Among the many and varied forms of the Christian religion, three are fairly common, though most brands include some aspects of the following generalizations.
One group is skillful at turning descriptive narratives from the scriptures into prescriptions for effective ways to build the church. They’ve come up with “apostolic” wisdom to create templates for every area of ministry from nursery to overseas missions. Deeper truth, discipleship and world evangelism are priorities in this system.
Another brand places the focus on the prophetic and supernatural manifestations. They realize that the world can’t be changed without the power of the Holy Spirit moving through each believer. They teach methods on how to operate in the Spirit. The gatherings feature miracle meetings where great things are prophesied and declarations are made. Men and women with “special giftings” are held in awe.
Finally, there are those who believe that correct doctrine is the only thing that counts. Their foundation is based on what they believe to be an accurate interpretation of the Bible. They stand on the “Word” and shall not be moved. Attending church and listening to sermons by the main man up front is the bread and butter of their Christian life.
The fact that neither these nor countless other brands of Christian religion have changed the world does not serve as new information unless one has been living on Mars. What is amazing is that some never seem to learn what the scriptures make crystal clear: that nothing built on man’s wisdom or giftedness will ever amount to a hill of beans in the kingdom of God.
“Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
While celebrated preachers pace back and forth confidently proclaiming “special revelation” to crowds awed and mesmerized by their eloquent delivery, Paul wrote that he came to the church at Corinth in weakness and fear, without eloquence or superior wisdom, resolving to know nothing while he was with them except Christ and him crucified. Although his preaching was not with wise and persuasive words, it came with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.
According to the context of this passage, the power Paul spoke of was not a display of special miracles to convince the Corinthians of God’s affirmation of his message, but rather the power of the Spirit working a miracle of grace in the hearts of the hearers. And for what reason did he refrain from eloquence using wise and persuasive words? “..Not with words of human wisdom less the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” (1Cor. 1:17b,22,24,2:2-5)
The Christian religion is built on man’s wisdom and is devoid of the saving and transforming power of the cross of Christ. Millions of hours are spent by would-be world changers introducing formulas for “successful” living and fruitful ministry– preaching, teaching, and strategizing yet never coming to the knowledge of the truth.
Millions more abandoned the religious systems built on man-made plans and rules when they came to realize the futility of human wisdom applied to spiritual reality. Yet many, even among these, have created their own little systems, or they are still trying to figure out what church should look like. Perhaps we have forgotten or overlooked the fact that the true church is perfect, spotless, and indescribably beautiful in God’s eyes, for she has been made holy in Christ.
So maybe we should ask ourselves this question; why do we need to know what the church should look like from an earthly point of view? It seems that our focus should be on Jesus as we yield to the work of the Spirit within to shape us into God’s design for her. Christ’s church is not a predetermined static community. From an earthly standpoint, she can only look like the people from which she is built and can function only as those people are able to function. God intended the church to look and act like Jesus. And the only way that can happen is if you and I look and act like Jesus. So there’s no use searching for or trying to create something that we can only find together at the cross.
The Church looks like Christ crucified, dying for those who killed him. She is found in her perfect expression wherever people have ceased to worship man’s wisdom and have followed Christ to the cross. There we are reduced to love and find resurrection life. We will discover the church in all her beauty and power when we live in sacrificial love. We’ll see that that she functions perfectly in a variety of ways determined by culture, circumstance, need, etc., but her fundamental nature and transforming power will never change.
Christ’s church can never fit into any man devised construct. She can never be managed, will always function contrary to the world’s ways, rules and methods, and will never be understood by worldly-wise purveyors of religion. Her influence touches every facet of society. Unlike the Constantinian imposter called church today, she accomplishes her mission as invisible leaven more often than through public demonstration.
So why don’t we stop analyzing, philosophizing, speculating, and searching for a phantom and begin building up one another in love as we are exhorted to do in the 59 “one anothers” listed in the New Testament? How about being the church to our next-door neighbor by mowing his lawn or baby sitting his dog when he’s on vacation? There are always lonely prisoners and senior citizens that would love to be visited and the poor that need to be fed. If we get out of our head and into our heart, our hands can be used to rescue the dying, and our lives become a celebration of the indescribably wonderful goodness of God. Meanwhile the Head of the church will mold and shape us into what only He can build.