More than 2,000 years ago, Jesus ordained the church. It was not a building or a denomination; it was just the church. Jesus said, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” (Matthew 16:18) Contrary to what some say, Jesus was not talking about Peter being the foundation of the church. Peter describes this, “For it stands in Scripture: See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and honored cornerstone, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.” (1 Peter 2:6) So, who is the Rock? The Rock is Christ. The church is built upon Christ.
The book of Acts is a record of the early church’s growth, started by Jesus’s disciples, and then expanded by the Apostle Paul. It’s an exciting ride, from the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to shipwrecks and imprisonments, to life-changing sermons delivered by men of God. The book of Acts provides a detailed, orderly, eyewitness account of the early church’s birth and growth and the spread of the Gospel immediately after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Its narrative supplies a bridge connecting the life and ministry of Jesus to the church’s life and the witness of the earliest believers.
So, if the church is not a building or a denomination, then what is it? It is people. To be more specific, it is Christians. The church comprises people who have been called by God and have surrendered their life in service to Him (Ephesians 1:4-14). Why did Jesus create the church in the first place? The church has three purposes: (1) to Elevate the Savior, (2) to Evangelize the Sinners, and (3) to Edify the Saints.
The folks in the early church were much different than church members of today. These early Christians were on fire for God. That is evident in how quickly the church grew despite be persecuted. They did not go to a fancy building with 25-foot ceilings, stained glass, elaborate decorations, sing a few songs, hear a homiletic sermonette from a highly educated professional speaker for precisely one hour each week, and then go back home and wait for the next week to come. No, these early Christians gathered in homes at great personal risk to hear from a man of God because they loved their Savior and wanted to share the Gospel with others. They were not there to be entertained, to play sports, or just to be seen. What impact would the church in the USA have if we went back to the basics?
Today, the church has become a business–a big business. A typical church in America today does everything it can to attract high numbers of people. They need these numbers in order to sustain the business of church. We have large fancy buildings that go unused the vast majority of the time. These buildings cost enormous amounts of money to build and sustain. They are also an object of pride.
We have fallen for the idea that the leaders must have a bunch of letters after their name, or they can’t possibly be qualified to preach, teach, or entertain. Our denominations have created preacher mills that produce these “qualified” leaders. They learn important stuff like how to make sermons sound good by using the same words or letters for their points (much like I did earlier). They also learn business skills, like administration and management. They learn about retirement plans. Practically nothing they are taught is what’s important to God. Please don’t misunderstand me. Education is essential and is important. But, the most important thing God wants is a humble servant.
What if we did away with these buildings and started meeting in our homes? Instead of once a week, what if we talked every day with our group members and prayed together and helped each other with life? What if members of our group started their own groups? What if we put God first in everything we do? What if we Elevated the Savior, Evangelized the Sinners, and Edified the Saints? What if…?