The (Early) Church is Dying…..

A couple of weeks ago I was talking to my friend, Bob, about a FABULOUS ministry they have at their church called “The Church Has Left the Building” (This is part of an “article” Bob wrote for his local newspaper about “The Church Has Left the Building”)….

“The Church is not a building – it’s people!” With this thought firmly in their minds, the members of CCC went out to serve the community…This day was appropriately named, “The Church Has Left the Building.” CCC chose five areas outside their building for service….Church members gathered at the CCC building at 9:00AM for a very brief time of worship, then left the building at 9:30AM in work groups to serve. Pastor Bob…encouraged the church family before they left by saying, “Today is the kind of day that I believe Jesus would trade his robe for a flannel shirt and jeans.” CCC had its first “Church Has the Left the Building” event on October 2008, right after that year’s devastating flood, and has held similar events for the past five years.

I participated in “The Church Has Left the Building” very shortly after I visited CCC for the first time. I knew NO ONE!! I remember how nervous I was…..I remember how “out of place” I felt and yet….THIS was supposed to be what “church” was all about–not the building, not the preacher, not the music, not your appearance, but being with people, BEING THE CHURCH, and gasp, actually “skipping” church to do it (we’ve Americanized and modernized church so much that I think we’ve water-downed the mission of what the original church was supposed to be about).

After that conversation I found an article (via FB). The only reason why I read the article was because of the title “The Church is Dying and I Am Glad.” Well, it turns out I didn’t even like the article, but…..it made me think. (And when I think, I blog). And besides, I shared the article with Bob and he said, “I also ‘get’ what he’s trying to say…..but your blogs do a much better job of stating the truths that need to be said….honest.” So, of course, the challenge was presented to me to write a better blog. 🙂

If you clicked and read the article, then you know what I’m going to reference to. If not, then I’ll give you “bits and pieces” of it here.

Some people say that the church is dying, and maybe they’re right. They say that the church doesn’t have the political sway it used to, that the culture has shifted, that being a Christian doesn’t have the same social advantages that it used to. They say that the bandwagon has stopped carrying us and started running us over. They say that our generation is abandoning the pews. And I am glad.

  • If “church” is conservative politics, friends in high places, and legislated morality, let it die.
  • If “church” is cultural clout and social standing, let it die.
  • If “church” is full parking lots on Sunday mornings, let it die.

This is the only part of the article really worth sharing. I “get” what the writer is saying….but, I would add my own twist to it.

  • If “church” is arguing over the temperature of your Sunday School room, let it die.
  • If “church” is worrying about what a person wears to church, let it die.
  • If “church” is only confined to the 4 walls of a building, let it die.
  • If “church” is worrying about money and budget cuts, let it die.
  • If “church” is about worship wars, let it die.
  • If “church” is about what a new plant looks like in one of the rooms, let it die.

As I said before, I think we, as Christians, have, unfortunately, Americanized and modernized the church and have really done the “early church” a disservice. I think we’re missing the WHOLE POINT of what God has called the “church” to be.

The three distinguishing marks of the early church were: separation from the world, unconditional love, and childlike obedience to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Those can pretty much be summed up in three Bible verses.

  • Separation from the world

1 John 2:15-17Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”

  • Unconditional Love

1 John 4:16 “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.”

  • Childlike obedience to the teachings of Jesus Christ

Mark 10:13-16One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him.When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, ‘Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.’Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.”

But….somewhere along the way we turned the “church” into 1.) politics, 2.) arguments, 3.) budget woes, 4.) worship wars, 5.) “she doesn’t do it my way, so I’m leaving” attitudes and 6.) success is only based on high numbers.

And we wonder why the “church” is dying…..

Many of us live our lives no differently than non-Christians do, except for the fact that we attend church regularly each week. We watch the same entertainment. We share the same concerns about the problems of this world. And we are frequently just as involved in the world’s commercial and materialistic pursuits. Often, our being “not of this world” exists in theory more than in practice.

But the church was not originally like that. The first Christians lived under a completely different set of principles and values than the rest of mankind. They rejected the world’s entertainment, honors, and riches. They were already citizens of another kingdom and were merely patiently waiting until the Lord’s work was done here on Earth.

Because the Earth wasn’t their home, the early Christians could say without reservation, like Paul, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21)

At our wedding we had this quote read (by Tertullian, a prolific early Christian author who has been known as “the father of Latin Christianity and “the founder of Western theology.”)

“How beautiful, then, the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in home, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice…Nothing divides them either in flesh or in spirit…They pray together, they worship together, they fast together; instructing one another, encouraging one another, strengthening one another. Side by side they visit God’s church and partake God’s banquet, side by side they face difficulties and persecution, share their consolations. They have no secrets from one another; they never shun each other’s company; they never bring sorrow to each other’s hearts….Seeing this Christ rejoices. To such as these He gives His peace. Where there are two together, there also He is present.”

I think it’s such a beautiful representation of a bride and her lover. And, as depicted in Ephesians 5:25-27 and Revelation 19:7-9, the “church” is the Bride of Christ.

When speaking of unconditional love, the love of the early Christians wasn’t limited simply to their fellow believers. Christians also lovingly helped non-believers: the poor, the orphans, the elderly, the sick, the shipwrecked—even their persecutors. Jesus had said, “Love your enemies … and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). The early Christians accepted this statement as a command from their Lord, rather than an ideal that couldn’t be actually practiced in real life.

The love they practiced drew the attention of the world, just as Jesus said it would—and should still do today. (And, as Bob said, “Today is the kind of day that I believe Jesus would trade his robe for a flannel shirt and jeans”). For us, everyday should be that way. We should want to get down and dirty….to love others. To invest in others’ lives. To forgo all the “he said/she said” CRAP that divides churches everyday and to really love.

The question could be asked, “When did Jesus become Lord and Savior of your life?”

I can tell you the date I became a believer.

July 12, 1993.

But that “date” doesn’t mean a thing if I can’t live in the knowledge that my life should be different because of Christ’s love and sacrifice for us.

To the early Christian, trusting God meant more than a teary-eyed testimony about “the time I came to trust the Lord.” It meant believing that even if obedience to God entailed great suffering, God was trustworthy to bring a person through it.

Because of the “early church” and what it did for us, as believers, I want to live as the early Christians did. I want to believe as the early Christians did. I want to love as the early Christians did. I want to have faith like the early Christians did. So….maybe one day, our generation will say, “We will not let the (early) Church die.”

Some people say that the church is dying, and maybe they’re right.

They say that the church doesn’t have the political sway it used to, that the culture has shifted, that being a Christian doesn’t have the same social advantages that it used to.

They say that the bandwagon has stopped carrying us and started running us over. They say that our generation is abandoning the pews.

And I am glad.

If “church” is conservative politics, friends in high places, and legislated morality, let it die.

If “church” is cultural clout and social standing, let it die.

If “church” is full parking lots on Sunday mornings, let it die.

– See more at: http://redemptionpictures.com/2013/11/06/church-is-dying/#sthash.JuCzdK4v.dpuf

Some people say that the church is dying, and maybe they’re right.

They say that the church doesn’t have the political sway it used to, that the culture has shifted, that being a Christian doesn’t have the same social advantages that it used to.

They say that the bandwagon has stopped carrying us and started running us over. They say that our generation is abandoning the pews.

And I am glad.

If “church” is conservative politics, friends in high places, and legislated morality, let it die.

If “church” is cultural clout and social standing, let it die.

If “church” is full parking lots on Sunday mornings, let it die.

– See more at: http://redemptionpictures.com/2013/11/06/church-is-dying/#sthash.JuCzdK4v.dpuf

Some people say that the church is dying, and maybe they’re right.

They say that the church doesn’t have the political sway it used to, that the culture has shifted, that being a Christian doesn’t have the same social advantages that it used to.

They say that the bandwagon has stopped carrying us and started running us over. They say that our generation is abandoning the pews.

And I am glad.

If “church” is conservative politics, friends in high places, and legislated morality, let it die.

If “church” is cultural clout and social standing, let it die.

If “church” is full parking lots on Sunday mornings, let it die.

– See more at: http://redemptionpictures.com/2013/11/06/church-is-dying/#sthash.JuCzdK4v.dpuf

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One thought on “The (Early) Church is Dying…..

  1. Pingback: Year in Review | Finding Refuge

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