Think back to when you were a child. Can you remember a toy that you asked Mom and Dad to get you for your birthday? You spent months telling them you really, really, really, really needed it. I can remember this one year how desperately I wanted GI Joes. Despite my Mothers refusal to buy, what she called “violent” toys, I insisted that they were patriotic. We all have something we think we desperately need but in the end it’s so temporary, isn’t it? If you are honest that toy you ended up with only made you happy for a month or maybe even less.
We are constantly drawn to things that will never satisfy us long term. It’s as though we have an insatiable diet for junk and like the taste. I’ve seen this affect the way we as a culture “do church”. It affects the way we spread the gospel too. Too often we rely on catchy methods of temporary satisfaction instead of depending on the ever fulfilling person of Jesus. The “attractional church” movement finds itself constantly trying to provide new toys for ever-dissatisfied kids. Jesus doesn’t expect us to find ways to make Him more attractive. Isn’t He enough? Truly the attraction of church should be the person and work of Jesus.
Without Jesus as the substance for Christianity no wonder so many young people fade in their commitment to follow Him. The church was fun when they were young but life became hard and now church isn’t cool anymore. I believe this happens with adults as well. They can latch on quickly to the shiny product that many modern churches put out but fail to personally embrace Jesus. How can churches get back to shining more light on Jesus and less towards the people on stage every week?
Mark records the attractional power of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark; “a great multitude, when they heard how many things He was doing, came to Him.” (Mark 3:8) There was something magnetic about Jesus. Whether it was His miracles, His teaching, or His compassion Jesus was the talk of the town. Jesus didn’t have big budgets for special effects or fancy flyers. It was people like Andrew who found his brother and said, “Come and see…”, or the formerly demon-possessed man at Gadarenes who told his whole family how Jesus changed him, or the Samaritan woman at the well who gathered the whole town to meet Jesus. One of the greatest attraction to the church is changed lives.
Jesus told the man at Gadarenes, “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.” (Mark 5:19) We need to stop inviting people to a service and instead invite them to a Savior. The greatest testimony to the movement of God will always be within the lives of those He’s changed. Think about what God has done in your life. How can you “go tell” your friends and family about the God of compassion?
In our efforts to reach the masses we must be careful not to let the product of the church overtake the purpose of the church. The purpose of the church is like a lamp made to shine light to those who are walking in darkness. The church must find it’s power and purpose in the person and work of Jesus. The church is neither a museum for saints or a night club for sinners. The heart of Jesus is to gather the lost, to find the sick and to set the captive free. His mission is not temporary. It won’t lose it’s allure like your childhood toys. The person of Jesus is the eternal satisfaction we are all starving for and it is the one thing we all need desperately. The church must center on this truth: We were created and saved to have an eternally satisfying relationship with Jesus.
Without Jesus you can’t technically even call your gathering a church. How can we make Jesus the central figure of how we “do church”? How can we shine more light back on Jesus and less on ourselves? The hard part is that many people would rather have a show than a Savior. It’s always easier to “do church” for them than it is to disciple them. Is the mission of the church to gather a crowd of shallow observers or to develop a community of authentic followers?
The majority of the crowds eventually stopped following Jesus. It turns out most of them only came to see but were never really willing to listen. The wanted more show, less commitment. They were hoping to get something from Jesus but had no interest in actually following Him. This is the reality of placing such a high priority on Jesus. Some will get it, some won’t. But if Jesus is the substance and center of all our efforts than we can trust it’s effectiveness. The power of changed lives to change other lives comes from Jesus. May you go out to your friends, family, and even strangers and say, “Come and see the man who changed my life.”
Church without Jesus is like an unsharpened pencil, it has no point.