Jesus Matters in the Church: Part One
Does Jesus matter? Does He really matter?
Most of us reading this are Christians and we live in America. We're in a time when division is palpable in our cities and our politics are nearly untouchable amongst one another in our neighborhoods. It's not the first time. The situation, however, should make us step back and ask ourselves, do we see Jesus mattering much at all in our nation?
What if we have to say "No, Jesus doesn't really matter that much anymore amongst the people of this land." And what if we have to admit that we as Christians have had some responsibility in this? Perhaps, we as a Church have politely and conveniently said over and over "No, Jesus doesn't matter that much in that area." Perhaps we as a Church have been less and less transformed by the truth of the Gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
If you stay with me for a moment, maybe we can begin to see something within ourselves. I'd value your thoughts.
Several years ago a young man in our church really had some wonderful, excellent ideas about how we should worship the Lord on Sundays. He would send me all the songs that we should use in worship. Then, if we used his particular idea, he would be quick to show up and help lead the congregation in worship that Sunday morning. Over time, he began to realize that I couldn't accommodate all his requests. Our church is filled with so many wonderful generations of believers and it was important to me that we very intentionally honor each generation's worship language in some way throughout the morning. After all, honoring one another is the way of Christ. There had been a commitment in the church leadership to keep the church family worshiping the Lord together. The scriptures do not reflect division within worship according to songs and musical preferences, so why does the American church think it's okay now?
As I got to know and love this young man, he was so full of love toward me and others as he was integrating into the Worship Ministry. He was so abundantly thankful to be there and to be able to minister alongside the variety of people the Lord had placed in the Worship Ministry. So many there were filled with love and joy because of Christ. He began to see, experience and understand the blessings of a Worship Ministry built on a foundation of love and respect with all generations and kinds of people.
He couldn't say enough about how much he valued the Love of God (the vertical) and the Love of Others (the horizontal) for which we were laboring. That gradually began to change, however, as he caught a sense that perhaps not all those in leadership were 100% committed to nurturing and discipling Worship as a Family of Faith anymore.
You see, the temptation came from perhaps well-intentioned people to 'have everything in the kingdom if only we would change up the worship approach' and make sure that we were targeting the wants and needs of those who might be visiting and might want something 'different' in our congregation. It's a common approach to "growing" American churches. Soon that young man now had tacit "permission" to begin to desire his own way and regularly get the songs he had wanted more often. I could sense he was no longer excited to be alongside the wide variety of musicians within his church. He stopped serving regularly, and would only serve if he was asked to be with a very few select others. He soon stopped connecting with the body and with me. The relationship was no longer based on the love of the Lord. Serving and living in the body of Christ was conditional on the particular music and musicians for him.
Worship of God only occurred now when he was worshiping his way with his people. The rest of the church body really didn't matter to him any longer. The foundation of Jesus' love was being dug up from underneath the Worship Ministry and our church. We weren't building on Jesus any more. Our structures of ministry now depended on our man made ideas of worship.
He's quite like many of us in our flesh. It happens with men and women, young and old.
Jesus matters for us if we can use him to worship God the way we want. Jesus matters if we're getting more and more people signed up to follow Him. Jesus does not matter, however, if the love we're supposed to have for our neighbor next to us in the pew gets in the way of our own desires for how Jesus should look and feel for us.
In John 13:34-35 Jesus says "A new command I give you: Love One Another. As I have loved you, so must you love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." What words to hear! Does the world know we're Jesus' disciples by our love? Are we bearing a fruitful testimony even to one another?
A church recently called for prayer and fasting for the situation in our nation. Prayer and fasting are important and we certainly should do that as believers. The irony to me was that this young person was ready to worship God with his songs and to pray for unity and love when he had shown so little love within the walls and lives of the church body.
How would we in the Church expect a world to begin to love one another when those of us inside the church refuse to worship Jesus, our Savior, Healer, Redeemer and Victory together with one another in love!?
Do you see the problem? My teenage children do.
Yet, we always have hope, and the Lord is always able to move us to forgive, heal and restore. Jesus does matter, and that's why it's time to look at ourselves and perhaps change a few things in our Worship Ministries and in our churches. Didn't Jesus come to reform and transform? He can work with any humble heart and prayer of repentance that we bring Him.
Here's what He says in Luke 10:27 "All of the law and the prophets hang on two commandments 1) to Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul mind and strength and 2) to Love your neighbor as yourself."
Let's ask Him to help us through the work of the Holy Spirit to not only Love our Lord, but also Love One Another. As Christians, we're not free to only Love God and not Others. Let's not only love our neighbor down the street; but also our neighbor in the church.
For too long the American church has believed it's okay to cut off the horizontal arm of the cross in order to shine Jesus' light for the world to see. The cross of Christ has become disfigured. The horizontal arm helps us remember that Jesus gave us a body of fellow believers to keep us faithful in worship, discipleship and mission for the Lord.
It's time to make sure we the Bride are living out the full Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus matters for everything, so let's rebuild our inner temples of worship to better shine His glory and grace through a Love for our God and a recommitted Love for One Another. Maybe then the world would see that Jesus really is our Lord and Savior and can really change the breakage in us. The world is watching and waiting for the Bride of Christ to rise up in Love, not of self, but of the Lord and of our neighbors as ourselves. Because of Jesus and for His Sake, Amen.
If Jesus matters in the church, then you are my sister; then you are my brother; then the workings of our love matter a whole lot within the Church! Jesus does matter and so does each one in the Bride of Christ. What a privilege and blessing is ours as the Church to reflect the Brilliance of Christ by simply loving one another as we worship, disciple and serve. #togetherbytheHolySpirit Hallelujah!