When we talk about Jesus who possibly doesn't love His church, the trouble is that there's a way to preach that message and make it sound absolutely legitimate.
For example, most pastors who want to preach this sort of message take this spin on it: "Jesus came to tear down the religious structures of His day." And that much is true. You can build an entire sermon series around Jesus's confrontations with the Pharisees, His talk about the Temple, His expansion of the law. It seems like at every turn, Jesus was very much against the way that the faithful people of God had done religion for the preceding several thousand years.
And the message that Jesus preached about the established religion of Israel is the same message that these pastors preach about the church - it isn't holistic enough. It doesn't go far enough. It doesn't have its emphases in the right places. In fact, a lot of these guys just take Jesus's words about the Temple and make them about the church.
And...it sounds like Jesus.
It sounds like Jesus because it is Jesus. It's His words, His attitudes, His emphases. You hear a sermon like this, and if you don't understand what's happening, then you're sitting in the pews going, "Whoa. We need to be changing a lot of things about our church!"
Then, these pastors swoop in and tell you all of the things that you need to be changing about your church, about the way you worship, about the programs you put together, about the responsibilities you take on, about...whatever.
But something very subtle has happened in between, something that most churchgoers (or followers on Twitter or listeners of podcasts or whoever) don't even notice: between telling you how much Jesus doesn't like the church and telling you what you're supposed to be doing better, almost every single one of these pastors stops talking about Jesus.
Once they've used Him to introduce the concept of tearing down the church, they stop talking about Him. When they've moved on to what the church is supposed to look like, listen - you'll realize they're suddenly telling you what they think. If they're name-dropping Jesus at all, the content has shifted, and it's no longer what He said at all...but most persons don't realize this because the front end was so loaded with authentic Jesus that if you even hear the name, you automatically assume the back end is just as authentic.
It's deception at its finest, and it's extremely effective. The trouble is, of course, that it is not very much Christian at all. It's not Christ-centered, and it's certainly not Christ-like (ironic, since these are the guys who are most likely to repeatedly tell you how much like Jesus they are). Using the authority of the first half of the message, they depend upon that authority carrying through to their own part of it, and most of the time, this absolutely works. This is how we end up with entire congregations preaching this shadow Jesus who hates His church and wants it to look more like them. This is how we end up with comment sections full of agreements with activist pastors and absolute hatred for anyone who thinks differently. This is how these messages take root.
Wait, though - if this is really the message that Jesus preached, shouldn't it be the message we're preaching? Don't we have an obligation, as faithful Christians, to carry on His Word, even if we don't particularly like it?
Don't be fooled - this was His Word, but it is not any longer. There are some major fundamental differences between the ways that Jesus preached this message and the way pastors are doing it today. We'll look at some of that in the coming days.
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