About Jesus Steve Sweetman
was a well respected CEO of a corporation headquartered in Chicago.
In his mid 50's, his hair was streaked with gray, which gave him
the look of a man who was aging well, successful, and intelligent.
He was all three. Having
met with congressional leaders concerning
a pending deal with the Israeli government, he was now sitting in
Washington D. C.'s Reagan National Airport, heading for Atlanta Georgia.
wasn't just a successful businessman.
He was a fervent Christian, or, in his words, "a follower of
Jesus". Like many good
words, he felt the word "Christian" had long since lost its real
just exited his email account on his laptop when he turned around in
amazement. "Is that you
is Brian", replied John in unbelief.
"It's been 28 long years since our Bible college days".
getting re-acquainted the two men discovered they were on the same flight.
After a few flattering words to the ticket girl, they managed to
sit together. Once settled,
John asked the all important question that Christians seem to think they
need to know the answer to. "So
where do you go to church these days Brian"?
hesitated. He dreaded that
question. It implied such an
unscriptural concept of church. To
avoid an answer, Brian turned the question back to John.
"How about you John"?
I graduated from Bible college with a degree in pastoral studies.
Then I graduated from seminary with a master of theology degree.
Soon after I became a Baptist minister, that is until I got
interested in the gifts of the Spirit.
You know Brian, 1 Corinthians 12.
That was a problem with the church's board of directors and so I
was subsequently fired".
typical", Brian thought.
applied to be a Pentecostal pastor and got the job.
Five years later we had a big church split".
what's new", Brian muttered under his breath.
"Pastoring is a job, and splits grow the church, or so they
that point I lost half of my church and more importantly, I lost half of
my income. I then found a
preaching job in the Nazarene church but they were a bit too reserved for
my liking, so I left to start my own community church.
I answer to no one, and if need be, I'll fire the church before
they get to fire me. Now what
about you Brian? You do go to
church, don't you"?
was deep in thought. He didn't
attend a Sunday morning meeting and he knew that would be crucial to
John's thinking about church. Should
he avoid the question or try to answer it honestly at the risk of getting
dragged into a frustrating debate, or worse still, an agitating argument.
He made the plunge.
John, I know what you're asking. You
want to know what traditional church I'm affiliated with.
The problem with your question is that it presupposes an
unscriptural concept of church".
There, he said it. The
cat's out of the bag, so to speak. He
had to answer now.
you haven't forsaken the assembling together with the saints have you?
Doesn't the Bible say somewhere, "don't stop going to
cringed as he wondered how a seminary graduate could misquote the Bible so
badly. "You're thinking
of Hebrews 10:25. I know it by
heart. The NIV says, "let
us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but
let us encourage one another Ė and all the more as you see the Day
approaching." I donít
see the words 'going to church' anywhere in that verse John".
come on Brian. I know it
doesn't say those exact words, but that's what it means".
interesting", Brian thought. He's
not interested in knowing what the Bible 'exactly' says.
Mere generalities is close enough".
So, at the risk of being branded the newest heretic on the block
Brian replied, "no John, it doesn't mean that at all".
what do you think it means Brian"?
took a deep breath and wondered why he let himself get involved in this
conversation. "We've got a problem in the western church today.
Christians don't take the Bible seriously.
Then, when they do read it, they try to understand it through the
lens of our 21st century western cultural concepts.
The Bible was written centuries ago in cultural settings and
languages that few of us know or understand.
You can't impose your 21st century thinking into a 1st
century Greek New Testament, or an even older Hebrew Old Testament.
That does great damage to the text, and even more damage to your
understanding. No wonder we
have church all wrong. When we
read about church in the New Testament, we think in terms of our western
church that has been diluted with traditions and doctrines of men for
centuries. We need to get out of our head space and get into the head
space of the New Testament writers".
interrupted. "You think
I've got church all wrong Brian"?
10:25 was written to first century Jewish Christians John.
Put yourself in their shoes. They
were suffering great persecution for their association with Jesus.
The temptation was to avoid meeting together for fear of both the
civil and religious authorities. If
seen in groups they could be arrested
and killed. A gathering of the
saints back then was a serious matter, and despite the possible problems,
they were still encouraged to get together.
That's the cultural setting for Hebrews 10:25".
went on to say that Hebrews 10:25 was meant to encourage Jewish Christians
to meet together as Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 14.
The gathering was all about mutual support in the presence of
persecution. "And by the
way", Brian added, "1 Corinthians 14 probably looks nothing like
your Sunday morning meeting John".
a tone of voice that sounded more like pleading than anything else, Brian
continued. "John, those
people weren't gathering to be entertained by a well polished seminarian
and the latest contemporary Christian rock band.
The thought of 'going to church'' never entered their minds, and it
certainly wasn't a matter of routine because that's what Christians do on
Sundays. Those saints were in
bad need of support from each other. The
executioner could be on their doorstep.
The gatherings encouraged in Hebrews 10:25 was a matter of life and
death for those Christians, and it might be for us too as 'that Day
approaches'. Is that why you
and your congregation 'go to church' John?
Do you really think your meetings have any relevance to Hebrews
10:25 or 1 Corinthians 14"?
what 1 Corinthians 14 actually said, John replied somewhat nervously.
"Wow Brian. You've put me
on the spot here".
John. No, I take that back.
I'm not really sorry. The
New Testament is clear. It
doesn't speak of church in terms of 'going to church', and it's not a
matter of semantics as you suggest. Our
understanding of the Bible
determines how we live as Christians.
It's clear to me that how we're living shows we have little
understanding of Biblical truth. I
live and work in the rough and
tumble corporate world. I see
way too much of that world in the church.
Church is Bob and Judy being joined relationally to Joe and Ashley,
who in turn are joined to Justin and Sue, who in turn are joined to
Richard and Sarah, and on it goes. We're
bones in the 'literal' Body of Christ.
We've been joined together for mutual support while we work at
representing Jesus to a depraved world.
Hebrews 10:25 is speaking to you and I John.
It's telling us that as the Day of the Lord's return gets nearer,
which it is, we can no longer just sit in our pews and watch the
performance. We can no longer
just 'go to church'. There's
some pretty nasty stuff on the horizon, and being networked to a few
brothers in Jesus is no longer optional".
was now in sight. John's head
was swimming. He didn't
expect such a heavy duty commentary on one short verse.
All he wanted to know was where his old friend went to church, and
he still didn't know. The only
thing he thought to say as the two men departed was, "if you're still
in Atlanta this Sunday and you want 'to go to church', here's my business
Pastor, John McCabe, B.A., M.A.
of Blessings Community Church
21st century church for a 21st century people"
back, relax, and enjoy the experience