The Church is like a bus, in that we don’t get to choose who’s on the bus with us; it’s God’s church and not ours. In the midst of diversity in the church, we are united by our commitment to Jesus and his love for us, not by our politics, our ethnicity, or our culture. We are the body of Christ, not just a collection of individuals, so following Jesus isn’t just about me, it’s about us.
Speaker: Pastor Stephen “Tig” Intagliata
Main Bible Passage: Luke 6:12-19; Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16
Today we continue with our series on the church based on the book by Skye Jethani, ‘What if Jesus Was Serious About the Church?’ I will mention highlights from the different chapters in Part 1.
1 | Dedicated to community and not just an institution
“Church” is not a building or an event, but a community. Gatherings of the Church. Structures are good when they serve the people.
“It is very possible to dedicate your time, treasure, and talents to an institution called a “church” but never know the mutual love, joy, hope, and support that comes when united with God’s people.” P. 19 (see this in the photos I’ve been going through for anniversary).
Looking through old pictures of NVMC/DRPC church is a community, not a building. A lot of it takes place outside the sanctuary—in homes, at retreats, restaurants, on the grass by the firepit, etc.
2. In Ch. 2, Jethani compares the Church to a bus
It’s God’s Church and not ours
Popular marketing phrase is “you’ve got to get the right people on your bus”. Target audiences, churches do this as well.
“The bus belongs to Jesus, and he decides who is on it even if we think they’re not the “right” people. Ch. 2, p. 23
People attend a church for different reasons: “Mennonite background/family tradition ”, Anabaptist values, location (closeby), invitation from a friend/coworker, music, children’s program.
What must unite us is our focus on becoming more like Jesus, not our political leanings, foods we like, native language, race or ethnic makeup.
Jesus’ disciples’ diversity– Matthew and Simon. Different political parties. How did they get along those three years? Matthew – tax collector; Simon- Zealot (like a terrorist, Freedom fighter.
Simon the Zealot and Matthew the Tax Collector: Try to find common ground politically, not happening; way they dress, nope; lifestyle, no.
Acts 1:14- devoted to each other. (The key was that the focus was on following Jesus – learning from him and becoming more like him.)
“Unity is not something we find through a common interest, a mutual ethnic identity, a shared political ideology, or even a joint mission. It only comes from abiding in the same Lord. Left to ourselves…we would probably remove the very people from the bus that He most wants on board.” P. 23-24
What united Simon and Matthew wasn’t a common political, cultural, or economic vision. It was Jesus and nothing else. God calling these two men together wasn’t practical, but it was beautiful. Isn’t that what the church, and the world, need right now? P. 32
3 | The Church should mend social divisions, not reflect them.
86% of churches in the US are racially homogenous. Most Christians still prefer a racially segregated church. Sunday morning at 11 am is the most segregated hour of the week in the US.
Churches are divided over politics these days. Pro-MAGA and anti-MAGA churches.
Also valued pragmatism over diversity-it’s easier. Birds of a feather fellowship together.
Ephesians 4:3-6 Unity through focusing on one body, one Lord, one baptism, calling, etc.
4 | God has reconciled a people, not just individuals
Independent, individualistic spirit of our culture; heroes, focus on celebrity pastors. Church should focus on the character of Jesus, not the personality of its pastors.
“Personal relationship with Jesus Christ” is not in the Bible, we have a collective relationship as well. (Picks up more on this in Ch. 6)
5 | Our goal should be more than attending church.
Our growth can and should happen outside of Sunday morning worship. Spiritual practices/disciplines like reading, solitude/prayer, conversations with people different from yourself to learn from them.
6 | Following Jesus isn’t about me, it’s about us.
No unique second person plural pronoun in English. Some use things like “y’all”, “you’uns”, “you guys”. Spanish “Uds.” All words affected “Uds. son Americanos.”
Our minds are simply not trained to think collectively, so we tend to confine and individualize the text. We emphasize the “personal relationship with God” bias of consumeristic Christianity and overlook our corporate identity as members of Christ’s body—the church….
We need to slow down every time we encounter the word “you” in a New Testament letter and ask ourselves not only how this applies to me, but also what it means for us. P. 39-40
Letters in Bible were written to churches, not individuals. Need to read them that way. “you” = “you all”. In our individualistic culture, we need to recover a communal vision of faith/what it means to be a Christian.
“Me and Jesus” approach- see this in praise and worship songs. It’s all “I” and “Me”, not “We” or “Us”. Some of it’s OK, but we need to emphasize the communal as well; very few sing about the relationship with the community, just the individual relationship with God. That’s why I like the variety in our Voices Together hymnal.
7 | We Wrestle with God together. (instead of with each other)
“A church—being an assembly of believers—is simply a community that wrestles with God together. It’s where we struggle openly rather than privately, and where questions are asked and sometimes answered. But when no answer is found, the church is also where we find comfort, support, and encouragement.” P. 43-44
8 | We find—and pray for—our enemies.
Together song- “my rival” “Difference is a place where God is found; in seeking peace we’re walking onto holy ground”.
Erosion of empathy for those we disagree with-à dehumanize others.
Justin Martyr understood that praying for our enemies is the first step in changing how we see them…the church’s greatest weapon against evil isn’t how we vote but how we pray. P. 48
9 | The Church is united in love, not anger.
The early church of Jews and Gentiles defined themselves based on Christ’s love, not by hatred for the other group.
Rather than defining themselves by their hatred for the other group, within the church both Jews and Gentiles learned to release their hate and instead define themselves based on Christ’s love. P. 52
Be suspicious of leaders who use anger to motivate us, or demonize certain individuals or groups. These tactics, while certainly effective in a worldly sense, do not conform to the example of Christ or his first followers. P. 52.
Let’s define ourselves by what we’re for, not against.