I spoke with a woman the other day who told me of becoming a part of a rural church when she was a teenager. She told me how they loved her and accepted her. She went on to say, "To this day, these are the most wonderful people. When we went through a difficult experience with one of our children, these people loved us." At the same time, other people tell stories regarding church life that are not so positive.
Yet, if Jesus had a church, that church would focus on what God through Jesus was doing to change lives. Those of us who witness such change would have many great stories to tell.
Jesus had a way of changing a person's life. Yet, so often in the Gospels, the religious people would miss the point. Like in John 5, where Jesus heals a man who has been lame for 38 years. He heals him on the Sabbath. For the first time in 38 years, the guy is walking. Along come some religious people who stare. They stare, not at the legs that now function, but at the mat the man is carrying on the Sabbath. And--they get upset. They don't see the work of God while they focus on a mat in his hand.
Sometimes we get overly focused on matters that were foreign to the experience of the early church. We get worked up over matters were not a part of the experience of the earliest Christians. Think about what is familiar to contemporary Christians but which was absent among the eariest Christians:
• No building – auditorium, sanctuary, classrooms.
• No pews, no podium
• No water fountain, no air conditioning
• No organized, graded Bible classes (Sunday School)
• No committees
• No offices with desks, telephones, etc.
• No budget
• No computers
• No communion trays or collection plates
• No podium
• No hymnals or screens for Power Point
• No bulletin
• No order of worship
The list could go on and on... Are these things bad? No. Yet, it is possible to get so consumed by this stuff that we miss the work of God. We get wrapped up with "running the church" smoothly. Consequently we can spend hours in church committee meetings and the word "God" or "Jesus" may not even be mentioned. We miss seeing the lives that are being touched and changed by God while our time and energy are being consumed by the above.
Ultimately, being a Christian is all about relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It is to experience his life in the power of the Holy Spirit. Being a Christ follower is learning to treasure him more than houses, cars, careers, appearance, or having the latest toy. It is to believe that God is at work in me and in the church, the community of faith.
Until I hunger for that life, I will stay right where I am, wherever that might be. I will get focused on large or small church buildings, committees, and whatever-- while I miss what God is doing in the lives of ordinary people all around me.
If Jesus had a church, he would want his people to stay focused on what he is doing in real, everyday people. To miss what he is doing in our lives is to become focused on something other than Jesus.