What flashes through your head when you hear those two words?
A 1980s Aussie rock band? A stuffy institution full of disconnected people peddling archaic ideas?
A power hungry bunch, of mostly white men, who will do anything to cling to power, including covering up atrocities and trampling over people they disagree with?
A political group seeking to wield disproportionate power over the political landscape – imposing their own views on others?
A building that fills up with boring people doing boring things on a Sunday?
A bunch of people who are disconnected from reality, who have nothing to say on real issues?
What should flash through your head when you hear these two words: The Church?
According to the story of the Bible, the Church is the people God uses in his world to tell his story, the story of his crucified and resurrected King, Jesus. According to the Bible the Church is like Jesus’ body, living in the world, so that people might see him. According to the Bible we’re given the Holy Spirit to transform us, to make us more like Jesus, so that we can live out this story. When the Church gets it right, people see Jesus, and hear God’s loving invitation to find eternal life and love in him.
Unless people make this connection — seeing Jesus when they see the church — we, the church, are getting something wrong. We’ve stuffed up.
This shouldn’t surprise us — not those of us who turned to Jesus to save us — because we know we’re broken people who live messy lives in a broken world. A world Jesus came to make right.
[pq]The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. —C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity[/pq]
Unless people see Jesus in us, and in our approach to the big issues of our time, we’re getting something wrong, we’re stuffing up, and when we stuff up, especially in ways that stop people seeing Jesus, it’s time to ‘fess up, to apologise. To humbly admit we’ve got it wrong, and that we’ll keep getting it wrong. We need to admit the world is very broken. Life is full of complex, broken, situations, and rushing in to try to solve this brokenness without Jesus is wrong. Without him we have no answers to the broken world.
[pq]We’d love you to come along to Creek Road to find out what the Church gets wrong, but Jesus makes right about the big issues facing our world.[/pq]
ABOUT THE TITLE
This is a provocative title. We know. There are many Christians and churches out there who get things right on all of these issues. But the Church is full of imperfect people who are works in progress — who are being transformed by the Holy Spirit to become more like Jesus. This means that on every issue, in every part of life, there are still things that humans — individuals, or together, acting as the Church, will get wrong.
When we talk about the Church we’re not getting on a high horse and condemning “those other Christians” — distant or distinct from us — we’re talking about ourselves. We’re apologising. We’re owning our failures, not just ours in a local or individual sense, but ours in the sense that we are part of the Church, God’s people. We’re all in this together. It would be easy just to talk about people who do crazy stuff who have “____ Church” on their business cards, it would be easy to throw a bunch of other sinners, from other churches, under the bus and look at them getting smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror as we distance ourselves from them. But this confession needs to start in our own back yard. It needs to start with us. Or we’re just getting things wrong again.
Martin Luther is a guy who once stood up and said the Church of his day was getting things very wrong. He thought the church was getting things so wrong he nailed a list of 95 things the church was getting wrong to a church door, kicking off a thing called The Reformation. He said a couple of important things that will be helpful for us to think about in this series.
He said the church should always be grappling with what it means to follow Jesus. To live in the reality of being simultaneously being sinners and works of transformation. The result of people like this getting together to show other people Jesus was that he said “the church is always reformed, always reforming.” We don’t want to think we’re completely transformed people who always get things right. We still need Jesus to make things right. The other thing this status helps us remember, as Luther helpfully expresses it, is that “We are all mere beggars showing other beggars where to find bread.”
We hope this series is an opportunity for our church to keep reforming. To keep becoming more like Jesus. And that it’s an opportunity for us to offer bread — the bread of life, Jesus — to others as we honestly deal with some of the times we’ve got it wrong, while pointing to all the times that Jesus makes things right.
ABOUT THE SERIES
This nine week series we’ll be looking at what the Church gets wrong about some complex issues, but how Jesus makes them right, and makes us right. This is a series about ethics — about how we live in the world as followers of Jesus.
Stanley Hauerwas is a Christian who think about Christian ethics as a job, he says all people are shaped by stories, or narratives that define how we see the world.
“Ethics is not primarily about rules and principles, rather it is about how the self must be transformed to see the world truthfully. For Christians, such seeing develops through schooling in a narrative, which teaches us how to use the language of sin not only about others, but about ourselves.” — Stanley Hauerwas
Not living out God’s story is where we go wrong as a Church. Living out God’s story is how the Church does what it exists to do. God uses us to tell his story. His story is the story of Jesus, and his victory over the brokenness in the world we live in. A victory he wins at the Cross. Or, as the Apostle Peter puts it, Jesus was chosen before the creation of the world and it’s through him, his death, and resurrection that we know hope. This is the story we’re called to live in this world.
He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. — 1 Peter 1:20-23
Each week we’re tackling one of the big issues in our world. Each issue will have its own page that will be linked to below, where you’ll be able to read how God’s story, which culminates in the Cross of Jesus, helps us approach that issue, how the stories of other people should shape how we engage with the issue, and what it might look like for us to live out God’s Cross-shaped story in response to this issue and the people it affects.
- Judging Others
- Gay Marriage
- Asylum Seekers & Refugees
- Abortion & Euthanasia
- Climate Change
- Human Trafficking
The Growth Group booklets for this series will be a substantial resource to challenge us to live out God’s story, which is all about Jesus, in his world. Grow Daily this term will be an opportunity to engage your head, your heart, and your hands with some of what the Bible says about each of these topics in a way that shapes your day to day life, helping you live out God’s story at home, at work, at school, or in conversations about these issues wherever you are. You can get Grow Daily from here on the web, or with our App.
Please join us at one of our campuses this term to find out what the Church gets wrong, but Jesus makes right.