Jesus Made The Church Simple
Humans Complicated It
When a person first becomes a Christian they simultaneously develop an interest in church. Not traditional church. Not denominational structures or buildings but gathering.
With a new heart comes a strong sense of belonging and Christians naturally gravitate to church, wandering blindly into different settings not really knowing what to expect.
New believers aren’t looking for the historical church or traditional church or formal or modern or liberal or conservative church. Mega or mini isn’t the issue. It’s church. It’s a place to gather. They go, and often find themselves fitting in somewhere.
The churches to which they attach can be quite different but there are basic qualities that should be evident wherever they land. This post lists several.
The following ideas are taken from Matthew 18:15-25 which you can read here.
They Should Find Fellowship
Whatever church may or may not be, it is at least a place where Christians fellowship. The need for fellowship is human. It’s in our DNA. It’s so natural it requires no regulation or instruction.
It’s the birds-of-a-feather principle and flocking for Christians usually happens at Church.
This has nothing to do with technicalities. If there was no theology shaping our understanding of church, if there was no Bible telling us about church, Christians would still be drawn together for fellowship.
People don’t go to church primarily because they are taught to do so. They are drawn to church. It is the natural response of one heart seeking out other like minded hearts.
They Should Expect Growth
Where TWO or THREE are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matt. 18:20)
Jesus wasn’t endorsing small churches or denigrating large ones. He was giving us the starting point.
The parables of Jesus emphasized growth not size (Matthew 13):
- The Sower
- The Wheat And The Tares
- The Mustard Seed
- The Leaven
The church can start at any size, even with just two, but should never expect to stay that way.
They Should Expect To Find God
Church is the geographical touch point for God. We should expect to find Him in church. It is the one organization in which Jesus said He would actively participate.
There am I in the midst of you.
The church is not just a Godly organization like Chic-fil-A. One is a godly business, the other is God’s business.
When Jesus stressed His involvement in the church, He was emphasizing ownership not omnipresence. Church is His business and He is personally involved.
It is the place where God things should happen and where God’s people should work together, with God.
They Should Expect To Find Church Easily Accessible
The phrase touch point usually applies to businesses like grocery stores or clothing stores. Any place goods can be purchased or business conducted is a touch point.
A small business may have only one touch point. Major brands will have many, but whether small or large, touch points succeed when conveniently located to attract large numbers of people.
It goes without saying that each church should be just as accessible, just as welcoming, just as interesting and just as innovative as any commercial business, and maybe on the odd occasion just as controversial as Jesus was.
They Should Expect To Find Simplicity
Organized worship is not a new invention and Cain and Abel are proof. They participated in the first recorded organized worship service.
At the appointed time they brought offerings. (Genesis 4)
The pattern they started, which they no doubt learned from the first parents, was followed until the time of Jesus.
Worship has never been easy but history shows that it has at times been quite involved. Since check writing and paper money became common only in recent history, bringing an offering to church meant heaving a lot of stuff.
And once you offered your goods at church, the work wasn’t finished. The materials were then prepared as a shared meal. There was no such thing as quickie worship.
We don’t know all the details but we do know that it started early and required a big effort.
When the law was given, worship became even heavier. Every detail was prescribed: the place, the building structure, the implements, the materials used, the clothes worn, the colors, the procedures, the timing and even the leaders.
But when Jesus arrived all that changed. Worship still involves a place, an organized effort (work) and an offering but all the clutter fell away. The place can be anywhere. The buildings can be any style. Jesus uncluttered worship. It’s easier for us today. It’s simple.
They Expect To Find Shared Authority
Authority resides at every level in a church.
Church does have a hierarchy but it’s not what you think. Everyone is on the bottom. Everyone is a servant.
That doesn’t mean that those on the top rungs of the ladder are more of a servant than anyone else. It means their servanthood should be more pronounced, more obvious.
The point is, We don’t need permission to act in a godly manner and Jesus is the one who said so.
If your brother trespasses against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.
He was talking about church. He was addressing the idea of solving problems. That’s what healthy organizations do best, solve problems. We all have them. Learning to solve them is one evidence of growth.
Solving problems in church, according to Jesus, doesn’t require us to navigate long winding channels. We don’t have to ask permission.
He taught that one person, on any level, can address a problem with any other person, on any other rung – up or down – in the organization.
We should take the shorter rather than the longer route to solving personal problems and that rule should apply to organizational hiccups also.
But we have to be careful here. Jesus is not telling we have to get in someone face every time our feelings get hurt. We can use good sense. Every problem doesn’t require a confrontation.
In fact, later in the New Testament Peter says “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
His point was that no one is perfect and it isn’t our job or goal to make them so. We can overlook many aggravations, but on the odd occasion when something does become intolerable, the inconvenienced person can and must approach the source of their pain personally. Sharing it with everyone else is not a solution.
You may need to occasionally vent but remember that venting is like vomiting, only with words. Make sure you vent where no one can hear or in the hearing of a friend you trust to let the issue die when the venting is done.
They Should Expect Imperfection
Church is not a synonym for perfection.
The human factor in any church is very large. You don’t have a church without it. Sometimes the humans are like the forest that doesn’t allow anyone to see the God tree.
And each one is imperfect. It’s inevitable that those imperfections will bleed through to the organization. Don’t go to church expecting everything to be perfect.
They Should Expect To Find A Clearly Stated Purpose
The Bible doesn’t give us a structure. No order of service is outlined. We aren’t told how often to meet or where. We aren’t told to meet in a house or on the street or in a building designed specifically for that purpose.
The answers to some of these questions are implied but never stated as commands. Versatility is the rule.
Many of these details are left to our good sense.
But Jesus did give us a purpose, which stated briefly is:
Go into all the world and preach (proclaim) the Gospel to every creature. Mark 16:15
And He made that point more than once. He also said:
As my Father sent me, so send I you. John 20:21
The church is to be world reaching and Gospel proclaiming. That is the purpose.
The only thing thing required in Matthew 18 is orderliness. We have meetings, we make decisions. When issues arise we deal with them in a structured and fair way.
Whatever structure we assume, whatever shape we take, should be efficient, consistent and true to our purpose.