One day while working in Ephesus, the apostle Paul dictated a letter to a terrifically dysfunctional church he had founded earlier. In it he underscores The Really Big Idea that Jesus had: the Capital “C” Church.
He was so upset when he learned they were dragging each other into court and filing lawsuits against each other (among other things). He tests them with several “Don’t you know…?” questions:
“Don’t you know you will actually judge the world in the end? Don’t you know that you’ll judge angels and spiritual powers?—and you can’t settle little arguments among yourselves now? You’ve got to be kidding?—You’re the Body of Christ on this earth! . . . Don’t you know you’re God’s house?”
A couple dozen years earlier when the Holy Spirit was poured out in Acts 2 and birthed this movement called the Church, it transformed a group of scared people once hiding behind locked doors into men and women who would lay their lives down for this one message: Jesus is the Resurrected Lord—so change the way you think and let Him forgive and rescue you! That message alone was radical to the monotheistic Jewish mind…for only God could save. Therefore, the implication was huge. And so they could only talk about one thing: Jesus…and His resurrection.
And while they were martyred by the thousands, The Really Big Idea grew. The obvious question is: what happened? How did that self-sacrificing passion end up doing self-destructive things throughout the subsequent centuries? How could a movement like that produce an Inquisition…or the Crusades…or denominational wars…or sheer hatred for each other…or the clamor for money and power? In the small town where I grew up in Kentucky, the cemetery on the hill overlooking the town was split in two: a Catholic side and a Protestant side. We were divided even in death! There’s no easy answer, but keep this in mind: Jesus said that in the end He Himself will separate the real from the unreal, the legit from the play-actors. He said there would be many who come to Him and say, “Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you’ . . . Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father.” This revolutionary movement of surrendered and transformed servants is Jesus’ Really Big Idea to usher in His rule and reign. To stand on the periphery and take potshots at the Church is hardly helpful; a critique is only effective as much as one is a lively part of her. The former atheist turned prayer-and-social-activist Dorothy Day once poignantly wrote:
“As to the Church, where else shall we go, except to the Bride of Christ, one flesh with Christ? Though she is a harlot at times, she is our Mother.”
Leaders, you’re in the front of The Really Big Idea. Stay focused: remember the true message and Who called you to join this idea…and why.
Then let Jesus sort it all out.
Dave Workman | Elemental Churches