The Bus Stop is a series of true stories about my life, people I've worked with and events I've experienced. Of course the names have been changed. I hope these stories will brighten your day with a few laughs as well as give you encouragement. Hopefully you can avoid making some of the mistakes I've made and if you have already made them, then you can identify with me.

Monday, August 10, 2009

What is the Church?

A few months ago I sent out the question asking people, “What’s the Church?” What’s it supposed to be and what is it about. I got several good responses. Maybe I’m making it a bigger issue than I need, but it’s something that has plagued me for several years. What is a real church?

Of course I hope you know that I’m not talking about the church building, but the church. The people or the bride as described in the Bible. Here are the responses I received and I wanted to share them with you.

Ideally, the church is a like a hospital, for healing, restoration and then you "Go" into the world, sharing the good news about this way station for restoration and reconciliation. Unfortunately, many churches have become retirement homes. Elisa

A fellowship of Christians worshiping God and true relationship with God. People who are in their heart. Mario

1) A house of God, a place for worship and nearness w/God, a place to foster growing nearer to God

2) Sincerity, genuine worship, and oftentimes His presence or the allowance of His presence. Beth

To me it is supposed to be about teaching Gods word and how you can relate his word to your life. I don’t really remember much about Catholic Church other then it was very regimented and hard to follow. You spent more time moving up and down off your knees then anything else. Now that I’m older and have gone through some experiences, I feel I really crave his teachings and feel he really speaks to me by hearing really good teachings about his word and how to use it. Jason

The church is supposed to be unified in Christ. To love, worship and come together in his name. The church is supposed to find ways to get the message to the people. Serve others. Brandy

Short and sweet…" More Jesus and Less Religion " Grace ,Grace , Grace ..Sandy

  1. A place to come together and worship the Lord and learn more about Him and to fellowship.
  2. It is missing humility. Jim

The “Church” is God’s children that have been saved by the blood of Jesus.

Love is what is missing. Christy

As I read through all these there is not one of them I can disagree with. As you can see the church isn’t a place to go to, but a place of being. I’ve learned to see what the Bible has to say about such matters instead of trying to formulate my own opinion. Today I read several chapters in the book of Acts looking at some of the characteristics of the New Testament church. Here is a controversial question. Was the first church of the New Testament started by Jesus and His Apostles or was the first church started by the Apostles on the day of Pentecost as described in Acts? Believe it or not this has caused many debates and arguments among scholars and theologians. It has also been the catalyst for many church splits. I know what I believe, but the real issue is not what happened then, but what is happening now and it’s not worth an argument.

The church is a group of believers that have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. There are many institutions out there that call themselves churches, but they are no more than a club or a conglomeration of religious practices and rituals. The church is people that have given their life and heart to Christ.

When my wife and I were leaving boot camp and everyone was joyful and so full of love we both were amazed. She looked at me and said, “Why can’t the church be like this?” This thought has stuck with me ever since. In Acts 2:42-47 it says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread (eating together) and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

We as people have something within us that drives us for fellowship with one another. I’ve seen this desire outside of the church as much as within. One of the best experiences my wife and I had was a time we were meeting with a small group in McKinney. The group was open and full of love. Another time was a few years ago when my wife and I led a support group for boot campers. There was a unity and love that was difficult to explain.

Years ago when I worked at the Love Field Airport I remember passing a small white church building. I began to envision a place of love, peace, security, freedom and a safe place one could go and not be judged or criticized. It was a place that a person could be completely open and not fear anyone’s harsh looks or judgmental attitudes. There was joy, thanksgiving, and unity, free of dissension and criticism and people having a great time of teaching, singing and fellowship and when it was time to go home no one wanted to leave. I didn’t know it at that time, but what I was describing and wanting was a Real Church. Many people today would describe it as New Age thinking. New Age thinking has already infiltrated the church, but this is not how. It’s kind of funny, but the New Age idea is not new. It’s been around for a long time since the beginning of time.

What we have to remember is the church isn’t a place for condoning our sin nor is it a place of condemning our sin. It is supposed to be a people that helps us to overcome our sin and not just accept it. It’s beginning to sound like to me that every time spiritual leaders in this country come across genuine Christianity or something they don’t understand they scream “New Age.” I would guess it has something to do with losing their followers, but mostly their money. The scariest thing about them is they appear to walk so close to the truth, but they left out one important ingredient and that’s “Love.” You can only fake love for so long and it’s easy to test. I can’t help but think of 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 where is says, “If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love.” I think this says it all.

The other day I heard something I can’t get out of my head. I heard a man on the radio explain and summarize the church. He said, “The church is not a function in which the Pastor, song director and choir are the entertainment, the congregation is the audience and God is the initiator and blesses the program. No, God is the audience; the people are the participators and the pastor and song director lead in worship to God.” Sometimes I can’t help but think how long it will be before they start selling admission tickets to church.

Be careful out there. I’m not going to tell you who to watch out for because I want you to use the above scripture to do your own testing.

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