I have been in many churches that say they are following Jesus.
They talk about reading the Bible, following what “The Word” says concerning what to eat, drink, wear. They take pride in their moral purity, their adherence to the doctrines and theologies of their particular denomination. They talk about the importance of having a “quiet time”, of serving in the church, of attending services so as not to “forsake the assembling of believers”, and of course the ultimate need to tithe so God will bring overflowing blessing.
In addition some of these churches ‘humbly boast” of how relevant they are, and how they stay on top of culture with the latest technological toys, having the best worship, and multiple programs to meet the needs of their congregants. Then they move out of the cities, into middle/upper class suburban neighborhoods and build larger structures in order to house the overflow of new attendees. Their sheer size indicates to them the blessing of God on their ministries.
Other churches become the arm of a political party and claim that God has anointed them to save America by creating organizations that seek to push particular religious agendas upon all Americans such as prayer, Bible reading, and teaching creationism in schools. to protecting the “Biblical family” from the gay agenda. As these organizations grow and need more money they resort to sending out letters meant to terrify white, middle class “biblical believers” into contributing millions of dollars a year to “fight evil”.
But where is Jesus? Is the above what He envisions for His bride?
In this new year, take a critical look at the church you attend. What is the focus. Is your church more concerned about being right, moral, self-righteous? Or is your church “doing” what Jesus said to do? Is your church living out the Gospel in tangible ways in the community God placed it.
I know of a church that has been without a pastor for several years now.This church is in a community that is full for people with real needs, from struggling single mothers to families living in poverty, to drug/alcohol issues. So what seems to be the main concerns in their pastoral search? How the pastor feels about drinking alcohol, his views on eschatology, and whether or not his theology mirrors their own particular view. In the meantime this church loses members, and has minimal impact on the surrounding community. I know many wonderful people there, yet they are stymied by a board trapped in a 1950’s mindset. It is very sad. Yet they claim to follow Jesus.
For this church and all churches the question remains, is your church following Jesus? Does your church, in a real and practical way…
reach out to the poor and needy in your community,
seek to lift up those in your community suffering from physical problems or mental health issues,
help to bring change to the educational/economical/social systems in your community that keep people trapped in illiteracy and poverty,
focus on standing against the gender and racial biases and hatred that exist within your community.
take a stand against those in your community that seek to discriminate against the aged, those release from prison, and LGBT individuals,
and finally does your church take an active role in protecting and enhancing God’s creation in your community?
These things are not separate from the Gospel of Jesus. The redemption He accomplished through the cross and His resurrection was not just to save souls for Heaven, but to bring the Kingdom of God to earth and heal and restore all the things that sin had tarnished, and broken from our relationship with God to destruction of the environment.
And we all, if we call ourselves “Christian” have a vital role to play in seeing His Kingdom come to earth as it is in Heaven.