Does the Church Exist for Me Or Do I Exist for the Church?

5

LISTEN NOW!

March 13, 2022

1 Peter 3:8-12 NIV

8 Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For,

“Whoever would love life
and see good days
must keep their tongue from evil
and their lips from deceitful speech.
11 They must turn from evil and do good;
they must seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

CONSIDER THIS

For the longest time, I have read letters like this one from Peter and others from Paul as collections of miscellany, kind of like they are responding to frequently asked questions concerning what God says about this social problem, that ethical issue or this other moral dilemma. Consequently, this is how I have often read and interpreted them. What does the Bible say about same gender sexual relationships? What does the Bible say about money? What does the Bible say about marriage? Certainly all these things and more are addressed over the course of the multiple correspondences that make up the New Testament. However, this is not the main purpose and point of the New Testament. 

We must keep the main point of the letter front and center—finding our place and playing our part in the Church Jesus is building. These letters are written by Apostles to churches for the sake of the movement of the Kingdom of Heaven spreading across the Earth. 

Peter is not trying to give us a marriage seminar. He knows these churches are made up of families but note his calculus is not “as goes the family so goes the church.” If that were the case, he would have dedicated the entire letter to family life. Peter knows the opposite is true, “as goes the church so goes the family.” So many times along the way I have heard people espouse a priority list something like this: 1. God. 2. Family. 3. Church. I suppose given the church as I have known it, this ordering makes sense. However, this ordering of priorities would make no sense to the New Testament or its writers. Here is how they would have ordered the list: 1. Jesus 2. Church. 3. Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.

In the New Testament, the idea of somehow separating out family from church as a different category would have been an absurdity. Church would have been the covering and shelter for the family. The Apostles are not dealing with a federation of loosely connected families. They are pouring everything they have into the Body of Jesus Christ.  

If you will notice, the central concern of the New Testament is not the individual believer or the nuclear family but the supernatural community known as the Church Jesus is building. And the central concern with the Church Jesus is building are the relationships therein—Jews and Gentiles, slaves and masters, men and women, husbands and wives, parents and children. Every single relationship and all of them together matter more than we can possibly imagine within the Body of Christ for the sake of the world. 

8 Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.

And every single relationship and interaction with those outside of the Body of Christ matters more than we can possibly imagine for the mission of the Kingdom in the world. 

9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

Friends of Jesus, it’s about relationships. The American Christian tends to believe and act as though the church exists for the sake of the flourishing of the individual and the family. In this model, the notion of the expansion of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth is a bit of an afterthought at best. The Christian American tends to believe and act as though the individual and the family exist for the sake of the flourishing of the Church whose mission is  the expansion of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. 

If I’m honest, I have mostly thought of the Church as existing for me. I’m finally waking up to the realization that I exist for the sake of the Church—the one Jesus is building, that is.

THE PRAYER

Jesus, you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Thank you for the Church you are building. We confess, we have too often and too many times thought we could somehow do it better than you and done it in our own way and claimed it to be done in your name. We seem so far from the New Testament Church, as though we could somehow find it by our own resolve. We can’t. And this is the point. Holy Spirit, bring us to humble honesty, deep joy-filled repentance and profound surrender to you and submission to one another. Praying in Jesus name, Amen.

THE QUESTION

Have you tended to see the church existing for the sake of individuals and families or the other way around? Reflect on that. 

P.S. In case you missed this. . . 

Some months ago I wrote a P.S. here where I extended two opportunities. The first was to consider sponsoring a day or more (or any part thereof) of the Daily Text for 2022. The second opportunity was for someone to match those gifts enabling us to double down on our investment in this daily extravagant sowing mission. People told me I was crazy to mention such a thing in a P.S., but I sensed the boldness of Jesus to do it. 

So the daily sponsorship comes to $365 (or roughly $30/month). The match came to $133,225. Many people seized the opportunity. I was so encouraged I all but forgot about the match invitation. About a week ago, as a complete surprise, a family who wishes to remain anonymous contacted us and said Jesus laid it on their hearts to make the match gift!!! We were blown away. 

It turns out we are just over half way there (cue Bon Jovi) to sponsoring 2022’s Daily Text. These generous friends are matching all of those gifts so far. And they will match it the rest of the way to 365 days. So we are now at 278 days and counting, leaving us with 87 days remaining. If you want to jump in you can do it here. And thanks for even considering it and for rejoicing with us in the blessing of this good news. 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

SHARE

Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

5 COMMENTS

  1. J D, one sentence you wrote today jumped out and resonated with a thought the Lord had been laying on my heart lately: “These letters are written by Apostles to churches for the sake of the movement of the kingdom of God spreading across the earth”. The word MOVEMENT. When I reflect on the contemporary institutional church as compared to the primitive church recorded in scriptures one thing stands out; the early church was a living, breathing organism; whereas today’s church in the Western countries has become mostly an organization based more like a business or governmental structure. We have taken a living organism like a tree and cut it down in order to shape it into a creation of our own liking. Some how we need God to breathe new life into it like He did to Arron’s staff.

  2. The words we choose matter because they put pictures into people’s minds. Every time I hear and or read the word church, I see what Bob describes in his comment–“an organization based more like a business or governmental structure” and/or a programmed religious meeting centered around a one-man sermon and/or a building for Christian worship. But as you so well describe, J.D., that’s not what the N.T. writers were picturing when they used the Greek word ekklesia.

    Many people understand this difference, but we have trouble communicating it. We try to modify the modern meaning of the word church by adding other words to it, such as: “the church Jesus is building” or “primitive church.” However, when I hear those phrases, I still picture an organization, a building, or a programmed & sermon-based meeting. To help people understand what the New Testament writers meant by the Greek word ekklesia, we need to go beyond the word church. The things that the word church brings to people’s minds blocks them from the meaning of ekklesia. We don’t need to reform church. We need to make church ekklesia again!

    Maybe the 5 M’s of church history will help. This is the change from ekklesia to church that happens in every move of God. 1) Man–a person encounters the living Jesus and is set on fire for God. 2) Men–other people catch the passion and zeal as they also encounter the risen Jesus. 3) Movement–there is a spontaneous, Spirit-led spread of encounters with the resurrected Jesus as more and more people are transformed by His presence and reality.

    The first 3 m’s look nothing like what the word church brings to people’s minds today. There is no religious building, no religious organization, and no man-controlled and programmed meeting that puts one man on a platform and makes everybody else the audience. (See 1 Corinthians 14:26.) The first 3 m’s describe ekklesia.

    M #3 and M #4 describe the transition from ekklesia to church. M #4 is Method. As the movement grows, people start to be uncomfortable with the spontaneity and with the leading of the Holy Spirit and they begin to organize and structure things. They appoint managers instead of Spirit-led leaders. They focus on control instead of freedom–ritual and tradition instead of the contagion of the Spirit. They build buildings and begin to program their worship meetings and turn them over to the control of one man. After a few decades of building their own organizational structure (rather than letting Jesus build His ekklesia), the movement people who had personally and dynamically experienced the living Jesus begin to die. Their children take over the organization that is now called church. Many of the children don’t have the same experience with Jesus that their parents had.

    In each succeeding generation, fewer and fewer people have the same Jesus experience and relationship that the people had in the movement stage, but the organization they set up keeps on going until it becomes M #5–Monument. And that’s church–a religious monument to the ekklesia days.

    • Here are a few more thoughts about the 5 Ms & the Jesus Movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s:

      I lived through the 5 Ms in the Jesus Movement. I saw individuals encounter the living Jesus and get on fire for God (M #1). I saw those individuals’ excitement about Jesus spread to their friends (M #2). I saw a movement spreading all over America and around the world (M#3).

      Then I saw (M #4) dominating people began to organize things and set up structures. Churches began to pull people out of the spontaneity of the Jesus Movement and into their organizations. Jesus Freaks began to set up their own nondenominational religious organizations (and even a few cults).

      Now, as I look back from 5 decades, I see religious organizations–(M #5) monuments to that mighty move of God. Those churches and denominations that came out of the Jesus Movement are nothing like the way it was when God initiated it. They are toned-down and formalized. They left ekklesia and embraced church. They make me sad. It’s time to begin the 5 Ms again!

  3. The church should be producing people who are living their lives 7 days a week confident, comfortable and conversant in their faith.

    One of the earliest key moments that had me questioning the church was encountering a pastor whose faith was simply part and parcel of who he was. By contrast mine felt bulky and hard to manage. Turns out he developed a personal faith long before he ever thought of becoming a UM pastor. And it shown through in the way he interacted with people; he was very much a servant leader. For the first time ever, I had the realization that Christianity should not be feeling as complicated as I thought it was. However, his years with the UMC had also turned him into a churchman and he had hopes and dreams about how his career with the church was going to proceed; questioning the church was not allowed. Several years before I had already had the realization that the “professionals” had a completely different view of the church because they had a completely different experience. Whatever spiritual depth was present in the “upper echelon” was not effectively reaching the person in the pew. He was also the third in a series of pastors who had been sent to the local church who could not have been more different in their approaches to and understandings about church.

    Yet, this one pastor stepped outside his box and was there for me in a huge way just as I was in the early stage of learning that my life with the Methodist/United Methodist Church had been nothing more than a slow-moving train wreck that was picking up speed. I have been living in the fallout of that encounter ever since.

LEAVE A REPLY