We live in a time when millions of Christ-followers are leaving church because they long to see the risen Jesus directing His body and because they are weary of complying with religious systems. Some are meeting in small groups. Others are on their on. But they have all given up on church as usual.
Ephesians 4:15 says that we can “grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” That’s exciting news (not fake news) that many have never heard. It’s a call to grow beyond church as usual into the mature body of Christ.
Will those who are leaving church develop their own religious systems and put control in one person’s hands? Will those who stay in church ignore God’s loud wake up call for them to follow the risen Jesus beyond religious programming and control? It’s too soon to tell.
However, for those who want to go beyond church as usual and grow into the mature body of Christ (whether inside or outside of the institutional church system), here are some ways to do that based on Ephesians 4:
- “Speaking the truth in love,” — When people are free to speak the truth with humility and compassion, the things that are holding us back come into the light. What’s hidden and unseen can’t be easily healed; but what’s brought to light in a loving environment is often mended on the spot. Modern support groups have discovered and implemented this concept. Perhaps it is time for church to as well. The book of James puts it this way: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”
- “Him who is the Head, that is, Christ,” — Speaking truth without being under the Headship of Christ can trample people. Truth must be handled compassionately. When we let Christ Head up our conversation and interactions, speaking only as He prompts us, truth becomes transformational. Church often makes Christ a mere figurehead while the pastor acts as the real head. To become the mature body of Christ, we must allow the risen Jesus to be the literal Head, the Symphony Conductor, when we gather in His name.
- “The whole body . . . builds itself up in love, as each part does its work,” — The whole body needs to be actively involved with building one another up. In the New Testament there are more than 50 “one another” commandments. We’ve made church an audience of spectators; however, Christ wants His body to be interactive, with every part doing its work to encourage others. And what is each person’s work? Jesus’ mother put it this way: “Whatever He says to you, do it.”
- “You must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking,” — As Christ-followers we are called to be led by the Spirit; not by our own analysis, opinions, and feelings. To become the mature body of Christ, we must set aside our will and follow Jesus’ will. Will you? Getting your way blocks God from having His way.
Someone gave me this feedback on “speaking the truth in love.” They said: “Often the truth spoken in love is interpreted as mean.”
Here’s my response: “And too often, when someone interprets the truth we speak, as meanness, and reacts in a mean way back toward us; we confirm their suspicions by stepping out of love and being mean back to them. That’s why Jesus said ‘love your enemies.’ Speaking the truth in love is not a one-time statement. It is sticking with love no matter how others respond to us. Speaking the truth in love doesn’t fail. We let people’s meanness provoke us and then we slip from speaking truth in love to speaking in defensiveness.”
Learn more about going beyond church as usual @Beyond Church: An Invitation To Experience The Lost Word Of The Bible http://amzn.to/2kec6b2.