometimes we forget that the current form of religious practice and community were developed hundreds of years ago, long after the Bible was written, in an attempt to help believers live more fulfilling Christian lives. We should keep in mind that what we call ‘church’ is just one interpretation of how to develop and live a faith-centred life. We made it up. It may be healthy or helpful, but it is not sacrosanct.
The current move of the Spirit, the revolution, is not about eliminating, dismissing, or disparaging the local church. It is about building relationships, commitments, processes, and tools that enable us to be the God-lovers we were intended to be from the beginning of creation.
Revolutionaries realize – sometimes very reluctantly – that the core issue isn’t whether or not one is involved in a local church, but whether or not one is connected to the body of believers in the pursuit of godliness and worship. Consequently, the revolution involves the remnant of believers who are obsessed with practicing the same seven passions that defined the early church, in order to be agents of transformation in this world.
A reminder of what the seven core passions for a revolutionary are (from previous blogs in this series):
1> Intimate worship
2> Faith-based conversations
3> Intentional spiritual growth
4> A place to serve (servanthood)
5> Resource investment
6> Spiritual friendships
7> Family faith
You see, it is not about the church. It’s about the Church – that is, the people who actively participate in the intentional advancement of God’s Kingdom in partnership with the Holy Spirit and other believers. (note the difference between church and Church)
The revolutionary mind-set is simple: Do whatever it takes to get closer to God and to help others to do the same. Obliterate any obstacle that prevents you from honouring God with every breath you take. Be such an outstanding example of the Christian faith that no one will question your heart or lifestyle – except those who see institutional survival as equally or more important than the alleged influence of the institution they defend.
Or, put more bluntly, the revolution is about recognizing that we are not called to go to church. We are called to be the Church.