It bothers some persons when I say things like, "the church is not the answer to the world's search for hope." It bothers them when I say that the church is not always the best place to learn the love of Jesus. It bothers them when I say that the end game of evangelism is not numbers in the church.
But all of these things are true.
And that's not because the church is fundamentally broken. It's not because of the way that our churches are. It's not because of some huge moral failing that we're all just too willing to overlook or whatever. It's because, hear me on this, that's not what the church was made for.
The church was never intended to save the world. That's what the Cross was for.
Read that line again: the church was never intended to save the world. That's what the Cross was for.
Nor did Jesus ever tell us that we were to go into all the world and make members of the church. Those weren't His words. He told us to go and make disciples. And where are disciples made?
Well, if you look at the Gospels, they aren't made in the church.
Disciples are made in the walk of life. They are made on the streets and in the marketplaces. They are made in homes and on the shores of the sea. They are made in the places where they live and love and work and play. They are made when they hear the voice of Jesus calling and stand up to follow, to go and see what's going on. They are made in the places where the blind receive sight, the deaf receive hearing, where demons are cast out and souls are healed. To my recollection, neither Jesus nor anyone else in the entire New Testament ever said to a single person, "Come, go to church with me!"
Church is the assembly of believers. It is the place where we come to be encouraged by one another, to fellowship, to break bread, to share in life together. It is where we come to be strengthened, to learn more about this Jesus from others who are experiencing Him, to love out loud with one another and worship and glorify His name.
The church is not the place where evangelism happens. It's not the place where disciples are made. It's not where persons come to fall in love with Jesus. You're supposed to fall in love with Jesus on the streets and then come to His church so that you can one another with one another. You fall in love with Jesus where there's dust on your feet, then you come to be encouraged by others who are just as abuzz with stories of His grace as you now are.
So when I say that maybe it's not the best thing to just try to shove a seeker into a church, what I mean is, it's definitely not the best thing to try to shove a seeker into a church. Not once did Jesus tell a man crying out on the side of the road, "Come meet me at the Temple, and I will show you great things." That's not what the Temple was for.
The Cross already accomplished so many of the things that we're trying to get persons into our doors for, and the Cross, we must add, was outside, on a hill, in the sight of the city, where anyone could come, witness, learn, be blessed. Where everyone was saved, right out in the open, the same way that so many were healed.
So we have to stop pretending that the best things about Jesus happen behind our closed doors. That's just not the case. It's never been the case. It's never been the story of the church. At least, it's never supposed to have been.