A number of years ago Joe Aldrich wrote a book that created quite a stir in the evangelical community. The book was titled Lifestyle Evangelism. It received a lot of criticism and still stirs up some controversy today. Some of the criticism may have been deserved but the basic premise was right on. The point was that people needed to know that we cared about them personally before we confronted them with the gospel. It was clearly a reaction to the approach to evangelism that was popular at the time.
Well, rather than debate that subject here, the point I want to make is that we have subtly done the same thing with the Church. We have taken the Church and made it a prescribed presentation of an hour on Sunday. Jesus never meant for “church” to be something that we can be over and done with in an hour or even a day. That’s because church is not a place, but a people. It’s not a business, but a body and it’s not a bunch of rules and rituals, but a relationship.
Instead the church is. . .
- a place for friendships,
- a place for fishers of men,
- a place that feeds His sheep,
- a place of forgiveness and
- a place for followers of Christ.
At least that’s the model Jesus gave His disciples when he appeared to them on the beach in John 21. Here Jesus called them his “friends”, v.5. That was amazing considering they had denied him only days earlier. Further, he reaffirmed their calling as fishers of men when he helped them catch a “boat load” of fish after having fished all night and caught nothing without him.
Third, he told Peter to feed His sheep, reminding them that the church is a place of caring protecting and providing for people who like sheep are stinky, stubborn and sometimes stupid. Nevertheless they are “his” sheep, so we should care for them no matter what.
Fourth, Jesus said the church is a place of forgiveness. Three times Jesus asks Peter, “do you love me?,” reminding Peter of the three times he had earlier denied him. Peter was humbled and replied, “Lord, you know all things, you know that I love you.” Lastly Jesus called Peter to “Follow me!” It wouldn’t be easy this time because following him would mean following him to the cross.
The life Jesus called his disciples to was more that can be done within four walls and one hour on Sunday. It requires a lifestyle of intimacy with Christ and with one another.