I want us to think about the state of the Church. How’s she doing? How is her health? Did you immediately think of the church you or I attend? If so, you may have illustrated one of the problems in the Church today…more about that in a moment.
- In some non-western countries thousands of new believers are coming to faith in Jesus Christ daily and meeting in houses, businesses, apartments, parks, etc. They plant expressions of Jesus (churches) as they go to villages, neighborhoods and marketplaces. For example, rather than a church of 3,000 in a city of a million people, they have 10,000 churches of 10 to 20. This is an illustration of both the potential and the reality.
- In the West there is a renewed missional focus, not in “doing missions” but in “living missionally”. God’s people are encouraged to go on mission with Jesus where they live and work. They are gathering with others who have the same missional impulse.
- There is a renewed interest in discipleship, developing fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. Making disciples is our commission from Jesus. The potential for the “salt and light” effect is incredible in every place believers actually follow Jesus Christ into their neighborhoods.
- More and more believers are gathering under the headship of Jesus Christ and following him together. Their communities (communion) of faith are being used to change their lives and the lives of those around them. Their focus is not on budgets and buildings but on being disciples, being the church.
But of course, it doesn’t really matter how I assess the health of the Church. She belongs to Jesus and he often has very different metrics than ours. Consider his desire for his Church, the Church he is building in every generation. What does he want? Please read this passage as if you’re reading it for the first time.
“…I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
(Jesus Christ’s prayer from John 17:20, 21)
- His Church to be one as he and the Father are one and to be one so that the world may believe the Father sent the Son.
- His Church to be in complete unity and has provided his presence to make it so. Our behavior toward one another informs the world of God’s love and intent.
What does this mean to the Church? What does it mean in your life?
When a person has within them the spirit of God, the breath of God’s life provided by Jesus’ death and the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, they are my brother or my sister. We belong to the same family. We are part of the same body. We share a common life. We share a common heritage and eternal future. What should this mean to our present? How do we live under the present reign of Jesus Christ?
You have spiritual family, brothers and sisters in your neighborhood. You may or may not yet know them. You should gather with them to pray and ask God to show you what he is doing in your neighborhood and how you (all believers in the neighborhood) could join him. How could the two or three of you love your neighbors together? How can you live under the reign of Christ together (That’s what it means to be part of his kingdom.) in your neighborhood? How do you demonstrate and announce his reign to others? When others come under his reign, receive his life, do you invite them to do life with you and follow Jesus together? This is how the body grows. This is how the kingdom advances. This is how lives and neighborhoods are transformed. Go and make disciples.
When you discover fellow believers at your place of employment, gather with them in prayer and ask the Lord how you, together, could join him in what he is doing in the lives of fellow workers. Take some of the same steps described above. Be the church in your workplace.
How are we doing?
Are we unified as the body of Christ today? Are we one as he and the Father are one? Do unbelievers know what God is like by watching the way we believers interact with one another?
What is the source of denominationalism, sects, districts and other such distinctions? Why is my doctrine purer, practices better and group more important? Why can’t we at least agree with Jesus that if they’re not against us, they’re for us? What is the origin of spiritual elitism?
James asks believers, “From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” (James 4:1)
Are we building his kingdom or our kingdoms? Are we building “our church” or allowing him to build “his church”? Do we need to be in control to “protect our investment” or can we abandon ourselves to Jesus and rest in his control? Do we have a form of godliness but deny the power? Are we making converts to “our way” or making disciples to Jesus Christ.
FEEDBACK: How is Jesus doing where you live and work? What is he up to in your neighborhood?
- How are you meeting, praying, listening and following Jesus outside the institutional church?
- How is Jesus using this organic expression of church to change you and the world around you?
Encourage others. Share your story of his body work, his expression, where you are.