Missing the Point of Being Church

          Some issues seem to die hard. Today, I received in the mail a letter from another church. Included in the letter was a booklet titled Innovations in the Church which contained a series of sermons addressing what one church believes to be the fundamental challenges facing the 21st century church. Here are the various sub-titles for the topics addressed: Instrumental Music in Worship; Bible Classes & Women Teachers; Following the Pattern; What is the Cup of the Lord?; Why Only One Cup?; Literal Until Proven a Figure; Is a Plurality of Communion Cups Scriptural?; Some Misconceptions.  You may understand where such issues come from because of some familiarity with Churches who have been enslaved by such issues. Yet most people would read that list and shake their head while silently saying “huh?”

          Another piece of mail came to me as well. This one was a bulletin like flier with several articles. One of the articles was titled Identifying the Church of the Lord. In this article, the author sets out by mining the New Testament to try and identify what he believes is the distinguishing marks of the church of Jesus Christ. Personally, I believe Jesus summed up pretty clearly how the world would identify his church (disciples) when he said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (Jn 13.35, TNIV).

          I titled this blog post Missing the Point of Being Church for a reason. I believe both pieces of mail demonstrate how badly we can miss the point of being church. There are other examples that I am sure you are aware of. However, let me remind us where our world is: As we began our day, a young married man started his day wondering if the fight he had with his wife last night would be the final straw that ends their marriage; a single mother went to work today expecting to be laid off and having no idea where she will find new employment that provides for her and her child/children; a middle-aged parent is planning to attend a funeral for one of their children who died long before they ever had a chance to live life; a war veteran woke up today after spending the night on a city side-walk wondering where his life went so terribly wrong; a young college girl woke up this morning in bed next to a boy she does not even remember the name of because deep within her, she just is looking for the affirming love she never received from the father who left her and her mother when she was a baby; a family has immigrated from a foreign land thousands of miles away and is praying that they will one day find the truth and purpose of why they are here; another…

          If we were to sit next to Jesus and ask him what the purpose of being church is, I wonder what he would say. We do know this: when people came looking for Jesus to keep him in their neighborhood, this was Jesus’ reply, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent” (Lk 4.43, TNIV). There are so many issues we deal with in being church but I am not sure how most of those issues have anything to do with being conduits of good news. May we learn from Jesus what being church – the people of God – is all about!

11 responses to “Missing the Point of Being Church

  1. “You may understand where such issues come from because of some familiarity with Churches who have been enslaved by such issues. Yet most people would read that list and shake their head while silently saying ‘huh?'”

    You anticipated my reaction perfectly Rex. The real issues that you gave examples of (marriage troubles, lives lost in sin, etc.) illustrate where the real ministry is.

    One of my best friends at work is an Episcopalian (sp?). When he tells me about the disputes in his church over issues such as ordination of homosexuals, I wonder what it is many of our fellowship go on about.

  2. What I notice is that much of what we talk about is what goes on Sunday morning in the assembly, as if the main point of the church were to have a group that meets together once a week to “do things right.”

  3. Odgie,

    When I was in undergraduate studies and would here some of the issues that certain people thought were important to the church, I would think of how things might be different if some of those people would be forced into spending a week in Chicago (or any other city) riding the El-Train/Subway for one week and interact with their fellow travelers.

    Tim,

    You are exactly right. Your point, I believe, revealsthat for many, church is about us. Where did we ever get such a notion from?

  4. Great post, Rex.

    It’s actually a lot easier to major in minors than to keep the main thing to the main thing.

    I echo Tim’s sentiments – we need to obsess over Jesus – not simply our assemblies.

    I’m not meaning to downplay the importance of other things (like worship assemblies – the Bible does say quite a bit of what happens when the believers are together), but when it comes to our passionate obsession, Jesus must be it.

  5. Very good post Rex. I know I missed the point for a long time. I guess that is why it is frustrating to watch so many others missing it. I am still far from perfect, but I hope my focus is where it needs to be now: reaching out to the lost and promoting unity among Christians with love. Great job in pointing out John 13:35. This is how I want others to identify me as a disciple.

  6. Wes,

    Last night I was just reading in McGrath’s “Christianity’s Dangerous Idea” (see “Books I am Reading”) how these worship and ecclesiological structural issues have been at the central focal point of Protestantism since nearly the beginning of the Reformation. Like I said in the post, some issues die hard. Any ways, I am increasingly convinced that the issues mentioned in the post are not even minor issues – except for the fact that we make them such.

    Jason,

    I want others to identify me by my love…and that is a very steep demand on Jesus. I sometimes think we take the focus off learning how to love one another because these other so called issues appear to be much more easier, managable, and certainly when we think we have perfected them, easier to use as means to boast our doctrinal superiority over others. However, we need to just work on loving each other as Christ has loved us…and if we get that down, then maybe there is room for some other issue…maybe.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  7. Thanks for a great artice. Aren’t you glad we have it all figured out……lol

  8. Dell,

    Thanks for stopping by.

    Rex

  9. If we were to have one day with Jesus, hanging out and learning from him as Peter, James, and John did and we asked Jesus the question “What is the purpose of being Church?”, how do you think Jesus would respond?

    I think Jesus would take us high up on a mountain and show us all the people who are lost in the confusing struggles that I mentioned in the post and then ask us “what do you think the purpose of the church is?”

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  10. I think you are probably right. May God have mercy on our souls.

  11. #1 listed determining factor on how the world will be able to identify who the followers of Jesus are: Love for one another. John 13.35

    #2 listed determining factor — none listed.

    I believe the point of Romans 14 is to encourage us to know our relationships are more important than being scriptural correct on matters of opinion.

    As your post indicates, there are many who want to make even the smallest gnat a salvation issue and nullify Jesus’ command to love one another.

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