Intro: Paul did a great job last weekend in Pt. 3 talking about what it means to “be churched”- IF more people are to consider being “churched” a good thing, then we need to redeem and restore our credibility with our culture- 125 million now disconnected…
How do we do that? We start by asking and correctly answering 2 basic questions.
What is the Church? and Who is the Church for?
Andy Stanley, in his book, “Deep and Wide”, suggests that, “The disconnect between the answers we give to these two questions and the approaches we adopt often creates the tensions we experience.” In other words, we all feel the constant stress of “Are we WHAT the CHURCH is supposed to be??”
Before we answer “WHAT” we must ask a couple “WHO” questions in order to put the WHAT into perspective- 2 questions with profound applications!
#1- “Who do the CROWDS say I am?” Jesus asks this question in Matt. 16:13. This is a critical question! Because if we’re not certain about WHO JESUS is then WHAT the church is about gets way off center! In answer to the question, the disciples indicated that the “crowds” had varying opinions about who Jesus was- a teacher, great leader, a prophet, etc. No different today…
Who does the culture, our communities, etc. say Jesus is? In Phil. 1:11 Paul says our job is to “make Jesus attractive to all!” IS HE? What the crowd, the culture thinks about Jesus is a great assessment of whether or not “what” the church is supposed to be is working or not!
Jesus probably asked this question for two primary reasons: 1) To get a measurement of how his message and ministry was going, and 2) To make the disciples have to consider it; to bring the focus back to WHO Jesus is and WHAT his purpose is!
“Do people know WHO Jesus is by WHAT GCC, by what you are about?”
#2- Who do YOU say I am? “Okay, that’s who the crowd says I am, but what about you? Do you know who I really am and what I came to accomplish?” You can read about this is Matt. 16:13-19. This is absolutely the most crucial, fundamental element to the Church’s existence-
Practically- “WHO we say Jesus is determines WHAT the Church is all about!”
WHAT IS THE CHURCH? We are People (ekklesia) not a Place (kirche)!
Paul talked a little about this last week in Pt. 3 but it’s worth repeating. We tend to think “The Church” is a building, a weekend event, maybe a waste of a good 2 hours on Sunday! We’ve lost sight of WHAT the CHURCH really is…
IT’S PEOPLE– more specifically, at its inception, a merry bad of misfits following a Messiah to his death, resurrection, and then seeing the Church explode in multiplication as they stayed very intentionally focused on Jesus’ message and mission!
Jesus introduces the term “church” in Matt. 16 using the word “ecclesia” which is NOT a religious term at all! As a matter of fact, it could refer to citizens called to gather for civic purposes. It was used to refer to soldiers called out to gather for military purposes. “Ecclesia” was simply a gathering or an assembly of people called out for a specific purpose– it never referred to a “specific place”, only a specific gathering.
But regrettably, when Christianity was legalized by Constantine in AD 313, “Church” became all about an “assembly hall” instead of an “assembly!” The Romans inserted the word basilica and the Germans made it kirche (house of the Lord) and as Stanley states, the “church went from a movement to a meeting place!”
WHAT IS THE CHURCH? We are a Movement of People not a Meeting of People!
The true CHURCH has always been a very messy movement of people with a very focused message and very intentional global mission! But over the years the emphasis went from “people on the move” to “people at a meeting!”
History reveals that as the church became legalized it became organized- so much so it became institutionalized! Is it good and healthy for us to meet together? Sure, the Bible says we should do that. But only as it relates to our moving out to be the revelation of Jesus to those we encounter daily and “making him attractive to all!”
That’s the practical application for all of us! What matters is that we are making Jesus attractive among the people we each have personal access to as we move/live in our sphere of missional influence!
People on the move can have multiplied influence, but people at a meeting are limited to those in attendance!
WHAT IS THE CHURCH? We are People Serving our Community not People Conducting Services!
Sure, we need to have weekend gatherings. Jesus practiced this by consistently going to the Temple on the Sabbath; and the NT Church was faithful to meet in synagogues, and as they grew, in homes. We need to gather regularly for the primary purpose of continually rallying around and growing in our message and mission.
But more importantly the church needs to be known and seen as people serving the communities we live and exist in! This is a key way we will restore our credibility! The unchurched and unconnected believe we just talk social justice and humanitarian service; and for the most part, they’re right! So, they see “Jesus” as a great preacher not a great practitioner!
Let’s be known more for service than services! That’s WHO Jesus is and WHAT his church is all about! This has always been the “message” and the “mission”- to serve others! The NT Church was awesome at it initially!
Imagine if WHAT GCC is, was defined by WHO we are serving in this greater Denver area?? (Proud of our students.)
WHAT IS THE CHURCH? We are People Organized Around a Mission not People with an Antiquated Ministry Model!
If you’ve been around church much maybe you’ve heard this statement: The message never changes but the methods must! The problem is we don’t take that very seriously! We are too in love with the great ideas, systems, etc. from 30-40 years ago that only further disconnect our culture and discredit our churches!
If we want to be on mission then Jesus dictates the “message” but the culture determines the “methods!” The assessment must always be: “Are we reaching people? Are we making a difference? Are we being productive at the mission of Jesus in our world, our culture?” This is the only metrics for measuring our success! To organize around anything else is to fail!
Our greatest disservice to God and to our culture is to discredit the message of Christ by attempting to distribute it with antiquated, outdated, irrelevant methods! To me, irrelevance IS irreverence!
IF we can’t CONNECT then we can’t COMMUNICATE!
Paul said this: “…for God has given me this sacred trust… It is the opportunity to preach the Good News… I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.” (1 Cor. 9:18-23).
Practically that means we/you do whatever it takes without sin to reach people! We have one message yet it takes a diversity of methods, diversity of ministers, because the mission field is diverse, making Jesus attractive to all!
WHAT IS THE CHURCH? We are People Resourcing to Reach People not People Budgeting to Build Programs!
IS THE CHURCH FOR PEOPLE? Who gets to participate? What are the requirements to be a member? How good do people have to be? How good do they need to be once their in? Do we make it as difficult as possible for people to be a part of the church or do we simply promote that the bottom line is to “love God and love others?”
These are questions we’ll answer more specifically in Pt. 5. But for now, we need to understand that reaching people; specifically the unchurched and the unconnected was Jesus’ primary purpose, was WHAT the NT Church prioritized, and WHAT GCC and you must be all about!
At the beginning of the Church, the Church Jesus said he would build, the purpose was stated loud and clear: Jesus said, “I’m authorizing you, in my name, to go and make disciples of all nations (focus), baptize them (fellowship), teach them (spiritual formation), and I’ll be with you (favor)!” (Mt. 28:18-20).
Instead, what is the church today? Buildings and budgets to have programs for the people already in the buildings! It’s no wonder that 125 million people and growing are currently unchurched and unconnected from the church!
But what if we said: Let’s be a church unchurched people would love to be a part of! How does that work? Well, more on that in Pt. 5 but consider this: A lot of people not like Jesus loved to be around Jesus! Think about that!
To summarize- What is GCC? GCC is a people movement organized for and resourcing a mission to connect with unconnected people in the greater Denver area through a credible and practical demonstration of the Gospel!
Practically ask and answer: “What do you think the church is?” Work through your notes from this weekend, chew on it in your life groups, and let’s be WHAT Jesus has already decided His Church will be about!