Healthy, Devoted Relationships

Devoted Relationships

Remember the children's rhyme, "Here's the church and here's the steeple; open the door and here's all the people"? That's one philosophy. It is definitely the predominant ecclesiology, the current paradigm of what the church is supposed to be. "Here's the steeple. Here's the meeting. Here are the scheduled services. Here are the programs. Here's the church calendar."

Now, those of us with a little bit higher ecclesiology or church theology would say, "Oh, no. It's the people. Church is not a place to go. Jesus said it is not a 'here or there' kingdom; it's 'within you.' Church is not a building. It's not an event or a meeting. It's actually people."

But I'm really asking that we'd consider the church from a little deeper perspective. This won't be news to anyone, perhaps, but let's just put words on it, anyway. The church isn't the steeple or the people. The church is relationships. You can have a thousand people—or ten thousand, for that matter—and say that the church is the people. You can even insist that you can't go to church, because you are the church. But you know good and well that many people who say that still "go to church." You can hear them Sunday morning at a quarter to nine saying, "Let's get ready to go to church, Sally." It slips right out of their mouths, because it is the truth. They are "going to church." It's not really that they are the church. They are still attending something, even though they know better than that. They still haven't seen much of how the church really works.

Martin Luther was one of the biggest proponents of having a priesthood of believers. His teaching was filled with truths about how there is no caste of priests because we are a priesthood. But he didn't do anything about his conviction. The priests who were converted from catholicism married nuns, but in reality they continued to function as the priests, except now they were called "preachers" or "pastors." They went on exactly the same as before, marrying and burying, blessing and controlling. What had been the Roman priesthood now became a protestant priesthood known as "ministers." This reformulated priesthood still has nothing in common with the biblical order of things. If you were to look at the book of Acts, you'd see nothing that looks like this protestant version of clergy, but it evolved anyway. Now Luther knew in his mind there was to be a priesthood of believers, and that truth was one of his serious teachings that shook the world he lived in. But even he didn't know how to apply this truth. As far as we know, he didn't apply it during his lifetime.

But the same assessment could be said of the often-heard statement, "Oh, I know for sure that the church isn't the steeple; it is really people." Unfortunately, a lot of people who can say those words don't live them out. In reality, they still go to church. Their "church" consists of events on a calendar.

Maybe a way to break through that faulty thinking and provide greater understanding is this: If the Kingdom is "neither here nor there," but "within you" (Luke 17:20-21), then the only way I can get into the Kingdom that Jesus was speaking of is to get within you, because that's where the Kingdom is. To get within you, there has to be a living and active word that lays bear the motives of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). We have to "admonish one another daily so that none are hardened by sin's deceitfulness" (Hebrews 3:12-13). We have to be "joined and knit together by every supporting ligament" (Ephesians 4:16). It has to be real. It has to be relationships. Not steeples, not even "peoples," but relationships—that's the issue.

Relationships are the only way that I can really be part of the ekklesia, the "called out of God." I don't mean part of the church in the universal sense of whether or not a person is saved. I mean living in the purposes of God as a "city set on a hill that can't be hidden," instead of a bunch of little flashlights scattered over the countryside. Being "compacted together," as Ephesians 4 puts it, is God's intent for us.

His heart is to have a body joined and knit together, not a body that is simply scattered, saying the right things, perhaps, yet somehow missing the testimony.

"This is how all men will know you are my disciples"—not one way that they will know, but the way they will know. Relationships aren't icing on the cake; they are themselves the pivotal issue. "This is how all men will know you are my disciples, by the agape they see you having with each other." It is essential, then, that lives be knit together. The world is waiting to see it.

Next Page
Back to Contents