Follow Jesus. Don’t Forget the Church.

Posted on April 15, 2012. Filed under: Culture | Tags: , , , , , , |

A recent cover of Newsweek Magazine which depicted Jesus as a classier version of Kirk Cobain in the middle of Times Square read, “Forget the Church, Follow Jesus.” Inside, Andrew Sullivan’s article “Christianity in Crisis” laments against the Church today and argues instead we should follow Jesus (though he suggests what Jesus actually said or did is up to personal interpretation…unless you disagree with his interpretation, then you’re just wrong).

Though I was tempted to dedicate this week’s post to calling him a poo-poo head, I decided it might be more beneficial to address a larger issue the Church is facing – the attack on the very idea of ‘the Church.’ Just what is ‘the Church’? Do we really need it or can we just ‘follow Jesus’?

When Christ talks about building his ‘church’ in Matthew, the Greek word  literally means ‘those called out’ (Mat 16:18). The Church is simply a gathering of Christ’s followers. You don’t need an ordained priest, holy water, a building or even stale wafers to have a church (though, wine may make it more entertaining). Obviously, it may help having someone around educated in scripture’s nuances, but it’s not mandatory.

How did Jesus feel about worshiping with others? It seems to me he thought it was pretty important. “For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them” (Mat 18:20). After Christ’s resurrection, he gave the 11 disciples (Judas was hangin’ somewhere else) the ‘great commission’ to go out and make disciples (Mat 28:16-20). It’s pretty hard make disciples if you’re ‘following Jesus’ by yourself. And the idea of gathering with others wasn’t new with the New Testament. Flip back to creation of man in Genesis and you’ll find it written in third person (Gen 1:26). God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit have always been in community with each other.

We aren’t made to do life alone (Gen 2:18). It is important to gather with others to fulfill Chirst’s laws, share each others burdens (Gal 6:2), correct and mediate between believers (Mat 18:15-17), encourage one another (1 Thes 5:11) , warn each other when we lose our way (2 Thes 3:15) and the list could go on and on. Clearly, Christ wouldn’t just want us to ‘forget the church.’

Some Christians will justify not joining a church by a number of ways, none of which are particularly good, let alone biblical. There’s the ‘I haven’t found a church I like’ line, which I generally submit means that person tried two churches in a 3 mile radius and gave up. If you’re willing to drive 45 minutes to get to the closest Chick-fil-a (mall, restaurant, etc.), you can drive that far to meet with other believers (you could probably meet there as long as it wasn’t a Sunday).

‘I don’t believe in organized religion.’ I’m not sure what this means, but if means you don’t like too much doctrine, I would say two things: If the ‘doctrine’ is the Bible, check out my post on cafeteria Christianity. If the doctrine conflicts with the Bible, try correcting your brothers as Scripture calls us to do (Gal 6:1). If that doesn’t work, find the group that’s meeting at Chick-fil-a.

Then there’s ‘the Church is full of hypocrites/ I don’t like the preacher/music/politics/coffee they serve.’ Ephesians 5:22-33 is usually cited for understanding the husband-wife relationship, but it’s also about the Christ-Church relationship. The bottom line is that the Church, like your spouse, isn’t going to be perfect. The Church is made up of sinners (like you and me), which hopefully recognize it. If a brother is sinning, correct him in love. If you have to, try a new church, but don’t go around bashing Christ’s bride – how would you like it if someone was talking smack about your woman?

‘I don’t want to go alone.’ If you go, you won’t be alone. If you don’t go, you’ll be alone. One reason to go is to develop Christian friendships.

’11 o’clock on Sunday morning is just too early.’ The Sabbath is about God – not you sleeping in. Take a nap!

‘I don’t get anything out of it.’ Jesus went to temple and he certainly was a fan of fellowship with others (Luke 2:39-52Mat 21:12). If the human manifestation of God on earth still thought it was important to be present with others, you’ll have a tough time convincing me you’ve got it all figured out  100% of the time and therefore don’t need to go.

Ultimately, your relationship with Christ is a personal one that doesn’t depend on others (Eph 2:8), but hopefully you see that the Church Christ established serves a very important purpose. And while Mr. Sullivan may have a point about the Church needing some correction, I don’t see how that’s possible if everyone decides to ‘forget it.’


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10 Responses to “Follow Jesus. Don’t Forget the Church.”

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Well said. I appreciate your defense of the Church. It’s silly when people say that they don’t believe in organized religion, particularly when it is done from within a ‘Christian’ paradigm; when one does that, essentially they organize their own religion.

Good point, Joshua. I just don’t see how you can call yourself a follower of Christ while rejecting his bride, especially when that rejection comes in the form of rejecting ‘Church’ as a whole (by boycotting being in community with others) rather than correcting or seeking different followers. Thanks for your thoughts

I just found you through the wordpress topics link and thought I’d respond. I believe that “The Church” is the body of Christ. If that is the case, then Christ is the head and the body follows whatever and wherever the head leads. The unfortunate thing is that a lot of churches don’t always follow the head, or they appoint their own head. My point is that I don’t think that “churches” always make up ” The Church”. I think that individual believers in Jesus make up “The Church”. I believe that we don’t “go to church”, but we “are the church”. That being said, I think it is super important to find a group of believers to worship, pray and study with (be the church). If we are not a part of a local “body of Christ” then we are missing out and the local body is missing out on what we have to offer. We are all important “body parts” and the body needs all of it’s parts to function well.

That’s my two cents. Thanks for your post. I recently wrote a post on the great commission if you’d like to pop over and check it out. I’d love your thoughts. Grace and Peace.

I completely agree, Beau. Perhaps I could have done a better job at explaining ‘going to church’ doesn’t make you apart of the Church anymore than going to get your oil changed makes you a mechanic. It’s being in community with other followers, even if it’s just a small group of people that meet somewhere informal.

Yes, there are certainly churches that have strayed from the Bible in exchange for not offending people or whatever reason. But my point was more that the idea we are to ‘forget the Church’ as a whole isn’t the solution. The solution, it would seem, is to correct the Church. Perhaps we (the Church) are getting too focussed on pointing out specks of dust in the eyes of nonbelievers rather than ensuring we take the logs out of ours…

You are addressing some very important points, bravo! For too long we have accepted sub-standard churches as being the only option. Thank goodness folks are getting fed up with that situation – now maybe we can do better. You are right to push back on the drop out excuses – we don’t need folks to drop out, we need all of us to participate in learning how to connect with God and each other in ways that bring transformation.
I’m referencing your post in mine today! Thanks.

[…] Follow Jesus. Don’t Forget the Church. ( […]

Gen 1:26, the word ‘God’ is “Elohim”. It is not necessarily a pluralized form of ‘Elowahh’ (‘God’).

ʾĕlôhîym, el-o-heem´; gods in the ordinary sense; but spec. used (in the plur. thus, esp. with the art.) of the supreme God; occasionally applied by way of deference to magistrates; and sometimes as a superlative:—angels, × exceeding, God (gods) (-dess, -ly), × (very) great, judges, × mighty.

Source: Strong, J., S.T.D., LL.D. (2009). Vol. 2: A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (12). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Notice that it can also refer to angelic beings or other representatives of God’s authority. As an example, Moses was referred to as Elohim. Therefore, the use of Elohim in Gen 1:26 could have been representatives of God’s authority. Who could these beings be? We aren’t told, but we do know that they had physical bodies, since at least one of them walked in the Garden in search of Adam. God the proper is a Spirit, and has no physical body, therefore any reference to God in a physical sense must elude to a representative of God’s authority.

Yes, elohim can be translated multiple ways, but in Gen 1:26 is usually translated in the plural by people who know more Hebrew than you or me. Backing up to Gen 1:2, after God created the heavens and the earth, the Spirit of God covered it. This is another illustration that God is in community, which was my point.

Thank u for writing and sharing this artical : )

Thanks for reading silvana. Glad you enjoyed!

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