A church defined by Jesus – Part 1

The Church should always center its identity, activity, and witness in Jesus who defines the life of the ecclesia (gathering). As a result, the gathered community of Jesus-followers are a people who reflect, imitate, and live the life of Jesus wherever they are.

Why Jesus?

He is the Head of the body - the Church (Colossians 1:18).

He is our Leader, Lord and King who structures and orders the words and actions of his Church. Those who gather within his community come under his lordship and voluntarily place themselves under his loving rule.

Jesus is Lord becomes the catalyst that shapes and molds us into a Jesus-looking people. Click To Tweet

Jesus is Lord becomes our primary mission statement and flows into every aspect of the Church's life. Jesus is Lord becomes the catalyst that shapes and molds us into a Jesus-looking people.

The beauty is that Jesus not only taught us the principles his community should emulate, but modeled them as well. Words and actions went hand in hand for Jesus. We are called to follow in his footsteps.

The Church is filled with individuals, but should never view itself individualistically.

The church is filled with individuals, but should never view itself individualistically. Click To Tweet

Following after Jesus is a community-driven event. His teachings, example and entire life become the basis upon which we build our collective following. We are defined by him. He leads us and we follow him together as a community.

Jesus continues to live through this community by the grace, presence and enablement of the Spirit.

The only physical embodiment of Jesus that others will see will be in and through those who follow him. Without this embodied presence, Jesus will be invisible to them.

How tragic it is when those who claim to follow after Jesus look nothing like the one they claim to follow; when there is little too no family resemblance.

Or when we allow other things to define us - usually without even realizing it. Like cultural ideas that become so engrained that we assume they are Christian by virtue of its wide acceptance.

However, the only way we can look and sound like Jesus is when we intentionally immerse ourselves in his story and allow his story to immerse itself in us.

As we journey with Christ in the Gospel story and encourage one another to continue in this story, we will gradually be shaped by the story and reflect him who lies at the center of the story.

This shaping will become more natural and less robotic the more we live in the story. Scripture will be a living story that informs and shapes our living and loving.

Inhabiting the Jesus-Story

Context informs our specific response as we evaluate the needs of our surrounding community, but Jesus is the primary defining mark for every community regardless of context.

To better understand the Church's calling we as the gathered community need to study and reflect on the life and public ministry of Jesus. His life and witness will define and inform our witness as his followers.

The Church should point people to Jesus in both word and action. The Church should embody the values and ethos of the kingdom come in the kingdom now - as Jesus did.

Jesus offers a radical new vision for the world. The Church is called to do the same - to continue with the vision of Jesus and offer an alternative to the prevailing worldview within the current arrangement.

Jesus' life and teachings should always take precedence and have the final say in all matters of the Church's life and witness.

Jesus defines the Church. Jesus does not lie on the periphery of the Church’s life and witness. Jesus is our life and witness.

Therefore…

whatever else defines us,
whatever our theological emphases may be,
whatever style of liturgical practice we follow,
Jesus trumps it all.

Jesus lies at the center of our life and witness. Jesus orders and structures the entirety of our lives as members of Jesus-centered communities.

The more I inhabit the story of Jesus, the more the story of Jesus inhabits me. @lensweet Click To Tweet

As his community of followers, we need to daily immerse ourselves in his story and allow that story to shape our witness.

We need to be captured by his story and then embrace the story for ourselves.

If we do not spend time in his story, another story will shape us.

The sign of a Jesus-Shaped Church

If God is love and God is like Jesus, we can expect love to be at the center of Jesus’ life and witness in, to and for the world.

If God is love (1 John 4:8,16) and God is like Jesus, we can expect that whatever Jesus said and did perfectly and completely, in a way never seen before, revealed that perfect love and is as close as scripture comes to defining the nature of the triune God.

In fact, it would be safe to say that Jesus is the living embodiment of God’s love. Jesus demonstrated this love-centered approach over and over again. Everything Jesus said and did flowed out of love and was motivated by love. Likewise, a Jesus-shaped Church should be defined by love.

“We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

The first and most powerful sign that undergirds and shapes every other sign of a Jesus-shaped Church is love. It was Jesus who made this statement to his followers,

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you , so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciple, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

John echoes this sentiment in 1 John 3:11,

“This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.”

Love flows into and defines every aspect of the Church's life. If love does not lie at the center of our life and witness everything else will be negatively affected by this mis-orientation. If, however, we allow love to center us, everything we do and say will be motivated by, through and for love.

How we view God.
How we view ourselves.
How we view others.
How we view our friends.
How we view our enemies.

There will not be any facet of our lives that will not be impacted by love if it lies at the center of our understanding and experience of Jesus.

“We love because he first loved us.”

The sights and sounds of a Jesus-Shaped Church

A Jesus-shaped Church is a gathered community of Jesus-followers who reflect and imitate a God who is love; a God who looks like Jesus; a God who has chosen to express this infinite love towards all of creation, including his enemies, for the good of all people.

A Jesus-shaped Church is called to live a life of love. And, when we do, we will reflect our Lord the most (Romans 5:8).

This is what a Jesus-shaped Church looks and sounds like. It looks and sounds like Jesus.

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About the author


ChristianWeek Columnist

Jeff is a columnist with ChristianWeek, a public speaker, blogger, and award-winning published writer of articles and book reviews in a variety of faith-based publications. He also blogs at jeffkclarke.com

  • Jeff, I like the phrase “inhabiting the Jesus story.” What gives me hope in the midst of life is the conviction that I am part of a greater story that I didn’t write and the sense that the author has a significant role for me to play even when I cant seem to see it in the moment. Blessings,