Thanks Jason Clark for voicing this out here The whole post is worth quoting in full with some thoughts I picked out in the comments which I found helpful.
I’ve had the idea of “people like Jesus and not the church” as blog post in my ideas box for a while. Seeing that Dan Kimble has his new book out on this topic got me to drag it out and put it here. I’m sure Dan’s book is as great as his previous books, I haven’t read it yet, and what follows it not a critique of his book but a reference to the idea of people being into Jesus and not church.
Since the day I became a christian I have heard people say people like Jesus but not the church. I can remember when I wasn’t a christian and liked the idea of Jesus but not of church for sure. I’ve heard variations of this, along the lines of “if Jesus came back today do you think he would be visiting any of our churches?” with the reponse that of course Jesus wouldn’t be caught dead (excuse the pun) in our churches.
Now for certain the church has gotten in the way of people knowing Jesus. Nothing new there just read the New Testament, seems the church was a stumbling block to many people who were interested in Jesus. And we do need to look at how the church, supposedly the body of Christ can too often be the thing that keeps people from Jesus.
Yet lets also umask the myth of people being into Jesus and not the church. Are people really into Jesus? Maybe in the way we are into a celebrity. The Pope, Mother Terressa can be media celebrities that millions adore, but when it comes to believing and doing what they do, people are far from interested in them.
Maybe people are into Jesus the celebrity, it would be cool to meet him, see a miracle, maybe have him help me directly away from those pesky church people to meet my needs. But to follow him, believe in him, do what he did, lay down my life for others, is that really the Jesus people are into?
We see in the New Testament, Jesus unmask the church of his day that kept people from knowing God, yet as people followed him their numbers dwindled, as they realised that jesus the celebrity and Jesus as lord and master of my life was something very different. And utlimately where was the explosion of people that really connected to a life devoted to following Jesus? It was in the church in Acts.
We still like binary opposites, of Jesus to the church but without the church there is no Jesus, and without Jesus there is no church. I imagine Jesus on a cold rainy sunday in London, would walk into the dead local anglican church and sit next to the 80 year lady, whose whole life had been lived around a rhythmn of worship, who quitely and completely unknown had done more mission through her faith through that dead church, than most people who talked about and aspired to mssion. I imagine he would turn to her and say ‘well done’. Church is one place we might still find Jesus.
some extras below from Jason:
“… when people want to say they are into jesus, and not church, they are not into Jesus at all, and would like the people of the new testament decide not to follow him.
And I prepared to give the rest of my life pursuing Jesus with others in His church, rather than construct him on my own terms, with the church in all it’s mess, rather than some idealised notion of having Jesus without the mess of other people who know him too.
… …and for christian the church is the body of Christ, something dear to us that we find Jesus in in all it’s mess. The notion of a non mediated, non incarnated jesus who is available without the church is the myth of consumer media culture.
… I am the first to talk about how the church gets in the way, I’m not arguing for the church to do nothing and not change it needs to desperately, but so do the people who set themselves apart from it, as if it doesn’t concern them when it comes to Jesus.
… today you’d think church was the last place for Jesus, and certainly to dare to hope that church might a place where jesus is found, and to aspire for it to to do so seems more than a little like swimming against the tide.
… what happens if we get rid of the church, and just let Jesus meet people, how do they learn about him, and grow to follow him, on their own? Or do they do that with other people? And what do you call a new bunch of non church people trying to help each other follow Jesus, maybe church? And that new group/collection/gaggle will be full of people, just like the rest of people in other churches.
We have too idealised a notion of church, and an idealised version of jesus, that involves not needing to explore that with others in the real world.”
My little comment which I tried to post:
“Thanks Jason for this post. We need to hear this. I think when there’s too much church bashing, we are the ones who get hurt in the end … in the long run.
“I prepared to give the rest of my life pursuing Jesus with others in His church, rather than construct him on my own terms, with the church in all it’s mess, rather than some idealised notion of having Jesus without the mess of other people who know him too.”
I’m joining you in this pursuit! Looking forward to see others come along.”