#295 The Church of Jesus Christ Is Still Very Much Alive (22/07/07)

The Message

By: Robert H. Schuller

Special Guest

She’s the author of a new book which I think is phenomenal. And she became quite famous when she was selected as one of the contestants on American Idol but she had a wonderful ministry of music before she appeared on that show, singing with great concerts of women and conferences of Christian ladies around the nation.

Special Music

"Joyful, Joyful..”
" Blest be the Tie that Binds "
" In the Cross of Christ I Glory "
“ Let Thy Holy Spirit ”

MANDISA HUNDLEY – “God Speaking”

The Message

The church of Jesus Christ is still very much alive, and we are over two thousand years old!  That's phenomenal.  Who coined up the idea of a church?  Why?  What was and is its mission and purpose?  Why should you go to church every Sunday?  Why don't you just worship at home?  Do you need to come?  These are important and sincere questions and I do not put them before you to admonish you or scold you, but to challenge and excite you about the church.


Why is the church still very much alive today?  Who coined the word "church"?  St. Peter?  No.  But it was he who first heard the word.  When Jesus asked Peter, "Who do people say I am?  Who do you say that I am?" Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!"  And then Jesus said, "On this rock I will build My church!"  (Matthew 16: 13-19)  That is the first time the word "church" was mentioned.  The confession of faith in Christ the Son of God is His church.  So Jesus coined the word church and He said it first to the apostles, specifically to Peter because Peter professed and confessed the faith that if the church holds to the faith, to the Lord Christ, the Son of the Living God, then the church will hear the promise of Jesus, "I will build My church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it!" (Matthew 16:18)  That's the church of Jesus Christ.


But the church got actually did not start during the lifetime of Jesus.  A form of it appeared in His early years when He went out preaching from the hillside in the country and crowds came to Him.  But, after His death and resurrection, the believers had to gather together to encourage each other.  They were a small faith and their leader had been publicly executed on a cross in public.  How could they survive?  And that's how the church began.


Justin Martyr was one of the early prophets of the church and lived during those years that followed the resurrection of Jesus.  And going through one of my history books, I was reading his account.  He describes the new faith, the new Christian worship.  It pretty much followed in the same way Jewish people had been worshiping every week on Saturday, the Sabbath, when they went to their houses of worship called synagogues.  And the first believers of the faith in Christianity were all Jewish people.  Their memories were of attending the synagogue services.  So as they came together, they would read from the scriptures.  Yes, from the Old Testament, starting with the Pentateuch which are the first five books of the Old Testament written by Moses.


Here's what Justin Martyr* said, "On Sunday a meeting is held, after a reading from the Prophets, the president gives a discourse, gives admonition and encouragement to imitate what the Bible calls us to do.  And after all this we rise and have common prayer ¡K and we give gifts.  The wealthy and willing give their generous contributions and others come and make contributions.  And the church gives to orphans, to prisoners, strangers and all who are in want."


Meanwhile, believers were being persecuted by the pagan emperors in Rome.  Among those who perished in the early church, was Simeon, the leader of the church of Jerusalem, the brother of Jesus.  He was crucified.  In and around Rome, multitudes of Christians were arrested and put to death in the most cruel ways, with public exhibitions of their crucifixion or tied in the skins of animals and thrown into the arena to be mauled to death by dogs, thrown to the wild beasts or tied to stakes to become human torches in Nero's gardens.  Many of the believers, were women who stood firm in their faith to their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!


These stories are not myths.  They died for the Christian church.  The church could have died out if it hadn't been for them.  The church of Jesus Christ is alive because people who started the movement kept the faith alive because they offered their lives as sacrifices to the freedom to speak their faith.  Fantastic!


The Church Today


The church is a sacred place in a secular world. 

The church is an oasis in a troublesome and conflicting culture. 


Wake up world!  Embrace the church!  Go back to it.  Take your children there.  Look what it does for people ¡K for you!  The church of Jesus Christ was planned by Jesus Christ as an institution for us to meet together every week and share the positive emotions where we can laugh, cry happy tears, and pray positive prayers.  All of this is the kind of worship service they had in 100 AD.  Amazing!


There is a beautiful lady whom I shall not identify by name.  I will call her Jean.  She went to her church regularly with her husband and children.  And then she was shocked when she found out that her husband was unfaithful and he left her for a young and pretty girl.  It almost killed her.  As active members of their church, she couldn't go back. She was too ashamed.  And the church was so judgmental in their teaching.  If you got a divorce you were going to Hell.  So she stopped attending church altogether.  Then  she had heard about the messages from the Crystal Cathedral and she knew she couldn't survive without going to church, so one Sunday she came.  She sat in the very back row of one of our balconies where hopefully, nobody would sit near her or recognize her.  The Spirit of Jesus surrounded her, so she came back the next week, and then she met people who came to her.  They smiled as they shook her hand and said, "Welcome¡KGod loves you and so do I."


Yes, churches are not all the same.  There are those who focus on all the sins.  This church focuses on the nonjudgmental love of Jesus Christ.  "God loves you, so do I," is the preaching of the cross¡K love vertically ¡K and then love horizontally.


When 4th of July came, we asked for volunteer musicians for our orchestra and Jean volunteered because she used to be a great instrumentalist.  This was her first attempt to step forward and begin to live again.  Today Jean is a renewed, joyful believer, sharing her faith, "God loves you, so do I."


That's the church of Jesus Christ! 


If you read my biography, you will read about the time I was having a tough time. This church was only two years old when one of the elders of our church board, heard his doorbell ring, and opened door to a young man selling brushes.  And my elder said to him, "You look like you should be doing something more with your life than selling brushes. "


The young man answered, "I don't intend to do this for long.  I am a graduate of a seminary and I'm a minister."


Then the elder said, "Then why aren't you working in a church?"


"Oh," he said, "No one will hire me."


My elder replied, "You know we have a new church with only one pastor and he needs a lot of help.  You should come and work for us," and he said, "I'd love to."


It was most inappropriate for the elder to assume this responsibility.  There are various stages to becoming a minister.  But, the elder reported his "gift" of a new co-pastor at the next board meeting.  And I cringed because the seminary my new co-pastor had graduated from was very negative.  In fact, their professors were reported to teaching that, "Schuller never preaches about the cross.  He's going to hell."


So the young minister was hired as my co-pastor and then he took as God's calling to straighten me out and the congregation also.  He began saying negative things about my theology and also my personality ¡K I was too enthusiastic, too happy, too positive.  I never preached against the many sins of the congregation from the pulpit.  I really agonized in prayer about what I was experiencing in my church, but I didn't have the authority to ask my co-pastor to leave.  I prayed that God would take care of it in His own way.  One year later, he received a call to become a senior pastor of a church in Arizona, and I breathed a thank you prayer to God.


But there was a great deal of damage left behind. In our congregation there were many who had been negatively programmed against me.  Then came the Sunday when I announced the new dream of a walk-in/drive-in church.  Instead of two congregations, the drive-in worshippers and the chapel worshippers in different locations, we would become one congregation in one location.  When the majority of the congregation enthusiastically voted, yes for the dream, the negative minority became angry and threatened to split the church.  About a third of them just walked out.  It was very humiliating.  Wow.  So in prayer I said, "God, what am I going to do?  What am I going to do about the church?  I had a forty year goal.  I had a dream of building a great church for You."  And I cried.  I sat for a long time at the church in my study.  Then I heard a loud idea in my brain. (Ideas do have a different volume.  Even if they don't produce sound, the volume is in their impact).


And my brain was impacted by the Bible verse, the words of Jesus, "I will build MY church! ¡K  It's not yours, Schuller.  It's MY church."  When I heard the words, "I will build MY church," do you know what I did?  I got out of my chair in my study, and I said aloud, "Jesus, please take over!  Sit in that chair." 


At the next Board meeting I didn't sit in the Chairman's chair. It was empty signifying that Jesus Christ was the head of this church, for which I was privileged to serve.  And I could see a wonderful change of attitude happening, a new positive spirit, the Spirit of Jesus Christ.  "I will build MY church."


The Church of Jesus Christ is Still Very Much Alive!


Jesus Christ found you and brought you here.  Why am I so thankful for the people who join the church?  Because I look ahead at the years to come at how God keeps finding the right people for the building of His church and I'm so thankful that He has given my son the passion for the church.  This is not our church.  It's Christ's church.  And He's blessing it, keeping it alive.  The church is still alive and it will never die because Jesus promised "I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall never prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18)


Today what is the mission of our church? 


To turn cynics into seekers.

To turn seekers into believers. 

To turn believers into achievers! 

And that's the whole Gospel... Hallelujah.  Amen.


* Halley's Pocket Bible Handbook, Zondervan Publishing


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