Someone once said that we are going to have to stop thinking of the church as a memorial service to a deceased clergyman. For many of us this image is quite accurate. Over the centuries the Church has evolved into an institution that is often irrelevant, bound to tradition, and out of sync with the world around it. The fact is that many of us have a negative impression of the Church, what it does, and what it stands for. Is this the image we should carry with us into this millennium when there is still so much we need to learn about our spiritual lives? Is this what Jesus intended? Many today are answering those questions with a resounding, “No, " rethinking and reforming the church according to the pattern they see in the New Testament, returning to the root of what Jesus had intended.
A casual reading of the New Testament will reveal two characteristics of the church, that are of primary importance. First and foremost, the church is a community of people. This may sound obvious, yet true community is a rare commodity these days. The national trend is to place more emphasis on the individual than on the community. We live in the age of “personal" everything, from stereos and computers to personal space and rights. But even with all this emphasis on the individual, we feel something tugging at our hearts: the need to commune with each other. We are social beings because God created us so. The church is the community of God’s people sharing their lives together to celebrate with each other in successes, to uphold each other through rough times, and to encourage each other toward the future.
A second prevalent characteristic of the church in the New Testament is that it is a living witness to the fact that Jesus Christ is alive, well, and active in our world today. Far from being boring or irrelevant, the church is an active, organic community that expresses the love of God through its members. It does this through its community lifestyle; people sharing their lives together day by day, not just from Sunday service to Sunday service. Another way it expresses the love of God is by reaching out beyond itself to the world around it in acts of kindness, charity, and care. When it acts this way it is truly being the Church of Jesus Christ, the visible example of the invisible reality that God cares. It is this example that our world so desperately needs. Many people live viewing the future as hopeless. The church, by being that visible example of God’s care, gives us hope.
If we apply ourselves to working out these two characteristics within our current institutions we will find a tremendous yield, to ourselves, and to the world around us. The Church of Jesus Christ has the potential to be a prodigious agent of healing and hope in a world that so desperately needs such an agent. Far from being bound and irrelevant, the Church can lead us into the future, a future bright and full of hope.
Paul Peixoto is an author, speaker and trainer with a background in Pastoral Ministry and Communications with 25 years of platform experience. The bulk of that time he spent in the non-profit sector, where he honed his ability to communicate and motivate. Currently as the founder and president of The Serra Group he leads a team of communication consultants that work with the group’s pharmaceutical clients. He is a member of ASTD, and a certified NLP practitioner, trained by its co-inventor, Richard Bandler. He has led 100s of professional development workshops and presented scores of keynote addresses throughout the USA, Europe, and Asia. You can reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org . Or visit his website http://www.paulpeixoto.com