Would Jesus Go to Church?

It has been around for centuries, this idea of devotion for Christ  and apathy for his church.  Dan Kimball, for example, wrote a book a few years back entitled They like Jesus but Not the Church.  This dislike for the local congregation but interest in Christ is certainly widespread today.  From a perspective that is very subversive to the individualistic practices of many modern believers and para-church ministries, God reveals to John a Son of Man who has planted himself directly in the midst of churches.  
John leaves no doubt about this since those 7 lamp stands where the Son of Man resides are interpreted as the 7 churches of Revelation (Rev. 1:12-13, 20).  Far too many lifetimes have been wasted by individuals desperately wanting to interpret the symbols of Revelation while all the time ignoring one of the few symbols that Revelation itself interprets for the reader.  Christian pietists have always been excited about John’s earlier scene with the Son of Man “coming with the clouds” (Rev. 1:7), but they seem to lose interest when he is to be found dwelling among congregations.  
Jesus’ choice to hang out with the saints is even more startling in light of the poor performance and patent heresy of many of these congregations.  Some of these churches had people who had turned their backs on Christ, yet there he still is among them.  While Christ was never known to make choices based upon the “cool factor,” he truly chose some of the un-coolest folks in Roman Asia to hang out with.  Had Christ wanted to be worshipped with excitement and style, he clearly would have chosen to hang out with those worshipping the Emperor or with those where truly exciting worship took place like in the Mystery Religions.
This apparent desire of Christ to shun individualism and to be seen with his people is highlighted in John’s use of other collective images and illustrations.  It is impossible to make any sense out of Revelation’s use of the 144,000 without noticing that it points to 12 thousand from each of the 12 tribes (Rev. 7:4-8), and not just 144,000 individuals.  Even the image of the Bride of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7; 21:2, 9; 22:17) is built upon Old Testament nuptial ideas where the corporate people of God are taken as the Bride.  As with the Apostle Paul (Eph. 5), for John we are only the Bride of Christ as the church.
Revelation 14:1-5 has a powerful scene that depicts the saints in heaven.  Among the many descriptions of this group of the saved is that these are “the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes” (Rev. 14:4).  Unlike many of their modern counterparts, these believers and martyrs in John’s vision were willing to follow the Messiah anywhere without reservation, even into the life of the local church.
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4 thoughts on “Would Jesus Go to Church?

  1. You said, “While Christ was never known to make choices based upon the ‘cool factor,’ he truly chose some of the un-coolest folks in Roman Asia to hang out with.” I’m curious, how are we to infer the correct criteria for cool/un-cool? This sounds, to me, like the growing chorus of naysayers who disdain most contemporary worship as mere amusement, meant to please man more than God. While I can agree that “excitement and style” are not always good, I can no better equate a lack of excitement or a lack of style as somehow necessarily accepted by God. For it sounds to me as if some think, ‘if man hates it, then God must love it’.Your inference from Revelation of God’s disdain for individualism is apt. And I’m glad, therefore, that many have begun to critique our modern notions of ‘autonomy’, the ‘soterian gospel’, the modern ‘sacred/secular’ dichotomy, and our American, all-too-American democratic readings of scripture, that have held sway over many of our modern ecclesiologies, providing a gravity toward the very individualism that seem to captivate even the most conservative of churches.But perhaps just as bad as the modern individualist—‘I like Jesus, but not the church’—is the group who thinks that they have all the lampstands, the group that swallows up the symphonic plurality attested to in Revelation, those who have reduced the local church to a particular kind of gathering by which we mix something like a 1950s social sensibility with a populist hermeneutic. To these modern monolithic groupings of churches, all other voices, unlike in John’s generous critique and warning, are scoffed at as apostate.

  2. I know it's not the point of your post but rather than bemoan the fact that some like Jesus but not the church, we should be asking why they don't like the church. Surely, part of the reason, as you suggest, is the individualism that pervades throughout our culture. But I would also suggest that part of the reason is the fault of the church…because the church looks more like the rest of this dark world rather than the imitation of Christ. That does not mean we should give up on the church, since Jesus never does. Nor does it mean that the church should take its queues from what culture expects. But if our culture, or certain segments of our culture, feels (i.e.) unloved and unwelcomed by the church, it might mean that the church (we) have an issue that needs repentance. I think that was the point Kimball was trying to get at in his book (as well as Kinnaman and Lyon's book "Unchristian").Grace and Peace,K. Rex Butts

  3. The image of CHRIST in the midst of the (HIS) church truly reveals HIS power, authority, and love. And to the church of Philadelphia, HE will cause those who follow Satan to come and bow down at the feet of those who keep HIS word and do not deny HIS Name and HE will make them know the love HE has for the church. Some people are in for a huge surprise/shock at what is to come. May they (we) take the mercy of time to repent.

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