“The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If– CS Lewis
they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are
simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose.”
When Peter gave the great confession in Matthew 16:18 Jesus replied with only one of two times he mentions the word “church” – that upon the confession and truthfulness of Jesus’ Lordship that He would build His church.
What kind of church was/is Jesus building?
What kind of churches are being built today?
Are they the same thing?
First, church comes from the Greek word ekklesia, which is a group of assembled people. Of course, Jesus didn’t speak Greek. He spoke Aramaic. If He had used the Hebrew word it would have been Qahal which is also a reference to a group of people.
If you want to know what kind of church is being built you need to know what kind of people are being built. If you want to know what kind of people Jesus is building you look to Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit to transform us more and more into Christ’s likeness. The process where that transformation takes place is discipleship – learning the ways of Jesus to be identified with Jesus and be made more and more like Jesus with the Spirit’s help.
How have we traditionally defined “church”? I have lots of opinions on that but I will keep them to myself in this particular article. I will let you ponder that for yourself.
Have we identified church with the spiritual development and maturation of those who assemble? If not, why not? Why is it that some of the most “mature” among us are often not very Christ-like…have a faith that could be blown over by a gentle wind…because we defined church in a way that allowed that to happen. This person, like most of us, has had zero accountability in their life with little to no actual expectation to grow in their faith formation and spiritual character maturation to be “more like Jesus” rather than to “know like Jesus” (doctrine) which often meant “know like Paul”.
What gives us our identity as the gathered people of God is Jesus himself. What unites us even in the midst of our diverse opinions is the Holy Spirit. What keeps us moving in the same direction is our mission and marching orders in the Great Commission. And as we live into that mission the assembled people of God deepen in faith and maturity, together.
We need to spend more time considering what kind of disciples we are producing and the character and maturity of those disciples. If your church is composed of immature Christians who have been through thousands of Bible classes, shouldn’t we ask ourselves how that ever happened?
What kind of gospel have we accepted that results in the production of perpetually immature disciples?
Disciples are not adequately produced because you followed the pattern. Disciples need to be instructed in the ways of Jesus. They must be mentored…walked along side…not invited to hundreds of passive studies with zero follow through and no accountability.
What is more, mature disciples are reproducing disciples. If the disciples we are producing are not active and involved in what Jesus instructed then we aren’t doing our job. If we think our job is to get people to worship correctly on Sunday and that is what pleases God, then we aren’t doing our job.
We need to take a close look at the fruit of our labor. It needs to be inspected. Paul wrote this in 1 Cor 3:10-15,
“10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.”
What will happen when our work is tested? What will be revealed? What will happen when the churches we started are tested? The disciples we made are tested? Will they be found lacking or will they be found mature in their faith? These are serious matters!