Consider the church today; there are big ones and small ones, scattered ones and gathered ones and institutional ones and organic ones. But what does it mean to be the church? In a previous post we talk about the church first being based on a confession “you are the Christ” made by Peter and Jesus’ response was that on that confession he would build His church. This means that Jesus has to be at the center of what the church is and what it does.
If Jesus is the center of what we do and who we are as a church, then surely he must be the authority. We have entered a time when churches have the leeway to be or look however they like without submission to Christ. We have to have distinctions like “missional” and “gospel centered”. Then are “mega’s” and “ houses”, “cells” and “traditional”. Yet none of these mean anything if Jesus is not the Lord of our lives as Christians and as His Church.
The fear of labels comes in that are we allowing churches to be churches if Jesus is not the center of what they do. Is there a lack of boldness on our part because we worry about being judgmental? The answer is yes. As Christians today we have become very tolerant of any and all things as long as they lead to the same place, in other words methodological universalism. We have to be careful of this because while it is good to see different churches it is not good to have false ideas of what we do as a church.
In labeling we hope that the label is enough to keep people away, and so we speak specifically about one group over another to add a connotation to the label. But however you want to label a church if they are not centered on Jesus, if the Gospel does not drive them, if they are not seeking the kingdom of God here and now then they are not a church, regardless of what they call themselves or what they say.
The church cannot be void of Jesus, or the gospel. To need distinctions like “gospel centered” or “missional” means that we are okay with churches that don’t do these things. We aren’t confronting one another in love and asking why the void is there, then we are not being good Kingdom citizens. This not a conversation about who is wrong or who is right in method, but a conversation about being people who are about our first love. This is about calling one another back to our identity in Jesus.
At the end of the day we have to be about the foundation of the church, Jesus. We have to be about the Gospel. We have to be about the expansion of the kingdom of God. As we are about these things and as anything we do is interwoven in these things we will find effectiveness. We will find the restoration, renewal, redemption and reconciliation of the world to its creator, of a people to God.