With all we have been through in creating ECO together and transferring our individual churches into it, we do well to ask - What is the Church? What is it that we are trying to become? Is the Church another social civic organization like the Elks, Kiwanis, or Rotary clubs? Is the Church a country club for the elite? Are we another advocacy group with our causes like the Sierra Club or the Tea Party? Is the Church a business to be run on business policies and organization structures? What makes Church unique from any other group, institution or organization?
Jesus and His teaching found in the Bible very clearly define the Church. Here are the 3 most important distinctions that separate the Church from every other human organization or group of people. This is what makes the Church unique, alive and vitally important today and forever.
First and foremost the Church is Christ-Centered! Jesus said it this way in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” The Church is where people meet Jesus. To gather in Jesus’ name means to gather with Jesus to worship and honor Him, to follow and obey Him, to serve and glorify Him, to know and share His love, and to understand and live by His truth. The Church is Christ-centered. Every activity of the Church must be centered on Jesus. Whenever any Church does anything that does not focus on Jesus, it ceases in that activity to be uniquely the Church of Jesus. So that means everything about the Church must be centered on Jesus. Why? Because a Church in Christ is a Church alive with the power of His resurrection presence.
The 2nd great characteristic of the Church is that it is Bible-Directed! 2 Timothy 3:16 (NLT) reads, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” As ECO churches, we believe what the Bible teaches even when it is hard to believe. We do what the Bible tells us to do even when we don’t want to do it. Why? Because every time we don’t do what the Bible tells us to do, we get into trouble; and every time we do what the Bible teaches us to do, we discover greater life. It is that simple. God gave us His truth in the Bible so we would know how to live His greater life. He is our Creator who designed us to live in specific ways. If we do those things He designed us to do, we live successfully and joyfully. If we do those things He did not design us to do, we will end up failing and hurting ourselves. God designed us to live with Him to get us to His eternal Kingdom. The owner’s manual for getting there is found in the Bible.
Then the 3rd great distinctive quality of the Church of Jesus Christ is that we are Holy Spirit Filled! Acts 1:8, 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” To be Holy-Spirit filled means that as Jesus’ Church, we make our decisions based on what the Holy Spirit leads us to do together, and carry out those decisions in the power the Holy Spirit provides. We are not a human-led, human-powered organization. We are led by the Holy Spirit to do what Christ wants us to do. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to succeed at what Christ directs us to do. This results in the Church being fully alive in a way that we become a life-changing, community-changing, region-changing, nation-changing and even world-changing Church. We reach out far beyond our human limitations or abilities. We see lives changed because God the Holy Spirit changes them, not us. We let ourselves be used by the Holy Spirit who fills our lives and our Church worship, mission and ministry together.
That is the Church that centers on Jesus, is led by His Bible, and is powered by His Holy Spirit.
Mike Clark is the Senior Pastor, Church of the Valley, Apple Valley, CA and the Ministry Partnership Team Chair of the ECO Southern California Presbytery