The concept may seem basic, but the longer I’m a Christian and the longer I’m a pastor, the more confusion I see in practice and hear in popular Christian teaching about the church. Who talks about the church being the bride, the betrothed of Christ with whom He’s united through His own death and resurrection in a spiritual love relationship? If you find yourself in a discussion about the church with the emerging generation, you almost always hear certain buzz words. If the conversation gets a little bit critical, evaluating a certain church, you’ll typically hear hip-sounding terms that circle around the words community, authenticity, and everyone’s favorite, relevance. There’s talk about chipping in on social issues, about everyone finding their purpose.
Now don’t get me wrong; some of those words are good words and some of those concepts are really good ones. Some of them are a part of the connective tissue described in the Bible regarding the identity of church. Unfortunately, they are most often used in a manner that sidelines the church’s real purpose and commission. We’re witnessing an entire generation trying to reinvent the church, trying to solve a problem that doesn’t really exist. I read a book recently in which the author’s basic premise is: “Everything you’ve thought about the church is wrong, and what I have to say about the church is now the right way to do it.” The problem is that people tend to evaluate the church by their own personal experience with the church; it’s a horizontal kind of evaluation and relationship. Their thinking boils down to: Church is about me, community, us, how we’re dealing with each other, what we’re doing in the world and with the world.
While those are facets of church ministry, if you read the New Testament you find the church is defined more by Jesus than it is by us and our relationships. The church says together, Let us rejoice and be glad and give glory to Him! Perhaps many who are discontent with the church simply haven’t found contentment in Jesus. Every church you are ever going to be involved with is going to, at some level, in some way, eventually disappoint you. The pastor will say something you don’t like, the deacons and elders will make decisions you’re not in tune with, and you’re going to find yourself saying, internally and intuitively, I want to quit this church and go find a better church that’s more in line with my idea about church.
Now, leaving a church isn’t always bad. Sometimes it’s a good and noble decision. My question is, in which church are you going to find that perfect fit? I know where it is: heaven. What many of these trendy teachings about the church fail to recognize is the true identity and biblical purpose of the church. Church is not a support group for life. The church is not about us finding each other and connecting with each other. These may be wonderful benefits of our fellowship, but only if they are a result of being attached to our Head, our Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ. Sadly, the knee-jerk reaction in most of our conversations about church is to focus on ourselves and our relationships with one another before and maybe even to the exclusion of our talk about Christ. Now understand, these are extremely important relationships. However, they’re not supremely important. What’s supremely important is the church’s relationship with Jesus. We are His bride. He is our Head.
Rick Holland is one of our eleven TES campus pastors, having served as Senior Pastor of Mission Road Bible Church in Kansas City, KS since 2011. This article was taken from his book, Uneclipsing the Son (Kress Biblical Resources, 2011).