Barnabas Network International | Online Resources for Churches

Leaders

The image is a familiar one. Jesus stands at the door and knocks. He is seeking entry. He says that if anyone will open the door He will come in and fellowship with them. (Rev. 3/20)

From my earliest days as a Christian that verse was most often applied to the Lord Jesus seeking admission to the life of an individual. But that was not the primary application. The immediate application was the Lord Jesus standing at the door of the Church, His Church, at Laodicea and He wants to enter.

Now, take a step back and consider the implications of this image. It is almost too incongruous to grasp. Jesus, the Head of the Church, standing outside the door of one of His churches and seeking entrance. How could it possibly be that a Church reaches a place whereby the Head of that Church has been evicted?

Some years ago in a conference, I sat riveted to my seat as I listened to a message entitled "I Want My Church Back!" The message was drawn from Rev.3/14-22 - the Church at Laodicea. The impact of that message in my life as a Pastor was immense. Over the next few months God used that message to re-shaped how I thought and functioned as a Christian leader. I began to see how subtly easy it was to treat the Church as my own. To relate to the people as though they were my people.

Slowly a new mission or vision took hold of my heart. I found that I adopted a new posture towards the Church where I was the Pastor. It was a two-part mission, the second part of which I will outline in a future post. But, for now, let me give you the first section of this new approach. I was choosing to live as one who was...

"Giving the Church back to God".

I was excited as I shared my new vision with our Church leaders. However, there was at least one who challenged my theology on the Church at this point. "How can we give the Church back to God? Isn't it His Church? It's not yours or ours to give back!"  Maybe in a theological sense he was right. But in a practical, functional sense, he was wrong.

I had to admit that I (we?) had been operating in a way that treated Jesus as though He was the "retired founder of the firm". It was as if Jesus' work was now done and he had left the Church in our hands. We treated the Church as though it was now ours, not His. Of course, we stilled prayed about ministry issues. We would talk as though it was Jesus' Church. But the decisions, directions, appointments etc. would be made by us.

The kind of questions that quickly exposed our propensity towards Church ownership were...

 "Do you believe that Jesus is really present when you meet together?" 

"Is your conviction about His presence with you more than a theological conviction? Is it a functional reality?"

"In what ways do you accommodate His presence? e.g. do you allow 'time for listening'?"

Most often, the honest answers to these types of questions were hesitant and uncertain.

So it was that we began a new journey in which we endeavoured to consciously and deliberately find ways to be "giving the Church back to God".

But how does one adopt such a posture? I will comment on that in future posts..

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