Believers: Stop being so welcoming

Church is for believers 

Church is for believers 

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
In this exchange, Jesus drew a contrast between who society says he is -- a prophet -- with whom Simon Peter said he is -- God’s son the Christ. Jesus hinted to an Old Testament title for the Christ when he called himself “Son of Man”, but it might surprise you to know that the Bible never actually records Jesus directly claiming to be the Christ or God’s son -- he only affirms it when someone else says he is. Simon wasn’t simply repeating his latest Sunday School lesson. He was actually defining theology. Later in this passage, we read:
He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.
So at that time, Jesus’ identity was super secret, and he wanted to keep it that way. It was a bold statement that Simon made, and this revelation from God made him unique. It separated Simon from the crowd. This helps us understand why Jesus responded with so much enthusiasm:
And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My assembly.
An assembly is unique because of the people who make it and the purpose they share. So besides Peter, who is supposed to assemble? The word Jesus used for assembly is translated from the Greek word ecclesia. But before it came to mean any assembly as it did in Jesus' day, it meant something else. A more literal translation is "called out ones". It originally referred to a specific governmental assembly in Athens made up of people who were called out from being normal citizens. Just as Simon was by his bold statement about who Jesus is that separated him from the crowd. 

Back when he became a disciple, Simon was, quite literally, called out from the crowd, when Jesus said, “Come, follow me”. And as any proper friendship should begin, Jesus immediately gave him a nickname: Peter. Now Peter finally finds out why: the name “Peter” and “rock” come from the same Greek word, and Peter and his unique statement about Jesus' identity is the foundation of the assembly. Earlier in Matthew, we read Jesus’ parable about a wise builder who built his house upon a deep foundation laid in rock. Nothing that came against that house could even shake it! And so it will be with Jesus’ assembly built on Peter, because he was called out by his revelation of who Jesus is. Jesus’ identity is critical to what the Church is, and its strength. The assembly of called out ones was built on that foundation.

Thanks to Peter, many others received this revelation -- he convinced 3,000 people of who Jesus was in just one day! Over and over again in the New Testament, people who share this belief in Jesus are referred to as people who are called. For example, Romans says “these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” Revelations says “the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.” The assembly of called out ones is the group of people who, just like Peter, received a revelation from the Father in heaven that Jesus is the Christ and Son of God.

Yet churches today welcome in many people who don't have this revelation about who Jesus is. In fact, inviting unbelievers is something that nearly every church today encourages! This is in stark contrast to the assembly we read about in Acts, where it says, "None of the rest dared to associate with them; however, the people held them in high esteem." 

Instead of making disciples that make more disciples as Jesus commanded, church leaders instruct members to bring unbelievers into the church so they can receive instruction from the professionals. The problem is, this gives church members an excuse to not share the gospel with their friends -- all they have to do is invited them to come along on Sunday. So churches must create an environment that doesn’t scare away unbelievers, which limits the church to the most foundation teaching and worship. The church is never allowed to grow and mature. Since church today has become so mundane, basic, and boring, most of these visitors get scared away from Jesus and his immature, boring followers. 

Further, inviting unbelievers to church hurts the deep fellowship and community that Jesus intended his disciples to have. Building quality relationships takes trust, and trust takes time to develop. Throwing someone else into the mix changes the dynamic. Discussion can only be as deep as permitted by the new person. Members of the assembly will either not be completely honest, or continue to share their deepest thoughts and feelings while an untrustworthy person might use that against the group to cause great pain. Unbelievers can suddenly turn a group of trusting, like-minded, loving friends into a vulnerable community. Bringing an unbeliever into an assembly is as foolish as bringing the enemy into a war room.

How much more effective would an assembly be if it allowed for deep fellowship, community, and love among like-minded disciples as Jesus intended? Instead of compromising beliefs for the sake of making unbelievers comfortable, the assembly could focus on making its members strong and mature. Instead of one pastor preaching the gospel on a church stage, there would be an army of disciples preaching in the world. In the assembly the would be encouraged and equipped to go out and make more disciples, welcome them into the body, and grow the assembly of disciples as Jesus commanded.

Please comment and share your thoughts below!

Comments

  1. Thank you for drawing this concept out and for using strong assertions. I'm only beginning to understand the line between loving my enemies and having fellowship with darkness; and to realize that much of the speculation about how the church should relate to the world did not originate with scripture, nor with God's Spirit. Concerning the identity of Jesus, my mind first jumps to John 9. I wonder if you've considered that Jesus takes it upon himself to reveal himself and to be worshiped by the healed blind man.

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