OK, OK. I know I'm a pastor. I know I probably would smell like a church if church had a smell. You might even think because I have a vested interest in seeing the Church perpetuated, you can't trust what I say here.
But the myth referred to in the title above comes across in many ways.
It is advanced when people imagine that they can follow Jesus independently of any structure and so many drop out of church in the process.
The myth of a churchless Christianity has been perpetuated for some time. You can no more follow Christ and abandon the Church than you can claim to love your marriage and abandon your wife.
So why am I so resolute in calling this myth out as fairy tale and delusion?
- The vision of the Church in the New Testament is struck by Jesus himself. Don't get me wrong, he rarely uses the word for "church", but he talks about being in a community of believers often and does talk about the church when talking about settling resolving conflict in Matthew 18. Additionally, it was the understanding of the believers in the book of Acts that they were to stay together, share their lives and be in fellowship. It's also noteworthy that when the apostles began to spread the gospel, they started believing communities and called them churches. Finally, when we catch up to Jesus in the book of Revelation, we find him addressing seven churches and letting them know they have significance in heaven and in God's plans. In short, the Church is the nucleus and target of God's plans. Read the New Testament letter to the Ephesians sometime and try to imagine how one could live the Christian life in isolation.
- The New Testament teaches that Christ died for the Church who is his bride. Ephesians 5:25, for example, says it clearly. Of course, the "Church" is not a structure or a building, it's a group of people. To imagine you can love Jesus and reject the one he died for is a bit like saying you love your best friend, but hate his wife. That really wouldn't help your relationship!
- Jesus promises to be present when people are joined in faith and in his name. Remember when Jesus said that "where two or three are gathered in my name, I am in the midst of them," he was talking about the very nature of the Church.
- The New Testament consistently teaches that abandoning the fellowship of other believers is a step toward spiritual destitution. For Paul, the gravest rebuke a believer could receive would be to be thrust out of the Church. In so doing, a person would be "handed over to Satan". You can see 1 Corinthians 5 for the details. Jesus says something similar in Matthew 18, that when a person is rebuked by the church and they don't repent, they should be cast out. Why would anyone then imagine that they can follow Christ and skip out on the Church? What is the assurance we have of salvation, strength or our own ability to persevere without the regular, vibrant encouragement that a church gives to a believer?
I could go on here, but these are important reasons to stick with the Church. Sometimes church people hurt others. Sometimes church structures are not helpful. Sometimes church leaders are sick and manipulative and cross over to the "dark side" when trying to motivate the congregation.
That's not a reason to abandon the whole idea of the church, but it could be a reason to either be part of a solution or find a new group of believers to live in fellowship with.
Share this post today to help people in your life who are resisting Jesus by repeating this old myth about him. You can learn more about the 21 Myths in 21 Days blog series by clicking here!
Check out the post from yesterday by clicking here on the myth that there is no historical proof of Jesus' life.
Labels: 21 myths, church, Church life, Jesus Christ, New Testament