Friday, January 26, 2007

The Church or the Kingdom

In our community, we are continually asking, “What can we give to people?”. The answer is often that we can give them a level of community that will teach them a new and healthy way of life. When community is the answer to how we help people, the mandate is to build community and to emphasize dialogue about real life problems and the principles that are foundational to functional living. Such an emphasis is a huge step forward compared to the come to church on Sunday and then you are on your own. With people like myself that are way to damaged to make it on my own, the Sunday and Wednesday routine just doesn’t work. For the sick, authentic community is an absolute necessity to a sane life. BUT!!!, this emphasis on COMMUNITY IS NOT THE ANSWER to the “What can we give to people?” question.

Conversion to the Church or Entrance into the Kingdom
The above scenario where a new believer enters a Christian community that meets daily and studies the teachings of Jesus is a good thing, obviously, but I have no interest in converting people to Christianized social work. We must be very self-critical and precise in what are we really offering people. What we are offering people is LIFE IN THE KINGDOM THROUGH THE IMMEDIATE POWER AND PRESSENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT THROUGH FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST. The answer to the question, “What can we give to people?” must be THE HOLY SPIRIT on a daily basis. We must beware of converting people to the church.

The Real Problem with American Evangelicalism
If you are reading this article, I am assuming you are looking for more than the mainstream church has to offer. When the mainstream church honestly answer the question, “What can we give to people?”, the answer is that we can offer good programs and clear bible teaching. We may say, “We offer relationship with Jesus Christ”, but if the by relationship with Jesus Christ we mean the immediate power and presence of the Holy Spirit then the mainstream church cannot honestly testify that we offer people a life of relationship with Jesus Christ. The daily power of the Holy Spirit has not been my experience of the life of the normal church-goer. No what the church offers is programs and teaching. In other words, the church offers people church. The real problem with the church in America is that we convert people to church and not the kingdom. BUT if we in the home church, simple church, organic church simply convert people to daily, authentic church as opposed to weekly superficial church, we are merely re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titantic. The problem with the mainstream church, and I believe the mainstream church is on its death bed in America, is that church life does not necessitate authentic spirituality and does not model the life in the kingdom. Life in the kingdom is living daily filled with the power of presence of Jesus Christ through the daily imitation of Jesus Christ in community.

The Emphasis of the Church Growth and Mega Church Approach
The church growth approach taught pastors to make sure that all the processes were in place to assure that people have a positive experience in church. The program of the church needs to be excellent to attract a crowd. The speaker must be entertaining. The music must be excellent. The programs must be fast paced and offer relationship with nice people and the parking must be sufficient. If we do this well, people will be attracted to the church and this will expose the masses to the word of God and the gospel. In this approach, we are really converting people to church attendance. The program takes most of the pastors time. He is the director of a presentation. This approach has led to the total carnality and impotence of the church. This is not how Jesus Christ made disciples. Only true spirituality and the offer of the power and presence of Jesus Christ in our daily lives demands everything from the baptized. We have made the gospel palatable in order to baptize people into the church. Such an approach caters to second and third soil hearts. Such an approach is total folly and bears no fruit that remains. If your pastor is concerned for even one instant about the flow of the service, I contend this is completely wrong headed. Jesus sent seekers who were not totally repentant away. Jesus said things that were totally offensive in order to separate the second and third soil people from the good and pure hearts. Our goal should be like Jesus’. We should try to offend people with the demands of the cross and the kingdom life. Only the call to live in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit daily demands everything from us.

The Necessity of Community
Even when the mainstream church offers, the power of the Holy Spirit, the mainstream church cannot deliver. When a seeker comes into the church and we offer them the kingdom life through the immediate power and presence of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, we cannot deliver on this offer without daily community meetings. Jesus Christ couldn’t deliver the kingdom without walking daily with the disciples. Are we so anointed that we can deliver bread that magically nourishes people for a week at a time? It is impossible to live by faith in the immediate reality of the kingdom without daily corporate prayer and worship and contemplation of the apostle’s teachings. The corporate life models for the new believer what it means to pursue God in prayer and worship. We teach how to confess and repent in the presence of God.

I once had a home churcher ask me sarcastically, “What we have to pray for it to be church?” My answer is “No, we have to pray passionately with true authentic repentance for it to be church!!”. Church is a group of people encountering God in spirit and truth. Church is not Christian potluck. In the book of Acts, the church met daily but they didn’t meet to have potluck. People are not afraid of potlucks. People were afraid to enter the early church and be double minded. God showed up at the meetings. People got healed at the meetings. The prayer and the teaching was 200 proof Holy Spirit. A new believer will not experience the life transformation that we call the kingdom without this type of community on a daily basis.

When we answer the “what can we give to people?”, we offer them a life in the power of God. In doing this, we must offer them to be immersed in the teachings of Jesus. We must offer them corporate meetings everyday BUT if we end with principles and community and do not lead people all the way into the presence of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, we still have merely converted them into the church. We do not baptize people into the Church, we baptize people into Christ. We are offering people a daily relationship with the living risen Jesus Christ. Jesus is alive. Jesus is powerful. Jesus delivers. Nothing short of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit will deliver those around us.

God Bless,

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