the weblog of Alan Knox

The ONE church that Jesus is building

Posted by on Mar 26, 2012 in blog links, community, definition, fellowship | 20 comments

The ONE church that Jesus is building

I love Aussie John (from “caesura“). Love him! I wish I could afford to fly to Australia and spend a few days, or weeks, or months talking with him and learning from him. Since he started commenting on this blog a few years ago, he has made it a richer experience for myself and my readers.

Last weekend, he published a post called “Is it possible?” He begins by asking if what we call “Christianity” today is actually the greatest enemy of Christ. Strong words, yes, but perhaps strong words like this are necessary at times.

Towards the end of the post, he touches on a subject that is very dear to my heart: the church. He writes:

The Scriptures do reveal the characteristics of the churches of New Testament times, and the principles by which they functioned, yet we certainly do not have a clear, indelible blueprint according to which churches are to be set up or formed!

With all our sincere desires and efforts to have a “New Testament church”, is it possible that all we are actually achieving is the development of a myriad of other systems, or sects, with differing sets of legalistic rules, traditions, and regulations, sectarian bigotry, and remaining as spiritually lifeless as those we have left behind in the trash-can of our experience of searching for the church that suits our imaginings or tastes.

There is only ONE Church, the one Jesus is building, which is a dynamic living organism, from which rivers of living water flow. Its source is ONLY in the person of Jesus Christ. And built upon the cornerstone of His practice and completed work.

His church is totally dependent on Him through the working of His Holy Spirit in its members.

I’m often asked, “Why do you remain associated with a denomination (and I am) if you believe that denominations tend to divide the church (and I do believe that)?” Why? Because the people who are part of this denomination are my brothers and sisters in Christ and are, therefore, part of the church that Jesus is building.

I’m often asked, “Why do you continue to carry out some of the traditional rituals/practices if you believe that these are not necessary and may hinder spiritual growth?” Why? Because the people who have chosen to continue using these practices are my brothers and sisters in Christ and are, therefore, part of the church that Jesus is building.

I’m often asked, “Wouldn’t it be better to move away from this organization and/or denomination and start with a clean slate and meet in a manner that you think is more like the characteristics of the church that we see in the New Testament?” No, it is better to remain in fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ who are part of the church that Jesus is building.

No, the buildings and systems and hierarchies and programs and activities and rules and confessions and denominations are not the church. But, those people are your brothers and sisters in Christ, and they ARE the church.

There is one church. Separating from our brothers and sisters in Christ – even because we don’t agree with how they understand the church – is not the answer. The answer is living together in the fellowship of the Spirit and in the church that Jesus is building, in spite of our differences.

Thank you, Aussie John, for reminding us of this great truth in Jesus Christ!


20 Comments

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  1. 3-26-2012

    These are the questions many of us struggle with. Do we make a clean break and start something new or do we try to impact the existing church? These are not easy questions.

  2. 3-26-2012

    Alan,

    Thank you for the encouragement.

    I write what has ensconced itself on my heart during a lifetime of preaching and teaching traditional “christianism”, which I more and more began to see, misses the mark in a suicidal manner.

    When I finally began to “see” the Lord Jesus Christ”, more than “seeing” Moses I was like the blind man in John 9:25.

    Alan. Talk (writing)is cheap! I now talk (write)more than I walk, mainly because we both have health issues.

  3. 3-26-2012

    I think we each need to respond to gods unique leadings which may land us in a ‘traditional’ congregation on sundays or somewhere else. Theres no one size fits all. I admire people like yourself that can stay in a denomination for the sake of the people and what god is doing in your midst. For myself I have had to leave church to find The Church, eventually i may end up at a sunday church regularly, but for now that doesn’t appear to be necessary… there are other ways to connect with believers. Add to that for some of us, we are disqualified from fellowship due our beliefs or lifestyle so its not even a case of wanting to be separate.

  4. 3-27-2012

    A lot of what you say makes sense. One of Satans greatest tools is pervert Chist’s gospel just enough to deflect Gods purpose. The church you seek already exists and it can answer all the questions you have. The scriptures tell us that if we ask of God with real and sober intent, he will speak the truth to your soul. I know beyond a shadow of any doubt, that this church is true. All I ask is you look at it with an open mind.

    You will find your answeres at:
    Mormon.org

    In the temple at Cardston where I was sealed to my wife for eternity, I experienced 2 miracles. It would not be appropriate at this time to elaborate further. Check out the site and go from there. Feel free to drop by my Facebook, page anytime where you can find out a little more about me. Facebook.com/FuzzeeDee
    The best of luck to you, God Bless. Regards, Dave Reid

  5. 3-27-2012

    Arthur,

    I think it depends on what (or who) we are breaking from.

    Aussie John,

    God is still working through you. Thank you for this post!

    Eli,

    Like I said to Arthur, I think it depends on what (or who) we are breaking from. I’m not opposed to anyone breaking from another organization. I am opposed to children of God breaking from one another – as much as it depends on them.

    Dave,

    I know about the Mormons. I have friends who are Mormons. That is not what I’m talking about.

    -Alan

  6. 3-28-2012

    I think your points are valid and the way you approach the issue is certainly helpful to me. Thank you for helping to give a view that I don’t hear very often. My question(s) is how do you actually work this out when it comes to points of disagreement in theology? Do you teach what you believe? Do you teach different aspects along with yours? Are you asked to teach only certain subjects and not others? I would like to embrace your view and would like your help as what to expect (some examples possibly from your own experience)when walking/working it out. Thanks for your help!

  7. 3-28-2012

    Craig,

    You’ve asked some good questions, and I see that you’ve asked them on your site as well. Good! (See Craig’s post here.) Community involvement is a big step in this direction. For example, I do not consider it my responsibility (solely) to interpret Scripture. I know that I am wrong – I wish I knew where I was wrong. So, we rely on one another to help us interpret Scripture and what God is telling us. If we disagree, we remain brothers and sisters. Also, when we come together, we don’t come together to teach points of theology; we come together to help one another follow Jesus Christ – edification.

    That said, I am not opposed to people separating themselves from organizations, as long as they do not also separate from the people involved in those organizations. Of course, they people may choose to separate from you, but there’s not much you can do about that.

    I hope you get alot discussion on your post. I’d love to see how you work through this together.

    -Alan

  8. 3-28-2012

    I admire Aussie John’s thought process, and heart for the people of God. I too have a heart for my brothers and sister in the Lord. That is precisely why it is so important to leave church. You can imagine my surprise when the Holy Spirit led my wife and I out of church (were we offered the right foot of fellowship)after a life time of involvement with many churches. Then after trying to find another “church” God spoke to our hearts and said to stop looking. What has ensued since has been a miraculous walk with the Lord, of real love, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Daily the Lord directs us to fellowship with Himself (what a fresh concept)and with those whom He leads us to. Church as a system is nonredeemable, because church is an imposter. The real body of Christ has survived because the Lord willed it so, and not because of church, but in spite of church. There is ONE head and that is Christ, you can not be in submission (under another spiritual authority) and still be in submission to Christ, it is impossible. The Lord will not share His bride with any other headship. The ekklesia, the Lord’s called out community, is forming. It does included many still in institutions, The Lord knows those who are His. It is possible that entire church groups will abandon the name of the imposter, with all of its trappings that we speak of here so often. I pray this is so, but many will be asked to leave as they reject the name, the use of the Bible as law, authoritative clergy, coercion and manipulation, intellectualism which is idolatry, programs, denominationalism, buildings and real estate holdings. God has called us to peace, so we will leave peaceably. We are walking straight into His waiting arms, where Ezekiel 37 will be fulfilled.

  9. 3-28-2012

    Tony,

    Again, in my understanding of the word “church,” it is not only dangerous to leave church, but it is absolutely impossible for a child of God. Like I said before, feel free to substitute the word “ekklesia” whenever I use the term “church.” What you call the bride or the ekklesia or the body of Christ, I call the church. By that, I am not referring to everything that others refer to by the term “church.” So, yes, there is only one church, and Jesus Christ is the head of that one church, and you and my other brothers and sisters are all part of that church together with me.

    -Alan

  10. 3-28-2012

    We must change the name. If I say “church” in a public place I might get beat up, and not for the cause of Christ.

  11. 3-28-2012

    Tony,

    I’m not opposed to you using a different name for the church. Many people have chosen that route, and I understand and sympathize with your position. Feel free to use “ekklesia” here all you want. But, if you assume that you are referring to something different by “ekklesia” than I am referring to when I use the word “church,” then you are making an invalid assumption.

    -Alan

  12. 3-28-2012

    Alan,
    I understand that you can make that internal adjustment. What I am saying is that so long as we do not change our words, many will be stuck in a religious mindset. To the western world church is a religious institution. That institution has been an affront to Jesus and His kingdom, lead untold millions down the path of spiritual blindness, and worse. I will not use her name in connect with Jesus, my heart breaks for all of the evil she has done for centuries.

  13. 3-28-2012

    Tony,

    In the first century, the Greek term “ekklesia” carried the same kind of ambiguity that the English term “church” does today. How did Jesus, Paul, John, Peter, etc. make sure their readers / listeners knew what they were talking about? It wasn’t because they used the term “ekklesia.” Instead, it was because of the way they described it and lived it. It’s the same with the terms we use today. Whether we use the term “church” or “ekklesia” or “saints” or “holy ones” or “assembly” or “community,” the term is not as important as how we describe it and (even more importantly) how we live it. Many people know the term “ekklesia.” It was one of the first Greek terms that I learned (probably just after agape), and I knew that it meant “church.” So, whichever term you use, you must define, explain, and demonstrate it. The terms (either “church” or “ekklesia”) are not magical or spiritual or Christ-generated.

    -Alan

  14. 3-28-2012

    Dear Alan,
    I disagree that the first century Christians were un-knowledgeable about the term ekklesia. Do words mean anything? They understood it the same way Josephus understood, and very likely the way the Athenians understood it. A called out assembly for a special purpose. Would not that make perfect sense to the first century Christians? Would a building “belonging to the lord”, commonly used by pagans for their worship facilities be abhorrent to the first century disciples? Would not a word for a building be totally contrary to a living body? Words are spiritual, I do not know your background, but you must acknowledge that words are spiritual. “The words that I speak unto you are spirit and they are life”; Jesus. This is a critically important issue for your readers. They must know that the wool has been pulled over their eyes with this word “church”, and this building concept. Why has no one faced the hard cold facts that church was not God’s idea. Not the name, not the religiousness, not the pews, not the steeple, not the clergy, not any of it. You have come so far, please take then next logical step. Why are so many afraid to face the truth? There is a cost, but I promise you it is well worth it. Once you separate for the imposter, in your mind and in your heart, you are free to embrace the bridegroom.
    This world system is not like the kingdom of God, and church being a man made system is just one part of the greater world system. They function in the same manner, planning, deductive reasoning, laws, manipulation… all designed to fail, but the spiritual kingdom of God remains forever. We do not need to reform the “church” that has been tried before. God will not bless that which He did not build, and He certainly did not build church. Who ever is willing to come to Jesus outside of the camp and bare His reproach will inherit the kingdom.

  15. 3-28-2012

    Tony,

    The Greek term “ekklesia” was often used in the first century to refer to a specific political entity – a group of people to make civic decisions. This is not the same way that Jesus, Paul, Peter, and others used the term to refer to God’s people.

    The word “kuriakon” did not mean “a building belonging to the Lord.” It just meant “belonging to the Lord.” In fact, it is used in Scripture to refer to the church/ekklesia, i.e. people belonging to the Lord.

    I’m not interested in reforming the church. Why would I want to? Jesus’ church is just as he is building it. His church has nothing to do with human organizations – never has and never will, regardless of what people call those organizations.

    -Alan

  16. 3-31-2012

    As a member of the church of Christ, I do enjoy your blog immensely. Our sole goal as a body (Col. 1:18) is to restore New Testament Christianity as close as possible. While there’s no uniform “how-to” in the Bible, all we can do is plant the seed (cf. Luke 8:11). When we do disagree, we must determine if it is over opinion (cf. Rom. 14), or doctrine. When Alexander Campbell was baptized after a lengthy study of the Bible, he had a Baptist minister do so, but he told him that he was not being baptized according to the Baptist doctrine of baptism. If memory serves me correct, I believe he later immersed that minister as per Acts 2:38 (cf. 22:16). Thanks for your desire to strive to be like that body we read of in the NT.

  17. 3-31-2012

    I agree breaking away from people instead of just the organisation is not necessarily healthy. But in reality its often impossible todo one without the other to the degree that people are institutionally minded. So one has to just leave a lot in gods hands, being grateful for relationships that survive the break. That is something universal to every group dynamic, be it a megachurch or housechurch… whether people are primarily focused on christ, his kingdom and body or their little personal kingdom and unique way of expressing and controlling those realities.
    Honestly while I was in the institutional church I heard many warnings about ‘lone rangers’ and no man being an island… interestingly I didn’t hear frequent warnings of going along with the group without critical thought. In all my travels I am yet to meet this supposed lone ranger who is completely cut off from all input and relationships. What I realized they meant was someone who wasn’t submitted to authority structures they recognized and plugged into a group they approved of.
    What I have come to understand is that if at some point in the journey we are not mostly on our own for a season we’ve probably not taken the red pill… or maybe we lucked out and have continually been in a healthy community.
    Anyways I appreciate it takes all types to change the world, some need to stay within the system, some need to leave… but at the end of the day we’re all part of the same body and Church. It doesn’t help if I say the church is corrupt and doomed but then it doesn’t help when someone talks about how great and awesome their church is… we all equally need to hear and be challenged their is only one church.
    That won’t happen in many circles though because many who are in the church aren’t actually part of The Church :)

  18. 4-2-2012

    Steven,

    Thanks for the comment! May we all grow in demonstrating that unity that we already have in Jesus Christ.

    Eli,

    You said, “But in reality its often impossible todo one without the other to the degree that people are institutionally minded.” I think that it can seem that way, and, if the other people choose to separate from me, then there’s nothing I can do about it. My goal is to always remain in fellowship with the people that God has brought into my life, even if I do not accept their organizational and/or institutional patterns.

    -Alan

  19. 10-19-2012

    Alan, once again this venue provides a platform for exchanging concepts, understanding, and love.

    I’m one who felt led to leave a local church, additionally I have had the blessing of experiencing the beauty of gathering under the headship of Christ outside the traditional concept. My vocabulary is far to limited to express the differences in the two, let say it is vastly different.

    One way that I have seen the Lord move is in a social gathering, in a home, our out to eat with friends that the conversation is about Jesus. This is unplanned, and for lack of a better phrase, ‘just happens’.

    My issue is simple, walking in the Spirit will help me to see what His will is. This may take more than one knock on my ‘door’, yet hopefully I understand.

    One alternative a few of us have worked out is we meet online once a week. Using Vsee, skype, or Google hangout. We have video, audio, and chat. This is not ideal, yet over the past year we have experienced the Lord working actively in this format. We gather without a leader (human) and discuss life ‘in’ Christ. We have used Frank Viola’s “From Eternity to Here” as a thread, this has proven to be helpful to one and all.

    I still love the concept of “Searching Together”, we all need ‘one another’.

    Thank you Alan for your ministry of love!

  20. 10-19-2012

    Jim,

    Thanks for sharing part of your own story and experiences!

    -Alan

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