Gathering as a Means to an End

I want to encourage you to come to the Creek on Sunday to hear about the power of the church when it is on mission. Here is a part of that message: 

Jesus said, I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. Matthew 16:18 NLT When we hear that prophecy from Jesus we often think that he is saying the church will survive even if attacked by hell itself. This translation, taken at face value, would lead you to think that the powers of hell are in an offensive position and the church is in a defensive position and hell is going to do its’ best but it will not succeed. The church will survive—as if survival is the goal.

I have a love/hate relationship with this verse. Is that legal to say about scripture?

I love what Jesus said but I hate the way that it was translated because I think the translation is a weak way to say what is one of the most powerful promises in all scripture. We are going to break it into pieces today and I believe you will never forget what you learn today because the Holy Spirit will drive it deep into your spirit and I don’t think it is too strong of a statement to say this—you’ll never look at the church the same way again. I believe this translation is one of the presenting problems we have in the American church.

That’s a strong statement so let’s see if I can back it up.

Let’s start with the word church. Jesus said, I will build my church… When Jesus said, I will build my church, many think of a church building. In America we typically think of the church as a building, a program, a pastor or an institution. It can be those things but Jesus meant for it to be much more.

This implies that the church is on mission when the people are gathered. If this is the primary way we talk about the church we imply the church is doing its job when we are all in places with bright shiny faces. If you would just show up and give then we’d all be good. And if we hunker down in the church with worship and prayer the big bad devil can’t defeat us. The implication is that in our holy huddle we can hold on till Jesus comes and be safe: as if arriving safely at death was the goal.

Unfortunately it is for many Christians and for too many churches. But I promise you that is not the way that Jesus thinks about the church. Gathering is one part of the ministry of a church but gathering believers together for a service is a means to an end not the end in itself. All too often the church in America has made the gathering the end.

All too often the prevailing thought is, if we could just get more people in the gathering, the worship services, we would be good. The scorecard for the American church became butts and bucks—if the number of people who sat in the seats and the number of dollars collected in the plates. If those went up the church was doing good. And I believe those are two good important measurements for the standard health check for any church but they fall short of describing what was on the mind of Jesus when he gave us this powerful promise.

If you want more you’ll have to come on Sunday, and hint, hint, I save the best for the live presentation :)