“There Is No C-H-U-R-C-H Without U”

Church congregation singing hymns in church

(Disclaimer: The truths and concepts in this article is directed toward those who have professed a belief in Jesus because, biblically speaking, there are no “real” Christians who are not a part of the church.) 

I think that one of the major faults of “American Christianity” is the fact that most American Christians are more “American” than they are “Christian!” Let me show you what I’m talking about:


First of all, in the American spirit, there is a strong sense of individualism. Inbreeded in all Americans is a strong independent bent that favors the individual over the group. However, in the Bible, the emphasis is not on the individual, but rather the group. In ancient biblical cultures, the individual’s identity was found in his or her relationship to the group, the family, the clan, the tribe, the nation!


When Jesus called individuals to follow him, he always called them to be in community with one another. In Matthew 16:18, we read of Jesus saying: “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (NKJ) The word that is translated as “church” in that verse, is a Greek word that carries the meaning of; a gathering of citizens, called out of their homes into some public place, an assembly, a congregation. I’ve heard people say that they have the “church in their hearts” but according to the Lord’s definition of church, that’s an impossibility! The church is never just one person; the church is always a group of people! There must always be more than one to have a church!


Now, I understand that there are many people who are just fed up with the politics and hypocrisy of the institutionalized church. Well, they are not alone, so was and so is Jesus! In many churches, Jesus is on the outside looking in! By the way, that Bible verse that is often used in an evangelistic effort to get sinners to come to Christ is really a misapplication. Revelation 3:14, says: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (ESV) In the context of the passage, this is not a picture of Jesus; knocking on the door of a sinner’s heart. No! This is a picture of Jesus; knocking on the door of His church!


But, to leave or quit the church because of the imperfections of the people within it is like trying to travel without going anywhere! It’s like trying to leave yourself because you don’t like yourself! The bottom line is this: You need the church and the church needs you! The church is a community of believers and disciples of Christ! And it is within the context of community that God reveals Himself to the world! In his prayer in John 17, Jesus prayed to the Father: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (Jn. 17:20-23 ESV) Jesus prayed that all believers (the church) might be one in unity! Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 5:16 to let their light so shine that men might see their good works and glorify the Father in Heaven. It is interesting to note that in the Greek text, the “your” is plural (he wasn’t addressing them as individuals, but as a group) while the “light” is singular! It is a picture of the group (the church) working together to let one light shine!


The Apostle Paul likened the church to the human body, with each separate member as a part with a distinct role that fits and works together for the benefit of the whole body. (1 Corinthians 12:11-27) The church needs you and you need the church because none of us are complete by ourselves! You have something I need and I have something you need! In fact, not only is that true for the church, it is also true with life in general! That’s why when people are killed or die prematurely, it is such a tragedy! It’s tragic because they will never get the chance to contribute the gift they came to give and because of that; we all suffer! That is also another reason why it is so important that people really know or come into a right-relationship with God! Because when people are “lost” it’s not just a matter of them going to Hell when they die! When people are lost, they are also lost from their destiny and purpose, which ultimately were designed to glorify God and benefit humanity! When people are lost, they cannot make the contribution they were born to make! And when they don’t make that contribution, the rest of humanity suffers!


That’s another reason there is no church without you! The mission of the church is to “make disciples” of all ethnic groups. (Matthew 28:18-20) Why? Not just so that they might be saved, but also that they might collectively demonstrate the glory and love of God to the world! The task is too big for individuals! It can only be done with people who are committed to God and each other!


You also need the church to keep you in check! No matter how much you read the Bible and how much “alone time” you have with God, it is also important that you have communion and fellowship with people who share your aspirations, beliefs, dreams, ideals, goals, and convictions! You were not designed to function alone! According to the Bible, there is no such thing as a “Lone Ranger” or “Solo-Christian.” It is God’s will that we all live out our Christian faith in a community setting! In fact, you need that setting to authenticate your faith!


I could go on and on, but let me just conclude by saying that without “u” even the word; “church” doesn’t make sense! There is no “c-h-u-r-c-h” with you because “u-r” right in the middle of it!

They Knew Him as “Lord!”

If you were to ask the average person today who claims to be a Christian: “Who is Jesus?” Chances are you will hear them refer to Jesus as the “Savior!” Many would even claim him as their “personal Savior.” (I’m still trying to figure that one out because I wonder what is meant by the use of the term: “personal?” What is the difference between Christ being your “personal Savior” as opposed to being your “Savior?” Is there such a thing as an “Impersonal Savior?” Oh well! That’s beside the point, I was just thinking out loud.) But, I did some exegetical research on the references in the New Testament to Jesus, where he is directly and/or indirectly referred to as “Savior” and contrasted those findings with the direct and/or indirect references where he is referred to as “Lord” and I found a surprising result! In the New Testament, Jesus is referred to, directly and/or indirectly as “Savior” less than 20 times! Contrastingly, he is referred to as “Lord” nearly 250 times! The numbers reveal a startling fact! Modern Christianity knows Jesus today, primarily as “Savior,” but the original and 1st century Christians knew him primarily as “Lord!”

Now you might wonder what the point is; what difference does it make whether we know him as Lord or as Savior? It makes all the difference in the world! But before I discuss that, we need to be clear on the meaning of the term: “Lord.” In the Greek text, the word translated as “lord” is the word: “kurios.” There were four primary usages of this word in the New Testament times. First, it was used as a term of respect, much in the same way we use the term: “mister” or “sir.” Secondly, it referred to, “he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he had power of deciding; the possessor and disposer of a thing, the owner; one who has control of the person, the master.” Thirdly, it was a political reference to the chief sovereign of the state; the Roman Emperor. And then lastly, it was a title given to God and the Messiah, an expression of deity.

We must note that every person who called Jesus “Lord” in the Bible was not talking about same concept. For instance, when Jesus met the woman at the well in John 4, when she told Jesus he didn’t have any utensil to draw the water with, she addressed him as “kurios,” which is translated in the English translations as “sir.” It was obvious, at that point in the conversation, she didn’t know who Jesus was. Therefore, she was just being polite in addressing him. However, when his disciples called him “kurios,” they were referring to the fact that he was their master. It is fairly obvious that they also, at that point, prior to the resurrection, had no concept of Jesus being God! They were still trying to figure out his identity. When he calmed the raging sea in Galilee, they exclaimed: “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!” (Mat 8:27 KJV) When the martyrs proclaimed: “Jesus is Lord!” during the height of the Roman persecution, such a statement was considered an act of treason because it was directly contrary to the statement of allegiance to the Roman state: “Caesar is Lord!”

But, what should it mean for us to know him as “Lord” today? And why am I advocating that we should know him as “Lord” more so than knowing him as “Savior?” Well, it’s not really a matter of one term being right while the other one is wrong. It’s a matter of understanding who Jesus really is! According to the Scriptures, he is not the “Savior” who saves: He is the “Lord” who saves! The term “Lord” signifies who he is while the term “Savior” indicates what he did and what he does! He is not just the Savior! He is the Lord who saves! He is the Lord who is the Savior! But what does it mean: He is the Lord? Is it a reference to the fact that he is God? Yes! But that is not the primary emphasis I want to stress! The primary emphasis I want us to see is the fact that he is the master, the owner, the supreme sovereign! Jesus is Lord! Period! I’ve heard people tell new converts: “Now that you are saved, you need to make Jesus Lord of your life!” But how can we make him what he already is? He’s Lord whether we acknowledge him or not! And since when did we get the authority to “make” Jesus Lord? God has already done that! Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Act 2:36 KJV) Jesus is Lord! It is not a matter of us “making him Lord of our lives” it’s a matter of us submitting to his lordship authority!

I know I’m about to get in trouble now! But I believe the Bible teaches that Jesus must be our Lord in order to be our Savior! (I know that there are some who teach that a person can be saved and Jesus may or may not become “Lord of their lives” later on! <optional lordship, but not necessarily necessary> But, I haven’t found any scriptural basis for such teaching! How can you have one without the other? Can you split a coin and have “tails” without the “heads” and still have a legitimate coin? Is Christ divided? How can he be our Savior without being our Lord?) Consider a staple scripture that is often used to lead people to salvation:

Romans 10:9:

“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” (Rom 10:9 KJV)

“Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom 10:9 ESV)

“That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom 10:9 NASB)

Note that the first requirement is confessing (the Greek word is “homolegeo” it means; “to say or speak the same thing as another, to agree”) Jesus as Lord. Who and What are you agreeing with? You are agreeing with God and with what He says about Jesus being Lord. (When we “confess” our sins, it is not just a matter of us acknowledging or admitting that we are wrong, it’s also agreeing with whatever God says about our sins! It is calling our sins what God calls them!) In this text, we confess or acknowledge Jesus, not as Savior; but as Lord! Then we believe in our heart; that is we have faith, we trust in and rely upon the fact that God raised Jesus from the dead! It is then, only after we’ve confessed Jesus as (is) Lord, only after we believed that God raised Jesus from the dead, it is only then, that Paul says we will be saved!

The Bible says out of the mouth of two or three witnesses, let every word be established. So that was Paul, let’s hear Peter! It was Peter who made one-third of the less than twenty direct references to Jesus as Savior. There are five references to “Savior Jesus Christ” in 2nd Peter. But of those five references, four are: “Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” In the New Testament, Jesus is rarely referred to as just, “Savior” Most of the time (nearly 250), he is referred to as “Lord!”

Well, we’ve heard from Paul and Peter, let’s hear from Jesus! Jesus said to those who would come after (that is, follow him or be saved) him:  “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 KJV) That’s Lordship talk! He said: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mat 11:28-30 KJV) That’s Lordship talk! How did Jesus understand himself as Lord? He asked, one day: “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? (Luke 6:46 NLT) On another occasion he said: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21 ESV) Clearly Jesus understood that his “lordship” warranted obedience from those who would claim him as such. The fact that he is Lord is the basis of his authority in issuing the Great Commission: “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mat 28:18-20 ESV) The marching order of the church is based on the authority, not of Jesus the Savior, but of Jesus the Lord!

The evidence is overwhelming! We might want to know him primarily as Savior, but they knew him as Lord!

Comments are welcomed!

5 Reasons Why Christians Should NOT Accept Jesus As Their Personal Savior: A Guest Post by T. E. Hanna

This is an interesting article by T. E. Hanna from Of Dust and Kings that I totally agree with. In addition to the points the author makes, I would add that Jesus NEVER invited anyone to follow him as their “Savior!” He called people to follow him as their Lord and that call was absolute! Or, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in his classic work The Cost of Discipleship“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die!”

5 Reasons Why Christians Should NOT Accept Jesus As Their Personal Savior

In 1989, Depeche Mode released their 23rd single in the UK, a hit song that quickly climbed the charts and would eventually be covered by such notable musicians as Johnny Cash, Jerry Williams, Nina Hagen, and Marilyn Manson. The song was entitled “Personal Jesus” and the steady rhythm of the chorus drummed out the following lines:

Your own personal Jesus
Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who cares
Your own personal Jesus
Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who’s there
…reach out and touch Faith

While Depeche Mode used the “personal Jesus” idea as a metaphor for codependent human relationships, the concept has nevertheless permeated western Christian culture. Testimonies typically hail back to the moment when one has “finally accepted Jesus as their personal Lord and savior” and the standard evangelism question points to the same idea: “Have you accepted Jesus as your personal savior?”

Yet Scripture knows nothing of a personalized faith.

Bear with me here, and let me clarify what I am NOT saying. I am NOT saying that we should not be impacted on a personal level by the Christian faith – we absolutely should. I am NOT saying that we do not come to Christ on a personal basis – we absolutely must.

However, the idea of a personal savior has taken on a life of its own, replacing the locus of the Christian life with our personal agendas and pushing Jesus to the margins. We customize, privatize, and minimize the Christian story, relegating Jesus to little more than “someone to hear your prayers, someone who cares.” This corrodes the very heart of the Christian faith, eating away at its life transforming power, and ripping Jesus away from His divinity in order to wedge Him into an idol fashioned after a hyper-individualistic culture. This simply won’t do.

Christians need to reject the idea of the personal Jesus, and we need to do it for 5 reasons:

1. Christians Are Called To Follow, Not Accept

The central cry of Jesus was never “accept me.” In fact, it was quite the opposite. Jesus walked a path which called Him to be despised and rejected, betrayed and belittled, criticized and crucified. The call of Jesus to His disciples and to us is to follow. Following requires leaving things behind and forging forward, laying down your life that you might find it, dying to yourself that your might discover the life abundant in the purposes of God. Acceptance is passive. Following is inherently active.

2. Christians Conform To Christ, Not Christ To Christians

At the heart of spiritual formation is the move to become “Christ-like”. Often, this challenges our preconceptions and wars against our desires. Good. It is supposed to. The Jesus Way is a way of transformation, of exposing our darker side to the Light of the World that the shadows may be cast away and we may become luminaries of incandescent glory, reflecting the blinding rays of the Son. We must never customize Jesus, reducing Him to an eternal moral teacher that can give us a hand when things get rough. We must allow ourselves to be confronted by Him, restored through Him, and conformed to Him.

3. Christians Are Called To Community, Not Isolation

John Wesley once wrote that “Scripture knows nothing of solitary religion.” From Genesis to Revelation, we see the story of a God who is creating a people, not just persons. In the instances where we see individuals emphasized, they are emphasized for the purpose of the people. Abraham was called individually to carry the covenant for what would become the people of God. Moses was called individually to free the Israelite people. David was called individually to lead a nation of God’s people. The prophets were called individually to be the mouthpiece of God to His people. The disciples were called individually only to then be sent forth to gather a global people. The popular notion that Christianity is a personal affair, making the community of faith unnecessary, finds no basis in the pages of Scripture. It is only in community that we find accountability, corporate prayer, unified worship, and the edification of the saints. It is only in community that we become the Body of Christ.

4. Christians Are Called To Serve, Not Be Served

So much of Christian rhetoric emphasizes the blessing of God and de-emphasizes the way of the cross. Much of popular Christianity is about seeking these blessings, about conforming God to our will, about how God somehow is charged with serving us. I am not diminishing the reality of the blessedness of God, but blessing is hardly the entire picture. Jesus completely inverts the concept of privilege, calling His followers away from notions of entitlement and into a life of servanthood. The reality of this is that, as we serve one another, we will be served in the process; but the notion that service is somehow owed to us is completely overturned. We, who claim ourselves as children of the greatest King who ever existed, express this most dutifully as servants.

5. Christians Are Saved For More Than Just Themselves

The Christian concept of salvation does more than just look over its shoulder at a sinful past now washed clean. It does more than look at the present as we are engaged in a process of spiritual renewal. It looks to the future, at the outworking of our salvation expressed as a transformed people transforming the world. In other words, Christians are not just saved from sin, they are saved to God. We become active participants in the breaking forth of God’s Kingdom as the redemptive order confronts and exposes the manifestation of sin in society. To limit the concept of salvation to a personal experience (or worse, a personal event) truncates the fullness of what it means to be Christian. We are not just saved from a life of sin; we are saved for a world where sin still manifests.

The popular evangelistic rhetoric calling for people to “accept Jesus as your personal savior” needs to be overturned. It is only in the call to “come and follow” and to “take up your cross” that we begin to regain the deeper things which have historically defined God’s people. It is here, in the deep water, where Christianity comes alive.