Big Church (Day 2)

Yesterday we examined what the early Church did as their ministry routine after Jesus went back to Heaven and how their actions made them such a phenomenon among the Roman Empire and eventually throughout the world. Their devotion to King Jesus and his salvation was so intense that they were willing to lay down their lives rather than turn away from their faith. This great fire of the Gospel has endured for millennia and has founded one of the largest religious movements in the world.

However, a travesty has happened over the years: we have become more concerned about going to church rather than being the Church. Notice how the first ‘church’ is not capitalized. That is because it refers to the buildings rather than the people. When we refer to the Church as God’s people then it becomes a proper noun. To reiterate, Christians have become much more concerned about going to church and attending services rather than going out and being the Church to minister to others in their needs.

This happened because of good things that became bad things. As time progressed and the Apostles made disciples of their own and their disciples created disciples the message of the Gospel spread so fast there were many ministers and missionaries that did not have proper training. To train them, a hierarchy of leaders that became known as Bishops were instituted to help train these new teachers (called Presbyters) who would be leaders in a certain community with helpers called Elders to assist them.

While the purpose was to train these uneducated ministers, over time the system of the Church allowed for organizational power structures to be created and people sought to become leaders not to minister to the world but to gain power and prestige for themselves. Add to that the great emphasis Constantine and his following rulers put on building grand buildings to house the Church and our modern concept of “going to church” was born.[1]

Centuries later most followers of Christ have become content to let the ‘Big Church’ do the heavy lifting for them. They let the pastors do the studying and teaching while they sit in pews and simply soak it up. They only open their Bibles on Sunday morning to follow along with the preacher and never think to look at it again the other six days of the week. Instead of getting out and serving the world we have trusted in paid staff to do that for us. We figure if we give our money to this organization we should trust that they will do God’s work with it. In essence, we are paying for others to do our jobs. In college, my professors call that cheating.

So what do we do? How do we combat this plague of apathy and carelessness that the Church has allowed to take hold? I propose that we go back to the roots of the early Church. Let’s get away from this ‘Big Church’ mentality and do what the Apostles did. Let’s look at the example they set for us and follow it. After all, since they lived with Jesus for three plus years they would know better than anyone else what he wanted for people.

In Acts chapter 2 we saw that the early Church devoted themselves to the teaching of the Apostles. While this may sound very similar to my complaint about modern Christians being content to listen to the preacher on Sunday, my point here is that they were devoted to their teaching. They were not just content to hear it and go home. They took ahold of it and used it to minister to others. It equipped them to serve those in need and be encouraged to keep sharing their faith in the midst of persecution.

Today let’s look at this principle from another angle. Let’s examine a great principle Jesus taught in Matthew chapter 13. And of course, I want us to take time to read the entire chapter for context. Now that we have done that, let’s look at this gem of a passage:

Matthew 13 (NLT):

[10] His disciples came and asked him, “Why do you use parables when you talk to the people?”

[11] He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not. [12] To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. [13] That is why I use these parables,

For they look, but they don’t really see.
They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand.

 

What Jesus was telling his close disciples (who we now refer to as Apostles) is that he was taking time to explain his teaching in depth to them, and that they had the great privilege of understanding these great truths. Because of this they were able to teach others and share those secrets with them as well. Just as Jesus taught, those who listened gained more understanding. They were able to set a match to the forest fire of the spreading Gospel and the entire world has been impacted by it.

Just as we saw in Acts chapter 2, we should take time to be devoted to the teachings of the Apostles. What is that? We call that the Bible. It is the major writings of the teaching of the Apostles that have survived the centuries and allow us to know what they believed. We should devote our selves to it. We should read it daily; with intensity, interest, and vigor. It should set our souls on fire and give us an insatiable desire to share it with others. This also means we should be willing to listen regularly to experts (pastors, ministers, teachers, apologists, etc.) to learn from others who know more than we do.

How does this shape up for you today? Are you content to sit back and listen to others preach and teach from the pulpit or are you actively engaged in seeking the truth out yourself? What are you doing to be devoted to the teaching of Christ and the Apostles? Are you taking these truths and applying them to your life or are you content to put it in your brain and feel like you punched your spiritual time card?

My challenge for us today is to do something with what we have learned. If you have not devoted yourself to the Bible then let’s begin today. Take more than just five minutes to do your “chapter a day to keep the devil away” thing. Let’s allow God to set us on fire for his Word and that we could only satisfy that hunger by getting deep doses of it regularly. And then use that fire to set other’s hearts on fire as well.


[1] For more information on this process check out “Church History Volumes 1 & 2” by Everett Ferguson.

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