As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.
And immediately they followed. (Matthew 4:18-22)

Jesus calls us to be His disciples.

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-20)

The earliest Christians did not understand themselves to be an organization that was called to build buildings or create institutions. They responded to the most basic commands of a certain Jesus of Nazareth. One of the very first was “follow me.”

It is understandable that in over 2000 years we have expanded this basic command to do something. It would not be a surprise for someone to believe that a response to “Jesus calls us to *fill in the blank*” might mean more prayer, give more money, and come to church more often. Instead, he said ‘follow me’ over twenty times in the gospels.

We have translated this basic command into the construction of grand basilicas and extensive agencies for service. Boards and committees in extensive organizations spend countless hours concerned for the upkeep of buildings and grounds, security, and financial management of extensive funds. All of this could be understood as extensions of this command in-so-far as these physical assets serve this basic command. If they were.

The problem is that they often become an end in themselves and the basic command to ‘come, follow me’ is mired in the mundane tasks of maintenance and (for lack of a better term) perpetuation of that which we have done before. Even the intent that these resources be that, tools in the business of following, becomes lost.

The word ‘church’ is never used in the new testament unless you are talking about the greek word ‘ἐκκλησία,’ which literally means “gathering” or “assembly.” St. Paul uses the term ‘ἐκκλησία’ frequently, as in the letter to the ἐκκλησία at Corinth. It means the assembly of disciple at Corinth. We have come to use the term church to mean building, which it isn’t.

And, these gatherings of people are not exactly what we think about when we think about the crowd (or faithful remnant) on Sunday morning. The Bible never speaks of “church members.” Not once, ever. In fact, the Bible only uses the word “Christian” three times. And the word “believer” only comes 27 times in the New Testament and only 14 times in the Gospels and Acts. Much more often, around 100 times, the Gospels and Acts talk about people being followers of Jesus, following Jesus.

I am not suggesting that congregations give up their buildings and deconstruct mission organizations. I am not saying that we throw off the modern associations of place and people of Christianity. What I am saying is that if, in the course of our board meetings and reports, activities and care for these things, we cannot clearly predicate a sentence about a proposed action with the phrase “Jesus calls us to…” then we need to rethink what it is we are concerning ourselves with. What we are about should be easily linked to Jesus’ in his example, spirit, and teachings.

Let us pray: Dear God, grant us a glimpse of your vision and a foretaste of the kingdom that we might be prepared to hear and respond to your call. Help us to know what we must take up, and what we must leave behind to follow you faithfully in our time. This we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

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