Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Abducting Jesus (2)

In his book, Organic Church, Neil Cole writes about an explanation of church that he received as a seminary student. It included characteristics like a group of believers gathered together, elders present, an agreed-on set of doctrines, practices of baptism and communion, etc. I have heard other speakers talk of similar results when they have posed the question, What is the Church? Now, there is nothing necessarily wrong about the items on this list, but as Neil Cole points out...there is something VERY IMPORTANT missing! It's that guy named Jesus! Maybe you've heard of him.
Jesus is missing!!! Later, Cole states, "The church is often more about what we bring to the table than what God does" (Cole, 2005, p. 50). This is really such an interesting point if you think about it. I once had a pastor friend confront me with this in another way. He said, "We can get a lot accomplished with just our talent and intellect alone." He was not saying this as a good thing, but as a note of concern about leaving the Holy Spirit out of the equation and depending only on our human abilities. It was a word of caution, of warning.

This isn't really a new thought, though. Theologian A. W. Tozer talked about our misperceptions of God. He observed that most churches in America would go on as if nothing happened if the Holy Spirit was removed from the picture. We have this knack for minimizing the Divine down to our human understandings and mental pictures, and then worshiping those. It's kind of like our own "mini-me" version of God, a smaller, less powerful image of the Original. We have just enough of the Real One for us to manage and handle in our minds, but not much more, and sometimes a dangerously poor resemblance.

But picking up where Cole leaves off with this thought, if you take Jesus away, then there is a void that has to be replaced with something. And how we have filled that void with all kinds of things over the years, the centuries! In fact, there exists an entire model of church premised upon the need for a pastor to lead a congregation, a concept never modeled in the New TestamentIncredibly, the word "pastor" does not even appear there!! (Note: The plural form of the word - "pastors" - is included one time in Ephesians 4.) 

I submit that we have replaced Jesus with so much stuff that we have lost sight of the fact that he is missing. He is almost
unrecognizable to many church people, similar to a sketch of a missing person that leaves us wondering if we have ever seen that person. He was taken from right beneath our noses while we preached and prayed in his name. Could it be that someone kidnapped the Christ child?  Is the abduction of Jesus a real crisis for us today? 

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