Recently Newsweek Magazine came out with an article: “Forget the Church – Follow Jesus” by Andrew Sullivan. One of the sub-titles in the article is ‘Organized Church in Decline’. Depending on how one defines the church (see ekklesia article) this article might get a number of different reactions.
What is the organized church? Does it exist? Who runs it? Organized religion abounds and has been around since the beginning of mankind. The leaders of Israel in the Old Testament like Joseph, Saul, David, Solomon, David, Hezekiah, Jehoshaphat, just to name a few, were very human. The Bible includes details about their failures as well as their successes. In the New Testament we see the same thing in Peter, Paul and James.
Recently, I have come to a change in understanding about James, Jesus’s brother, and his relationship to the first century church. Just like all the humans that the Bible talks about, he was not infallible and he was influenced by the culture, just as Paul in returning to Jerusalem was affected by culture and his humanity. Paul understood this about himself and he encouraged people to trust God.
I Corinthians 2:3-5 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
Today we have heads of organizations, denominations, non-denominations, sects, families, groups who are human too. The important thing to learn about the New Testament culture of grace is that these people are never to replace the lordship of Jesus Christ in an individual’s life. We can all glean good things from each of these entities and organizations, but our personal access to God through the sacrifice of His son should never be taken for granted.
In the New testament the true leader of God’s people and His church (the eklesia) is God’s only-begotten son. The true ‘ekklesia’ (Greek link) today is the body of Christ and Jesus Christ is the head of that body. There is no doubt about it, that Jesus Christ is the most powerful figure in the universe, subject only to God. When the head directs the body, it gets things done!
The body of Christ is larger than any one group. Anyone who loves the Lord Jesus Christ has something in common with others that have that same love. All groups have their differences and it is the differences that divide us. I have seen groups divide which believe in exactly the same thing and it is human failure that gets in the way. It is sad and even sometimes gut-wrenching and hurtful; but at the same time it is a learning experience. Our time and energy is not lost when we keep in mind God’s set up and keep growing in our understanding of His word. There will always be a lighted path when we do that.
Psalm 119:105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.