There is a chruch down the road from my house that has this on it's marque: "The church is not a hotel for saints, it is a hospital for sinners." This doesn't sound bad at first glance. But what really is the function of the church? Who really belongs in it?
For starters, the chruch is not a building. It is not programs or services. It is not full time staff, paid or unpaid. It is not people who claim to know Christ. The church is a people group as much as hispanics describes a people group regardless of their place of residence. There are not any unbelievers or false prophets in the church as their lack of allegience to Jesus automatically excludes them. And there is no need for a building or leader, as we already have a leader in Christ and the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said, "For where two or more come together in my name, there I am with them." and "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." If these things are true then why is almost every church in America set up like a funnel? All teaching, leadership, and council comes though or has to be approved by the pastor. Jesus is supposed to be the head of the church. Everyone has equal access to His truth and guidance. We as church members are all supposed to be recieving from Him equally. Yes, everyone has different gifts. But when did the pastor get elevated to such a position of authority?
The word pastor that we see in Ephesians 4:11 is poimen. It is used only once in the entire Bible. ONCE! The word simply means shepherd. Biblically speaking, a shepherd is the loweliest of postions. It is often left to children! And that word does not mean teacher. The other positions mentioned in that verse are apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teachers. And these are positions Paul says are given to everyone.
We live in a slothful, lazy society. We like everything to be handed up to us on a silver plater like we are a bunch of princes and prinicesses. Think about the typical Sunday morining for most "Christians". They show up to a building they had no part in building. They walk in the doors and are greeted and given bullitens like they are congressmen entering the house or senate floor. The sit in chiars or pews they did not arrange, set out, or maintain. A band serves up for them pre-arranged music. The lights go up, the lights go down. The air is conditioned hot and cold. A man stands up front tells them whats right, wrong, and what God's revelation for the week is with no ability to question or challange him in the moment while everyone else is soaking it up. Then they are dismissed until they are welcomed again. People brag about their churches missions, outreach, and youth groups. But what does the massive majority of attenders have to do with what goes on with the function of this "church".
I think Jesus had it right. If we ever had an example of what church is supposed to look like it was Jesus and his diciples. He spent day in and day out with them. He lived with them ,ate with them, worked, played, preached, and weeped with them. And, there was only twelve of them. Now, if God himself only saw fit to take on twelve apprentices where do we get the gall and arrogance to take on hundreds, if not thousands?
Christianity is not a buffet. You don't go though at you own pace, pick out what you like and call it a meal. It is meant to be life consuming. You are a follower of Christ and then __________. Fill in the blank. And just as Jesus entrusted His task of dicipleship to His diciples. So should we. If a man has an anoiting from the Lord to be an Apostle then he should take on no more than twelve men under him. And their lives should be so entwined that they are insepreable. And when those are qualified, should go on to do the same with others. This is how diciples are to be made.
Now, for the role of the gathered believers in this, aka the Chuch. The Church is simply a gathering of believers. It may be big, it may be small. But it is not the teaching, preaching, worshiping corporate outlet. There should be many teachers, preachesr, prophets, and apostles. The church should assemble together and anyone who has a word of prophecy, teaching, or worship should share it. And we should all look together to Christ for guidance. This gathering should happen in homes or parks or public spaces. There is no reason for there to be so many multi-million dollar buildings with the word church on them scattered across the country. I'm sure the exact amount of money spent would be staggering and sickening. We were never charged with setting up shop and getting comfortable.
The church is not a hotel for saints, because we are not supposed to be stationary in this life. And it is not a hospital for sinners because the gathering of believers is not for unbelievers. Unbelievers are to be won in the streets, in our homes and workplaces. We are to preach the message of Christ to everyone. Those who see the truth and repent are to be welcomed into our lives and homes to be dicipled. Then, as diciples, join the gathering of believers.
Don't take my word for it. Go back, with an open mind, and re-read the New Testament; more specifically the epistles. It is obvious that what we call church is nothing like what the early church had. Nor is dicipleship anything like the model Jesus gave us. This impersonal, rush'em in - rush'em out dicipleship is shallow and useless. Abandon the buildings. Stop depending on these Walmarts of Christianity to serve up your spiritual needs at a low low price and to take care of all the gruling, dirty details. Stop being isolationist and bring people into your lives and homes. Seriously, have them sleep on your couch if you don't have an extra bed for them. Live together, work together, play together, worship together, pray together. Heck, act like you are all of the same family! We are on this Earth for one purpose and one purpose only: to know Jesus and obey Him. We will be spending eternity doing things His way one way or another. It is about time we started practicing that in this life.
Feel free to comment or ask questions!
Feel free to comment or ask questions!