Right now, I can think of no better word for our current culture than discontent. As a whole culture, we are not content. We are dissatisfied with the current status quo in politics, economics, justice, and even religion. We long to see better. We want good. We want change. However, people are so fatigued of failed attempts and veiled promises for better. People are desperately looking for answers and a solution. In looking for a solution, they walk away. They search. They immerse themselves in something different. Ultimately, the search becomes the end instead of the means. Right now, they do not see anything of substance worth latching on to. Some do not understand the action oriented search because they have been instructed to never leave, search, question. At the end of the day, they are just as dissatisfied with the world on the inside. I have been there. I have faced the question.
Is it all worth it? Should I just walk away?
At the end of the day, there is only one person who has kept me going–Jesus. He is the one whole truly changed the world, is changing the world, and will change the world in the future. Jesus created a movement which is still in existence 2000 years later based solely on what He did for us not what we can do for Him.
Both my hope and my prayer are that followers of Jesus rediscover the church as a movement. When followers of Jesus realize the church is birthed out of the in-breaking of God’s kingdom through them, making disciples, and engaging society, the results will be a movement which cannot be stopped, not an institution to be maintained.
For many people, “church” has been something we have lived with and around for much of our lives. The problem becomes when we hang around the church for so long, we start assuming we actually know what the church is without defining it. Mark Zuckerburg, the founder of Facebook, lumped in the church with other do-good social communities which are failing. When the church rediscovers its nature, the church becomes something entirely different. A church is not just a God-community, a place to do-life together. People can find a community of people to do life with anywhere. They have. A church is not the only organization with a mission. Many good non-profits have worthwhile missions. People would rather support and serve with them than the church. The church is not just a place to help you feel better. Many have found other means of coping with difficult circumstances. So what is a church then?
The church is a covenanted community centered around Jesus Christ which participates in the salvation He brings throughout the world.
The church began with Jesus investing in a few who reproduced Christ’s character and priorities in others. Movements mean ownership and involvement. Movements cannot be orchestrated or driven from the outside–they are movements, not programs.
The church will not magically become a movement again. The church will become a movement when Spirit-led disciples of Jesus start engaging those around them with the personal and cosmic rescue and renewal Jesus brings.
In Matthew 16:13-19, Jesus introduces the idea of the church to his disciples as an extension of the reality which they had already been living with Him.
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 “But you,” he asked them, “who do you say that I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus responded, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven.”
Many have wrongly interpreted this passage to mean that Jesus was saying to Peter that He was going to build His Church on Peter, the rock. This could not be further from the truth (1 Cor. 3:11, 10:4; Eph. 2:20). Many will argue Jesus was saying that He was going to build His Church on the statement which Peter made about Jesus’s identity. I think this answer is partly accurate. Jesus makes His first claim about the church in Caesarea-Philippi, which was the center of paganism during Jesus’s day. Likely, the disciples could see the cave known as the Gates of Hades, the Temple of Pan, the Temple of Augustus. The area had been conquered and reconquered. Notched into the hill were symbols of previous kingdoms which had risen and fallen. Jesus provides a beautiful illustration on how His kingdom will move into both the kingdom of darkness and the whole world. The darkness, injustice, and brokenness will not prevail. Jesus continues on after this passage and explains how He will model the self-sacrifice it takes to advance His kingdom.
Steve Addison in his book, Movements That Change the World, gives an insightful definition of movements and how they are born. He writes:
Movements are characterized by discontent, vision, and action. Discontent unfreezes people from their commitment to the way things are. Movements emerge when people feel something needs to change. If the vacuum created by discontent is filled with a vision of a different future and action to bring change then a movement is born. Movements change people and changed people change the world.
We have the discontent. The vision is laid out for us by Jesus. Who is bold enough to start taking action? I want to see a movement of God sweep across the United States once again. I believe we are on the doorstep of seeing something historical happen. Will you choose to believe it?