This sermon is “Called Out Ones”… and comes from a series at Grace Brethren Church in Bath, Ohio called “How Do You Know For Sure?”. The series aims to answer questions posed by church members and people in the surrounding area. This sermon is aimed to answer these questions about church:
- Who invented the church and why?
- Do you have to be a part of church to go to heaven?
- Was the church created to control people to make people behave in a certain way?
- What is a “true” church?
The Definition of “church”
Usually people consider a church as the physical building(s) or we think about people like a Pastor or the staff.. that’s not wrong – it’s just the culture… but that takes away from what Jesus meant by His Church. Jesus is talking about people who are “called out” to him. Greek word is the word “ecclesia” – “called out ones” or “a selected group”. In Greece, when the govt officials had a problem/need to make a decision, they would call out the citizenry. This wouldn’t include slaves or outsiders – only those who claimed rights of citizenry. When Jesus is describing his followers/disciples, he uses this word. He has called us!
Who started the “church”?
Not a gov’t.. not by Apostle Peter.. it was Jesus. Jesus says “I will build my ecclesia”:
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
Don’t misunderstand the meaning of the rock! It is the claim that Peter made that “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” On THAT claim, Jesus “will build His Church”!
Those that choose to follow that claim are called out to follow Him… and Jesus will infer on them special rights and gifts because they are Jesus’ “ecclesia” (citizenry/church).
OK – so what the Church is begun. What is it? It’s the gathering of Christ followers. The building is a spiritual house – not a physical one. So… itt’s not a physical building – just where the “church” gathers in. There is nothing sacred about the physical buildings we consider as church! We should be respectful about God’s gifts but church can meet anywhere (like our small marriage group … which really IS our church since we are in-between finding a local Church home).
Why did Jesus do that (build his Church) and why is it important?
Jesus identifies 2 purposes of Church:
- Bring glory to God and share the Good News of Jesus. The Great Commandment (“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…”) and the Great Commission (“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…”). We should think of church as LOVE! If we love you, we will share with you the love of Jesus!
- Meet the needs of humanity (love the neighbors as ourselves). In Acts 6, deacons were first organized with a primary purpose of food distribution and handling the needs of members! In hard times the Church is who is there for you… friends tend to “care” but your church tends to be “family.”
Do I have to join Church to go to heaven?
The answer is yes and no – it depends on your meaning of the question:
- Do I have to join this church to go to Heaven? no.
- Do I have to join Jesus’ church to go to Heaven? Yes – if you choose to follow Jesus, you are calling yourself out to Jesus.
The greater level is the “universal church” – everyone on Earth who says Jesus is the Son of the Living God. Anyone who claims this is part of this church.
The lower level is the local church. A lot more freedom here – you can choose where you go! You don’t have to go here (being Grace Brethren Church in Ohio… which is good because we live in Virginia) though..
So what’s a good church?
There are an enormous variety of churches out there … including false ones. How do you know which is “good”? God strongly warns us to keep our guard up for false prophets:
If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
Timothy was being told to watch out for those to twist the Truth! Hear are some the good marks of the true Church of Jesus:
- Focused solely on Jesus as Savior (red flags: additional prophet, good works, no Jesus)
- Defined and directed by the Bible (red flags: additional books/doctrine) – Bible should be the primary source!
- Filled with people striving to be like Jesus (that’s the entire point!!) . It’s not trying to keep the building open, it’s not people with similar political agenda, and if there is no life change, there is no spiritual growth!
- Committed to pointing other people toward Jesus
The Current Cultural View of Church
The Church has been so maligned.. people are suspicious — what’s REALLY going on? Part of the bad press we deserve – we are imperfect people who are going to do imperfect things … and the body of Christ needs to be truthful about it.
However, a lot of bad press is unfair – due to people against God and who don’t want God in our culture/society. Most of our bad press are from those who claim to be part of the Church but are false prophets:
- teach false truths about Jesus (not really God)
- teach other false truths (ie. He only loves white people or hates the Jews)
- harm people with name of Jesus
- they speak maliciously about people
- cause friction
- shout people down
- spiritualize political issues (ie. preaching environmentalism)
They are tainting and twist the Church in unintended direction. Abusing the Church to get rich. We know it’s a lie but millions are harmed and are maligning the Church.
So… we come to the church with suspicion. We start to wonder. And the Church goes from this beautiful bride of Christ to a dark figure because of its portrayal. For every leader who has failed the Church, there are 10s of thousands who have served faithfully. Over the years, the churches benefits have been beyond measure:
- hospitals came about
- women’s liberation
- prison ministry
- homeless shelter
- feeds the hungry
- tsunami relief (and still there)
- only organizations truly fighting AIDS in Africa
Let’s not lose sight of the glory of the Church! Jesus views the church as His Bride (Ephesians 5). Think of a wedding… “oh my goodness – what beauty”, “how lucky I am”! He knows we are imperfect and we will need to try several times before we get it right, but He says that’s alright. That’s the Church.
The Chosen Ones … those who say You are the Christ the Son of the Living God. They have caused change across the world and continue today! We get to join the Church. There is no greater privilege on earth.
NOTE: I was particularly happy to listen to this when I returned to Ohio for a weekend to visit… I wanted to get a solid perspective on the Church since we are looking for one. Just this weekend, we visited New Venture Christian Church and liked it – quite different meeting in a movie theatre! We will see where God takes us when it comes to our church home…