There’s a popular saying that goes something like this, “I love Jesus, but I can’t stand the church.”
To my utter amazement, a handful of people who tout this phrase have benightedly assumed that I support this sentiment. Since I’m globally known as one of the strongest champions of the ekklesia – even making it central to God’s Eternal Purpose – I can only assume that those who’ve mistakenly connected me with this sentiment have never read my work.
Either that, or they read bits and pieces of my 9-year old book with George Barna, Pagan Christianity, and missed the entire point nor ever read the constructive sequels.
So I hope this short piece clears the fog around this matter.
Let me state it bluntly: It’s simply impossible to love Jesus Christ and hate His bride—the ekklesia.
But that statement needs to be nuanced. Consider the following points:
Point 1: It’s a profound mistake to assume that the term “church” as it’s used today and “the ekklesia” is always the same thing. Jesus Christ died for the ekklesia. The ekklesia is His bride, His body, His house, and His family. But the ekklesia isn’t a building. Nor is it a worship service that people attend two hours on Sunday. Neither is it a human-made organization.
According to the New Testament, the ekklesia is the collective people of God, the community of the king, and the beloved bride of our Lord. And Jesus Christ is fully united with her. Therefore, you can’t love Him and hate her. (Those of you who have read From Eternity to Here, Magnificent Obsession, and Reimagining Church are clear on all this. So this isn’t news. But it’s monumentally difficult for some Christians to grasp.)
Point 2: Knowing Jesus Christ will eventually lead a person to desire the ekklesia in their experience. Meaning, it will lead them to seek out the practical expression of the body of Christ where God’s people are meeting in face-to-face community and Jesus Christ is the true head of that community. This isn’t so easy to find in this season of history. But I’ve always maintained that if your heart is desperate for her, the Lord will lead you to at least one or two local people who love Christ.)
Point 3: Hebrews 10:25 is often wielded to guilt people into attending a religious worship service. The message is, “If you don’t attend ‘church’ — which for them means a two-hour service in a building on Sunday morning — you are ‘forsaking the assembly.'”
But is that what Hebrews 10:25 says? Here’s the full text beginning with verse 24:
And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching, NKJV.
Notice the words, “consider one another” and “exhorting one another.” Hebrews 10 is referring to gatherings where God’s people mutually participate in exhorting each other. The “assembling together” are open-participatory gatherings where the body of Christ functions and the members share the Lord “with one another.”
Consequently, if your church gatherings don’t allow for open participation and mutual exhortation from all the members of the body, then you can’t use Hebrews 10:25 to put the Lord’s people under a pile.
Now before anyone jumps to unfounded conclusions, I’m not suggesting that it’s wrong to attend an institutional church service. Not at all. I’ve stated more than once that if I had to choose between being a part of most “house churches” or so-called “organic churches” and attending a full-blown traditional church, I’d run to the nearest traditional church I could find!
But most of us don’t have to make that choice.
God’s people who have hot hearts for Jesus Christ are “everywhere” (to quote Bartholomew in Risen). So if you are desperate to meet them, the Lord will lead you to them. Doing so may be out of your comfort zone, but if you actively look, you’ll eventually find one or two.
(Hint: Instead of looking for “the perfect church” that’s close to your house, how about checking out the organizations and ministries in your city who are helping the poor, the homeless, pregnant teens, drug addicts, etc. These places may not dot all your theological “i’s,” but there’s an excellent chance you will find Jesus Christ there.)
I trust this little riff puts this matter to rest once and for all. Again: You cannot love Jesus and hate His ekklesia, for they are inseparably joined together. Kind of like a bride and a bridegroom; a head and a body; a brother and a family; a foundation and a house.
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My 800-page herculean Titan Collectible — There Must Be More — is soon to be typeset. If you’re new to my email list, we are only printing it once and never again. And everyone on the list will receive a discount once it releases this Summer. Go here for the details of what’s in it. Stay on the list so you don’t miss the order window.
Last Week’s Article – Finishing the Race & Surviving Failure