About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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The Gospel Of Jesus Or The Gospel Of The Church?

Jesus changed the lives of thousands of young people in the 1960ís and early 1970ís. I donít know if Jesus had a name for what He did, but that doesnít matter, we named it for Him. as we always do. We called it the "Jesus People Movement". Actually, I like the name. It states clearly who we were. There are many Christians going strong today because of what Jesus did for them back then, and Iím one of them.

This movement spread to our small city of Belleville, Ontario, Canada where I found myself right in the midst of things. I could tell many stories about those days. Someday Iíll tell you how I got kicked in the head while witnessing. I literally flew over a table in our local Jesus coffee house, landing on the floor, only to be kicked again. Great days they were.

One thing I liked about those days was that our priority was to preach, teach, talk about, and demonstrate our Lord Jesus Christ in whatever way we could. It was all about Jesus and not about us.

Half way through the 1970ís the Charismatic Movement, of which the Jesus People Movement was part of, split into a few different directions. This is something else we like doing, that is splitting into different directions. One of these directions was called the Shepherding Movement. Donít we love our nametags. One basic tenet of this movement was to encourage all those involved to be shepherds, (or pastors Ė same thing) who would care for others "under them". We seem to like putting people "under us". Maybe it makes us feel important. This movement also came to our small city and I found myself right in the midst of it as well.

I gave myself to this movement although there were things I did not agree with. One thing I didnít agree with was the idea that we all needed to shepherd others. A close look at the New Testament tells us that not all Christians are to be shepherds or pastors Ė two different words for the same job. There were many trying to shepherd people who had no right to do so because that was not their calling. As a result they did more harm than good. Iíve got some stories about that too. Maybe some day Iíll tell you about the time I got rebuked by my shepherd for not buying him some milk.

Anyway, one big difference between the Jesus People Movement and the Shepherding Movement from my perspective was that we preached, spoke and song about Jesus in the Jesus People Movement. Not so in the Shepherding Movement, at least as I saw it. In the Shepherding Movement we preached "our style of doing church". I actually found myself witnessing to non-Christians about our church structure, as if our church could save them. I wasnít the only guilty one on this count. I know others that would confess the same sin. I could tell you their names, but confessing other peopleís sins isnít really a New Testament practice.

This leads me to the point of my article. After seriously studying the Apostle Paul for a couple years straight, I donít think Paulís gospel was a gospel of church. Let me say it clearly. Paul would not be a fan of the Church Growth Movement, or so I believe. Paulís motivation in life was not to build the church, but to spread the news of Jesus crucified, risen, and ascended into Heaven as Lord. Paul was more interested in bringing people to Jesus than promoting a certain brand of church life.

I believe today we need the same emphasis that Paul had. I donít think we have his emphases for the most part in our society. We tend to be church builders instead of soul savers. We are more interested in promoting and growing our version of church life than bringing people to Jesus through His gospel. I think of this in computer terms. We look for the newest version of church growth Ė Church Growth, version 4.2 Ė download from the web or buy the CD version.

Yes, Paul had lots to say about the church, and Iíd wish weíd listen to him on those points too, but that was secondary. If there were sufficient people getting saved in a certain locality heíd appoint elders (shepherds/pastors) to care for these people. The elders werenít there to grow the church but help the individuals in the church to grow. They didnít have people under them. They walk alongside those they served and cared for.

I say amen to those in the Jesus People Movement, and those like them today who promote Jesus over their brand of church life. In light of this, we might want to rethink what the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is all about. Do we promote and spend our efforts on the gospel of Jesus, or the gospel of our church?

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