In my last blog post, I explored the fellowship of Jesus and His disciples in the gospels, treating it as church. This has big implications.
Jesus managed to pastor his church without a church building. Most of the sermons he held weren’t even indoors. He would preach from the top of a mountain, in a field, at the temple courts or in a boat. His preaching was directed at people who didn’t follow Him just as much as to those who already were His disciples. In fact, when He talked to the disciples, He engaged in dialogue, listening to their views and responding with divine insight.
In Jesus’ church, it was impossible to be a disciple without interacting with non-believers almost daily. Jesus was charismatic in the dual sense of the word, attracting large crowds wherever he went. There were often discussions and debates with those who disagreed. On top of that, Jesus commanded:
Go… to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.” (Matthew 10:6-8)
Keep in mind that the disciples were still in training. In fact, some of them even suggested that those who weren’t receptive of Jesus’ message should be burnt alive with fireballs from heaven (Lk 9:54) – not a very Christian thing to say!
But Jesus didn’t want his disciples to sit still in a building for years before they were ready to evangelise. On the contrary, evangelism was an essential part of their discipleship training.
If we take Jesus’ way of doing church as authoritative – and we really should – it becomes impossible to view church as a building, a Sunday activity or an internal group. The disciples were with Jesus every day, and rather than having “Sunday services” He taught and trained them whenever. This was a 24/7 church, where “service” was just as much helping the poor or explaining the kingdom of God to a stranger, as it was praying or listening to a sermon.
After Jesus’ resurrection, Christians met daily in the temple courts (Acts 2:46). These meetings of the apostolic Jerusalem church were a continuation of Jesus’ temple ministry where he was teaching about the kingdom of God and debated with Pharisees, Sadducees and Bible teachers (Matthew 21-23). The temple ministry of the early church was devoted to proclaiming the gospel, as Acts 5:20 and 5:42 shows.
Knowing this, it is hard to describe evangelism as a “gift” or a “calling” that just some Christians are supposed to do while others aren’t into sharing the gospel. The role of the New Testament evangelist was not to evangelise instead of the rest of the church, but to equip the rest of the church so that they also can evangelise (Ephesians 4:11-12).
We might find this uncomfortable and challenging – but what did you expect following a crucified, radical God would be like? The Jesus Church doesn’t segregate itself from the surrounding world other than specific times of rest (Mark 1:35-38). It impacts those who don’t yet follow Jesus. That’s hard, if not impossible, when you’re stuck in a building.
This post is part two of a three-part series.