About Jesus   Steve Sweetman

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Where Do We Go From Here Part 3


The Reformation of the 1500's was a reaction to an oppressive Catholicism that stifled individual thought and creativity.  Church kept individuals in a darkened state of ignorance.  They were denied Bibles because they were considered too stupid to read one.  A brutal religious regime forced individuals to submit to church doctrine, practice, and politics.  Reformers certainly had their flaws, but the steps they took towards individual freedom to think laid the foundation for what the western world has become.  Nations that embraced the Reformation have excelled in areas such as law, education, finance, science, and government.  When the individual is free to excel a nation is free to excel.    


The influence of Biblical thought that the Reformation and subsequent Christian movements brought to western culture has blessed church with the freedom to express itself as it has seen fit.  Some expressions of church have been good; others not so good.  Whatever the case, church has been blessed, but church tends to turn blessings that were meant to serve Jesus into blessings that serve church.  We're often preoccupied with the blessings of the Lord instead of the Lord of the blessings. We differ little from the Laodicean church of Revelation 3, and we know its fate.  This leads me to the next step church must take in the days ahead.    


When church adores itself more than Jesus, church must repent.  Jesus often uses an oppressive anti-Christ culture to bring church to its knees.  The western church is entering an era of purification.  It's being pressured to conform to our anti-Christ culture's demands or else cease to exist in its present form.  In Canada, some para church groups and individuals have been tried, convicted, and sentenced to sensitivity classes to be deprogrammed and indoctrinated in the secular doctrine of tolerance. 


Will we cave into the demands to become a culturally correct church or will we be the counter culture church Jesus spoke of in Matthew 16:18?  When Jesus said "I will build my church", the words "my church" are in direct contrast to the Jewish apostate church of the day.  This is why I call Jesus' church a counter culture church.             


We don't have to look far to see what a counter culture church looks like.  We see one in Iran right now.  We've seen one in China for years.  It's a body of Spirit filled disciples of Jesus who are networked together, not by ecclesiastical structures and doctrinal statements, but by the Holy Spirit's joining of one individual to another individual.  It's this joining of individual disciples that provides the basis for mutual support and ministry.  Fellowship and ministry should emanate from personal relationships in the living Body of Christ, not from a highly structured hierarchy.  As we used to say in the 1970's, church is an organism not an organization.  So, when the individual is given the freedom to excel alongside others, church excels.   


In 1978 I posed this question to a Pentecostal church in a Sunday message.  "If this building and the regularly scheduled meetings held in this building were taken from you, would you still have a church"?   This question is more  relevant today than it was back then.  When the visible expression of church as we've come to know it is taken from us, will you have a place of mutual support and ministry?  Many of us are so dependent on the traditional church providing fellowship and ministry on our behalf that when the traditional church no longer exists, many will have neither fellowship nor ministry. 


I think we misunderstand Jesus when He said "I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it".  Jesus wasn't guaranteeing the survival of any particular expression of church.  Both the Bible and history shows us that any given expression of church can come and go.  Matthew 16:18 is a prophetic proclamation of a vibrant movement of people who are networked together under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ who stands in stark contrast to the culture of any given society.  If there is no contrast, there is no church.


Our western culture is rapidly moving away from any Judeo Christian influence it once had.  This isn't likely to change.  I actually believe the present anti-Christian sentiment is God's will.  Therefore, we must respond to God's will in God's way.  Like the reformers, we must choose Christ over culture.  Like Christians in China , we must choose Jesus' counter culture church over the culturally correct church.  Like Christians in Iran, we must become a movement of networked disciples spread across the land under the leadership of Jesus.  Like the Apostle Peter, we must obey God rather than man. (Acts 5:29)  Like Jesus Himself, we must accept the consequences of choosing God's culture over man's culture, and there will be consequences. 


I'm not proposing a leaderless church.  Church structure should be based on personal and functional relationships instead of an impersonal ecclesiastical hierarchy.  I'm also not being critical, negative, or lacking in faith that Jesus can't build His church.  I'm being realistic, practical, and most of all Biblical.  I'm anticipating our future.  I'm joining others in preparing the way for Jesus' return by proclaiming repentance and the coming of the Kingdom of God .   


We can't afford to be ignorant in this matter.  In light of our future, the next step church must take is to change our present mindset about church.  We must begin to view church as a counter culture movement, a body of believers, where individual relationships form the basis for both mutual support and the specific work Jesus would have these relationships do.  Together we must form a network of disciples who stand in stark contrast to the culture of our day.  We must prepare ourselves for the day when the outward trappings of what we call church will be taken from us.  Finally, we must be willing to accept the unpleasant consequences of being Jesus' counter culture  church. When it's all said and done, Jesus will have His church.  There's no doubt about that.


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