About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Church - An Extracurricular Activity?


I suppose I first heard the word "extracurricular" in September, 1966, when I entered grade 9.  Any involvement in school activities that occurred outside of regular school hours, like being on the football team, was considered extracurricular.  They were not part of the mandatory curriculum.


Our western-world has progressively become more complex since 1966.  Multitudes of various activities now compete for our participation, many of which I consider to be extracurricular.  They have little value to the vital issues of life.  It appears to me that one of these competing interests in North America, is church.        


Despite the common consensus of today's church, the New Testament states that church is the community of people belonging to Jesus and to each other.  That being the case, church should be central to a Christian's life.  Of course, that assumes our churches are churches as defined in New Testament terms, and that's a big assumption.  An unbiblical church actually adds to church being a non-essential activity.  When church is identified more with our corporate business world than the community of believers belonging to Jesus and to each other, it's easy to view church as just another competing, extracurricular activity in which to participate.     


1 Corinthians 12:13 tells us that the true believer has been baptized or immersed by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ.  As Christians, then, we have been immersed into the lives of people whom Jesus has placed us alongside in His present-day body, the community of Jesus, the family of God, the church.     


The New Testament view of church stems from the Old Testament, where the Jews, the community of God, were considered a church.  I say that because the Greek word "ekklesia" that is translated into the English New Testament as "church" appears in the Greek, not Hebrew, Old Testament in reference to the Jews.  The Jewish community was, in one sense of the word, a church.  Old Testament, God-fearing Jews, lived their lives within the community of God's people.  They were a sacred community, from which all aspects of life were rooted.  The community provided all that was necessary for the Jews to exist.  Social, religious, and legal elements of life were found in the community, the church.  For the Jews of old, church was not an extracurricular activity.  It was who they were.   It was primary to their existence, and once the community began to fragment into various competing components, both community and their very identity was lost.    


When thinking of the Jews as church, Jesus told His Jewish disciples that He would built His own church (Matthew 16:18).  Jesus' Jewish disciples would have naturally understood Jesus' church to be the community of people belonging to Jesus and to each other.  It would be where all aspects of their lives would emanate.   Church would be central to their existence.  Church would help form their new identity in Christ.  


Before we view church as being a legal corporate identity, we must view church as the community of people belonging to Jesus and to each other, with the emphasis on the word "belonging."  When we live in supportive functional relationships with those to whom we belong in the community of Christ, all that is vital for life is found in these relationships.  We function together in service to Jesus and to each other.  If this is your experience, you will agree with me; church is not an extracurricular activity. 


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