About Jesus Steve Sweetman
My Journey Through The Ecclesiastical Maze
Wants His Church Back
I believe the devaluation
of the Bible has played a major roll in the structuring
of church. This leads me to
what I think is the most fundamental question we should be asking.
How you answer this question will determine everything you think
and do concerning church. So
I ask, “is church evolutionary in nature, or should church be
patterned after what the New Testament teaches”?
The answer isn’t as obvious as you might think at first glance.
First of all, I will
explain the question to make sure you understand it.
I see two possible presuppositions concerning our thinking about
church. One is that it is
evolutionary in nature. This
means we believe church should evolve over time to best meet the needs
of any given generation and society. Therefore our churches today
don’t need to look like the church that the apostle Paul taught about
in the New Testament. If
this is so, we decide what church should look like.
There is no specific pattern to follow.
The second possible
presupposition is that we have no right to decide how church should be
structured because it doesn’t belong to us.
We’re only stewards of Jesus’ church.
This means that we pattern
church after what is clearly stated in Scripture.
If this is so, then for the most part, church is not evolutionary
in nature. The core concepts
shouldn’t evolve from one generation to the next, even though there
may be and evolutionary process in delivering and implementing Biblical
truth. Still, these are
secondary issues. For
example, pastors drive cars these days instead of
riding horses. The
fundamental concepts of church are constant, as God Himself is constant.
So what do you think?
Have you ever thought about church in this light before?
Should we pattern church after New Testament thinking, or should
we pattern it after what we think is best for the day and age in which
we live? This is the
question that needs to be answered.
I believe that many of us have not really thought this question
through. Therefore, by
default and without realizing it, the majority of Christians believe
church should evolve in all aspects over time, even though they claim
church should be Scripturally based.
At this point, their thinking and practice don’t coincide.
By now you can guess that
I believe we are to pattern church after what is taught in the New
Testament, and I say “what is taught’, not
“what was practiced”. There
is a difference between teaching and practice.
The church at Corinth
had problems with people getting drunk at their gatherings.
I don’t believe we want to follow their example, but we do want
to follow what Paul taught the Corinthian church.
The whole question boils
down to how we view the Bible. If
the Bible is God’s instruction guide for us, then all that He
instructs in it should be the pattern for living, and that includes
church. There’s no logic
in thinking that our practice concerning church should be excluded from
Biblical instruction. If we
believe church should evolve over time, then we must also believe that
every other Biblical teaching should evolve over time as well.
Actually, some people believe just that.
That’s why we have such things as homosexuals in leadership in
parts of the ecclesiastical maze. So
we can’t have it both ways at the same time.
Either all of life should be patterned after the Bible’s
instructions, or all of the Bible’s instructions are evolutionary in
Much of Biblical teaching
on church comes from the apostle Paul, yet before Paul was even a
Christian some things were taught on the subject. Jesus
mentions “church” in Matthew 16:18 when He said that He’d “build
His church”. Of course,
the word “church” is an English word.
The original text uses the Greek word “ecclesia”.
The Greek word that is
translated as “build” in this verse is a compound word, that is, two
words joined together into one word.
The corresponding English words
are, “to build”, and “a house”.
The word “house” is therefore implied in the word
“ecclesia” before. It
means “a particular group of people who have been called out or
separated from a larger group of people for a specific purpose”.
So Jesus is saying that
He will build, or construct a house, a house of people that He has taken
out of the world at large to do as He wishes.
This is “Jesus’ ecclesia”, or “Jesus’ church”.
Notice that the church belongs to Jesus and not to
us. Therefore Jesus calls
the shots, not us. If
this is so, where do we find His instructions?
In the Bible of course.
So do you think church
life today is what Jesus had in mind when He said He’d put together
His ecclesia? If it is, then
everything is “fine and dandy” and we can skip our way happily down
the street to the church of our choice.
If it isn’t, we’ve got a bit of a problem.
I think we have a problem, because in my thinking the maze that
presently exists is not what Jesus intended it to be when He said, “I
will build my church”. I
think the church we have today is our church, not His church.
This reminds me of a word
of prophecy a Bible teacher once gave to a large
Do you know something? This
may sound blasphemous to some, but I’m beginning to not like the word
“church”. It’s not a
bad word. It’s just lost
its meaning because of what we’ve done to it.
I’d prefer some kind of direct transliteration from the Greek
word “ecclesia” instead. The reason for this is because the church,
and the word “church” has
evolved into something that was never meant to be. When
the average person on the street hears the word “church” they
don’t think in terms of what Jesus had in mind.
They think in terms of the building down the street and the
shallowness that is now so prevalent in the ecclesiastical maze.
Our failure in church has misrepresented Jesus and has become a disservice
I close this chapter with what some might feel is a generalization, but I still think it applies. Malachi 1:10. is an Old Testament verse, but God’s thinking concerning His people has not changed since then. This verse is amazing. It reads, “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you, says the Lord Almighty, and I will accept no offering from your hands”. The Word of the Lord is clear. He’d rather have the temple doors shut and locked so His people who had become hypocritical could not enter in to offer polluted sacrifices. You might well think of these words in light of our present day. I believe the same Word of the Lord applies to us. He’d rather have our church doors shut tight and us stay home if we continue to defame His Holy name by our false representation of Him.