|Posted on January 31, 2019 at 1:20 PM|
I’ve been associated with some form of “church” all my life. But I’m not sure I have really understood or recognized the church Jesus said he was building. Except for a few rebellious years in my late teens and early 20’s I have been a member of the “institutional church” of various flavors and have even pastored a number of them for the last 40 years or so. I’ve also been associated with various “para-church” organizations that specialized in ministering to specific groups of people. The most recent has been my involvement with various “recovery ministries” seeking to minister to addicts. But the nagging question remains in the back of my mind, “What does the church Jesus said he would build look like today?”
You might find this question to be strange, especially since I am currently pastoring Alpha Ministries’ Church in the Woods. You would naturally think that I have some idea of what “church” is supposed to be like, and I do. But the question that I am considering is deeper than my own opinion or the opinion of others, it concerns what Jesus has been and continues to do to fulfill his promise to build his church as recorded in Matthew 16: 17-19. There he said, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
I don’t presume to answer this question in the space of this article, but rather simply introduce it in such a way that will encourage each of you to prayerfully consider the subject. Although Jesus promised he would build his church he also clearly involved us in the work he is doing. Whatever that looks like we are a significant part of what he is doing and need to understand and follow his directions in the effort. In fact, our very meaning and purpose in this life is intimately connected with Jesus building his church in this world. Rather than seeking only his comfort and the security of his provisions for us, we have a deep need to be aware of and participate in his purpose and plans for our time here on earth. Jesus not only makes us secure in his love, but also important and meaningful in his plan for us.
His promise to build his church was set in the context of asking his disciples who people thought he was. Although his disciples tried to put a positive spin on it, public opinion of Jesus at the time was mixed. Some thought him to be a miracle working prophet from God while others, especially the religious leaders, thought him to be a half-breed Samaritan possessed of a demon. When Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was Peter answered with, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” and was blessed by Jesus because the Father had revealed to Peter his true identity. Likewise, it will require such a divine revelation for us to understand what Jesus went on to describe as building his church. It is that revelation that we need to be able to see the church that Jesus is building today.
After two thousand years of history our vision of the church Jesus promised to build is likely to be somewhat distorted. But like the true identity of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, the true nature of the church (identified also as the Body of Christ) will be revealed by the Father to those who earnestly seek his vision. Join me in praying that the Father would reveal to us what the church Jesus is building looks like today.