In my book, Skeleton Church, I suggest that church is best defined as “The people of God who follow Jesus into the world.” Jesus wants to take the church out of our buildings and into the streets and parks of our towns to love and serve the people who are there.
What will this look like in your town and your community?
Yesterday I began to ask this question by challenging you to try to look like Jesus. I suggested a few ways to move in this direction, but let’s get down to brass tacks.
What can Your Church do to Look Like Jesus?
Here is my answer: I have no idea.
Nobody really knows what church will look like ten, twenty, or a hundred years from now. Even the path to get wherever we are going is full of questions and uncertainty.
In a Newsweek article about the church, Andrew Sullivan wrote this:
I have no concrete idea for how Christianity will wrestle free of its current crisis, of its distractions and temptations, and above all its enmeshment with the things of this world. But I do know it won’t happen by even more furious denunciations of others, by focusing on politics rather than prayer, by concerning ourselves with the sex lives and heretical thoughts of others rather than with the constant struggle to liberate ourselves from what keeps us from God. What Jefferson saw in Jesus of Nazareth was utterly compatible with reason and with the future; what Saint Francis trusted in was the simple, terrifying love of God for Creation itself. That never ends.
This Christianity comes not from the head or the gut, but from the soul. It is as meek as it is quietly liberating. It does not seize the moment; it lets it be. It doesn’t seek worldly recognition, or success, and it flees from power and wealth. It is the religion of unachievement. And it is not afraid. In the anxious, crammed lives of our modern twittering souls, in the materialist obsessions we cling to for security in recession, in a world where sectarian extremism threatens to unleash mass destruction, this sheer Christianity, seeking truth without the expectation of resolution, simply living each day doing what we can to fulfill God’s will, is more vital than ever. It may, in fact, be the only spiritual transformation that can in the end transcend the nagging emptiness of our late-capitalist lives, or the cult of distracting contemporaneity, or the threat of apocalyptic war where Jesus once walked. You see attempts to find this everywhere—from experimental spirituality to resurgent fundamentalism. Something inside is telling us we need radical spiritual change.
But the essence of this change has been with us, and defining our own civilization, for two millennia. And one day soon, when politics and doctrine and pride recede, it will rise again.
Variety and Similarity
Hopefully, each group of people who seek to follow Jesus into the world will look different.
One of the main problems in church history has been the desire of some churches to imitate the success of others. This has led to the rise of idol churches, where their message and methods are copied almost verbatim, and then reproduced and transplanted around the world, often with much less success than the original. The pastors and leaders of such copycat churches are not studying their own geographical culture, or looking at the people whom God has given them to work with, but are instead trying to emulate the culture and people of somewhere else. This shuts down the great things God is trying to do in their own unique situation.
Nevertheless, those who follow Jesus into the world will be characterized by a few universal traits due to their association with Jesus. We will begin to look at these traits tomorrow.
What are you doing to follow Jesus into the world and look more like Jesus to those you meet?
David Mercer on Facebook says
It could look like truly converted people who manifest their faith in the their daily lives….and then gather once a week for a service of the Word and worship. I realize that you are probably speaking of evangelicals…..but I’m referring to people like United Methodists, PCUSA, UCC, etc. I think that we need to be converted in the first place.
The Andrew Sullivan link says “Page Not Found”.
Yes, the church may look like Jesus, but that does not mean it looks exactly the same everywhere.
Out of the building – That’s us. But we do “meet” in buildings occasionally – in coffee shops, in homes and in public buildings. The “we” is often just a handful and whenever possible we include others. Our Cinco De Mayo party would be an example.
For us, “service” is picking up trash, spending time and sharing with the homeless and so on. Our sermons are our lives lived out before others. Our meetings and gathering together can be anywhere and everywhere.
Yesterday three of us spent part of the morning with an addict just out of prison who said the police were looking for her. She had no shoes, only a thin shirt (she needed a sweatshirt) and no food or water. We helped her get those items. We also spent time with another guy, an addict also. Both of these people knew without us telling them that we were there on behalf of Jesus.
Yeah, this is following Jesus into the world.
Jeremy Myers says
Thanks for the heads up about that link. I have fixed it now…
You are exemplifying Jesus everywhere you go. Thank you for being an inspiration to me as well.
I don’t know if I can post this verse without being bludgeoned with theological terminologies, but just the same, Jeremy, do it for the glory of God!
“So whether you eat or drink or WHATEVER you do, do it for the glory of God.” 1Cor.10:31
Jeremy Myers says
I am trying. I am trying.