Several years ago, while working for a megachurch in Arizona, I discovered that the church had hired a former brand manager from a large corporation. It was about this time, among other things, that really started me asking questions about the nature of the church and it’s purpose and role in our current culture and communities. What is the church supposed to be about? How is it supposed to look? Are megachurches the answer or is it more about house or organic church? After reading a number of books and searching the Scriptures for the true answer, God brought a seemingly unrelated verse to mind, which in the end does come back to one question, and the answer will determine both an individual’s and a church’s direction. The question and story are found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and it has to do with our image.
23 He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. 25 He said to them, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Luke 20:23-25
This is a great question to ask of ourselves as Christians and as a church. What image do we bear? When those who are not Christ followers look at us, whose image do they see? Do they see an image the reflects Christ? Or do they see an image that reflects the world and corporate culture?
There is really only one image that others should see when they look at us as both members of the Church and the Church as a whole. It is the image of Christ that should shine through (and not despite our shortcomings – but because of Christ displayed through them). As a church and as individuals we are called to bear, imitate, and reflect the image of Christ to the world around us. The very nature and purpose of the church is to be the presence of God (the body of Christ) to a hurting and broken world. It fleshes itself out in everything we do from how we work, how we deal with trials and tragedy, how we worship, and especially how we package the church. We must remember that as a people we can do much to either advance the image of Christ and Kingdom of God in the world or hinder it. God gave us a huge responsibility as His people. We must realize that the church really has nothing to do with where we meet but with whom we are meeting.
Acts 17:24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.
We are called to reflect and to imitate the likeness of Christ. We are given the task of serving the world in Jesus’ name. Sometimes we do well. There are other times we haven’t done very well.
I really don’t think it matters the size or shape of the church (although there are inherent advantages and disadvantages of both small and large churches). What does matter is that each church assembly takes seriously the responsibility of bearing the image of its Creator and Head, Jesus Christ as its first and foremost priority. Everything else is secondary – buildings (this may need to be at the bottom of the list, in my opinion, given our affinity for ‘stuff’ even as the church), style of worship, programming, ministries that attract specific populations of people, etc.
The story of Mary and Martha is relevant here as well. Jesus was visiting the home of Martha, and she was busy preparing the meal and making sure everything was “just right” for her important guests. She was busying herself with tasks. Tasks that were important, but in the eyes of Jesus, they were only tasks and not the most important thing. Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus. Soaking in His words. Just simply being in His presence. And that was what Jesus said was most important – being in His presence. It was the thing that could never be taken away from Mary. The tasks will come and go. Church buildings, music styles, programs, and even staff will come and go. But one thing will remain. Jesus Christ. He is the most important thing. He is the reason the church exists and will continue to exist.
Church, please hear this. Focus on the image that you bear. Focus on the one thing that will remain. Soak in the presence of Jesus. Use His image as your standard. Our we bearing the image of our Ceasar or of our Christ? In the words of Jesus, “Render to God the things that are God’s.” Let’s render the church back to God and let someone else worry about the menial tasks (sorry, Martha).