Jesus and Church

The 21st century North American church encounters a landscape of confused observers.

It is in our culture where the young and not so young chant, “Jesus yes! Church no!”

Jesus asked Simon Peter who he thought Jesus to be. By this time, Peter was finally starting to get it: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

Jesus responds, “You got it! You are right. Upon this confession I will build my church and even the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.”

Build His church He did. He went to the very gates of hell to take care of sin and make it possible for those cleansed by His blood to make of the church His bride.

church1I love the church. The church is real. It came from the mind of God. It is never my place to judge or criticize the church established by God at the cost of His Son. My only role is to belong.

However, as a servant of God working within the bounds of Scripture and stewardship, I want to understand the nature of the church, its purpose, and its destiny. Just as I am free—and encouraged—to explore God, and all ramifications of Jesus and Scripture, I am free to immerse myself into the fullness of the church.

My boundary will be to honor the ownership of Jesus while I attempt to discover if I—we—block the power of the church knowingly or unknowingly.

To tell the truth, I think I have a better grasp of belonging to Christ’s church than I have on what the church of Jesus should look like here on earth.

As I begin to think along these lines, it is my suspicion I will find the church to possess greater grandeur than I previously imagined. I have a hunch the church we mirror as believers could do a better job at honoring Christ. It is us, rather than the bride, that make it hard for some to affirm both Jesus and church.

I couldn’t have been more than 15 years old when I heard the flamboyant Nashville evangelist Dr. Ira North.

ira north 2Dressed in his traditional bright red suit, with red shoes, and tie to match, he told the story of Jesus and His church turning the greater Nashville area up side down. Good done by the church in the name of Jesus was flowing faster than the Cumberland River.

I sat spellbound as I listened in pure joy to learn of the power of Jesus shining through the church. The entire Christian community from every corner of Nashville testified to their love of one another and their care for the less fortunate. Jesus’ Church in Nashville was making headlines throughout Tennessee.

Dr. North ended his speech with an apology.

The artful picture he painted was false.

The marginalized remained as outcast. Hungry people continued to be unfed. The lost were still far from Jesus, and competing churches remained at war.

Fifty years later, I still remember Dr. North’s message in the packed Sewell Auditorium. It wasn’t his crazy red suit or his bombastic personality.

It wasn’t even my disappointment when I learned his fantasy portrait of the church was untrue. Although, I do remember the feeling of joy in my soul as he strung me along for the major portion of his speech.

What made an impression with me was for the first time I saw a vision of how grand the church could be. Through the years, I have caught glimpses of such a church.

Modern churchYet, for the most part, it still seems to remain as spotted potential on the canvas. My wildest dream for the Kingdom is over the next few weeks and months as we reflect upon God, His Son, and His Church, that in some way the power of the Holy Spirit might move us to lay down our weapons and pick up holy paintbrushes.

Together we can fill the canvas with colorful gifts and talents as His witnesses in a lost world. And—if we step back from the multiple colors of paint covering the canvas—we might just see the portrait of Jesus.

What do you think? – Gary Sorrells

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