|How most people view the Christ-centered church|
This is how many “church people” see the church. The larger circle is Christ, the small ones are people, and the largest one represents the church. If Christ IS the center, then those closest to Him are IN the church, and those further away are OUT of the church. Theres an easily recognizable border between one and the other.
You’re IN if you’re “Born Again” or “Baptized” or “Filled with the Spirit” or … or… or… (lots of different churches use lots of different definitions about what it means to belong.) And while I agree that the concept behind these terms is important, I don’t think they fully describe what it means to keep Christ at the center of the church and, ultimately, our lives.
Drawing lines isn’t the best way to describe any church. When you do that, someone is always on the “wrong” side of that line. And when someone is on the “wrong” side, that inevitably leads to permission to leave that person out, to exclude them, to say they are “wrong”, to tell them they need to “get right”, that their thoughts and opinions are “unbiblical”…. we in the church find lots of ways to tell people they are on the wrong side. But what does the church look like to those that are on the “wrong side”?
|What the Christ-centered church really looks like|
Here’s what the church looks like to people that don’t know where the line is. To people that are not part of the church. When you’re at the mall or driving down the interstate, or sitting in a movie theater, you don’t know who is “in” or who is “out”, unless they tell you, and even then you can’t really be sure. Without a church service going on, you can’t tell which people are “church” and which people are not “church”. Everyone pretty much looks the same. Without some example in their words or deeds, people that are “in” look just like people that are “out”.
Both of these models are wrong. While looking down from above it looks like Christ is the center, it’s not really how the church IS, or better still, it’s not how God sees people. There’s a better way to look at people rather than “in” or “out”.
In our first image, the dot closest to Christ seemed to obviously be the most Christ centered, Christ-loving, person, definitely ‘in’. But in this image we can see that this perso
n, while they seem to be closest to Christ, is actually moving the wrong way. Their life is going away from Christ. In the first image, the one furthest away was obviously ‘out’, but here we see that not only are they moving toward Christ, they are working really hard at it. There are a couple that are closer, they have less distance to go, but they’re barely moving. Others have stagnated, they’re going sideways in relation to Christ.
But there’s one that best represents what the church should really want to be, what everyone wants, or should want. The U-Turn. Someone that was trying to run away, but has turned their life around. We as the church best represent the Christ Centered church when we are the ones that help that person make the U-Turn. Or when we share the stories of our own u-turns. While we as the church should always strive to be moving toward the middle, more importantly we need to be the ones pointing people to the middle, to the center, to Christ. Not with picket signs and sermons and other ways to tell people they are going the wrong way, but with love, gentleness, and respect for them as people that God sees as deserving love, gentleness, and respect.
How do we do that? How about this:
“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27 NASB)
“And whoever… gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42 NASB)
“[Jesus said] Come, you who are blessed of My Father,inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” (Matthew 25:34-40)
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)
Are we moving toward Christ in our lives? Or do we think we’re already there? Are we helping others do move toward Christ? Or are we leaving that to others? A Christ centered life, and a Christ centered church, is not a destination, it’s not something you can ever be totally certain that you’ve “arrived” at. Rather it’s the journey, the ever prayerful, ever searching journey that should define us as a Christ centered church and a Christ centered people.