I have frequently heard people say, “I love Jesus, but I don’t need the church.” It is a trendy notion these days. A video titled “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” was posted in January 2012; it has over 25 million views and people still leave numerous (mostly rude) comments every day.
It is illuminating that a response video titled “Why I Love Religion, And Love Jesus” has a mere 760,000 views. Clearly not quite as virally popular as the original. (Although this video also has similarly rude comments being posted daily.)
To tell you the truth, I often sympathize with the Pro-Jesus / Anti-Church point of view. Many times the one who holds such a view has been hurt, ostracized, judged, or otherwise treated quite poorly by someone in the church. This genuinely painful experience is then projected onto “the church” as a whole.
At the same time, I know that there are people who use the idea as a rationalization to perpetuate their own comfortable lives. Often the one who does so will use terms like “irrelevant” and “old-fashioned” to describe church. Following Jesus is relegated to a consumer-driven search for what works for me, what fits into my calendar, and what’s the latest fad being shared on pinterest.
In the first chapter of John, Jesus calls Andrew whose immediate response is to go and invite Simon to follow him, as well. Jesus then calls Philip, who immediately goes to Nathanael and invites him along, too. It seems to me that “the church” started forming pretty quickly after Jesus started calling. Maybe there’s something to the notion that Jesus didn’t really intend for us to try to follow him all on our own.
It is when the church forgets that we are supposed to be helping people follow Jesus and becomes something else - ANYTHING else - that we get into trouble. The church is neither a self-help group, a community action agency, a social club, nor a status symbol. And I would add, the church is not a disciple making factory, as many seem to think.
The church is the embassy of God’s grace in the world, and members of the church are Christ’s ambassadors. The church doesn’t have a mission; God has a mission. And it is for the sake of that mission that we are the church.