by: Robert A. Schuller
I got a long
sermon title today but it won’t be that long a sermon.
The title is “The Church of Jesus Christ is Still
Very Much Alive.” And we’re two thousand years
old. That’s phenomenal. You know, I want to ask
some questions. Who coined up the idea of a church? Why?
What was its mission and purpose? Another question: why
should you go to church every Sunday? Why don’t
you just worship at home? You need to come? These are
important questions, they’re sincere questions and
they’re not put before you to admonish or scold
you but to just become informed. Why the church is still
very much alive today. Who coined the word? St. Peter?
No. But it was he who heard the word first. Jesus listened
to Peter and said “Who are you, who do people say
I am?” And he said, “Thou art the Son of the
living God.” And then Jesus said, “This is
My church,” first time. The confession of faith
in Christ the Son of God, that’s His church. So
Jesus coined the word church and He said it first to the
apostles, specifically to Peter because Peter had professed
and confessed the faith that if the church holds to that
faith, the Lord Christ, the Son of the Living God, then
the church will hear Jesus say ‘that’s My
church. Gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’
That’s My church.
Let’s take a look at how the church got started.
Obviously, it did not happen during the lifetime of Jesus.
It happened after His death and resurrection. Yes, 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, that’s when
the believers got together. They had to get together to
encourage each other. They were a small faith. Their leader
had been publicly executed on a cross in public. How could
they stick together? Wow.
was one of the early prophets of the church and lived
during those years that follow the resurrection of Jesus.
And going through one of my history books, I was reading
Justin Martyr. He describes the new faith, the new Christian
worship. It pretty much followed in a way what the Jewish
people had been doing every week on Saturday, the Sabbath,
when they went to their houses of worship called synagogues.
And all of the first believers of the faith in Christianity
were all Jewish people. Their memories were all of attending
the synagogue services. So it comes from that. And then
the synagogue services, the scriptures would be read.
Yes, the Old Testament, starting with the Pentateuch which
are the first five books of the Old Testament written
by Moses. They would come together; they would read from
the scriptures. Here’s what Justin Martyr said,
“they gather every week, 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. And we give gifts. The wealthy and the
willing give their generous contributions. And others
come and make contributions. And we give to orphans; we
lose prisoners, strangers and all who are unwant.”
is happening. People are being persecuted by the pagan
emperor in Rome, among those who perished in the early
church, was Simeon, the leader of the church of Jerusalem,
and the brother of Jesus. He was crucified. In and around
Rome multitudes of Christians were arrested, put to death
in the most cruel ways. Crucified. Public exhibitions
of their crucifixion or tied in the skins of animals and
thrown into the arena to be worked over to death by dogs,
ripping off appendages of the body. Thrown to the wild
beasts or it was not uncommon for entertainment to be
tied to stakes in Nero’s gardens. Women stood firm
in their faith in Christ. Those aren’t myths. They
died for the faith. The faith could have died out if it
hadn’t been for them. The church of Jesus Christ
is alive because people who started the movement and kept
on with it and offered their lives as sacrifices to the
freedom to speak their faith. Fantastic.
Then what is
the church today? It’s become a sacred place in
a secular world. Here, a church is an oasis in a troublesome
and conflicting culture. You can see very dramatically
these past days and these past weeks, yes this year, how
personality is shaped by philosophy. And the philosophy
of Mandisa, look at her faith, look at her eyes, look
at her sparkle. Look at her ethics, look at her morality,
look at her wonderful, positive spirit. She’s fantastic!
She’s a beauty. There is a difference. Wake up world!
Embrace the church! Go back to it. Take your children
there. Look what it does for people, for my guest, for
most of you if not all of you sitting down here. The church
of Jesus Christ was planned by Jesus Christ as an institution
that would meet every week and shoot out the positive
emotions that you can laugh and you can cry happy tears
and you can pray positive prayers. All of this is the
kind of worship service they had right away at 100 AD.
There was a
lady that I can’t identify by name. I can call her
Jean. She went to church regularly. She had a husband,
children. And then she was shocked when she found out
her husband was unfaithful and then he left her for a
young and pretty girl. It almost killed her. They were
active members of another church. She couldn’t go
back to that church. She was too ashamed. And they were
negative. They were teaching if you got a divorce you
were going to hell period. Totally non Biblical. But she’d
heard about this church and she couldn’t stand not
going to church every week. She was used to that so she
came out here one Sunday, sat at the top row in the top
balcony where she could be safe, nobody would sit around
her or even close to her, to recognize her. And she came
back the next week, and then she ran into people she didn’t
know, but they came to her and they smiled and they shook
her hand and said hi, welcome to church. God loves you
and so do I. What a different message! Sunday after Sunday
after Sunday, the healing power of Jesus Christ which
we have designed to be in everything we do in this worship
service. We don’t design things that will condemn
you or belittle you or shame you or put you down, we build
you up in the name of Jesus. One Sunday she felt this
message and it got into her. Well, the healing power came
and then she joined this church.
Why do we come
together to church? Once a week, we need it. Every week
to have our faith built up, to have our silent prayers
of repentance heard and forgiven, and to have Christ come
in. We have the message of this church, we’re here
to take cynics and make them seekers. To take the seekers
and make them believers. To take the believers and make
them builders. It’s working.
probably the most dramatic time in the history of this
church and I had been here only I think a year and a half
or two and one of my elders now deceased, heard the door
bell ring, went to the door bell and there was a young
man selling Fuller brushes. They got talking and you going
to sell brushes all your life he said? And he said no
I’m going to be a minister. Going to be a minister?
Yes, he said I graduated from seminary. Oh? Well then
why aren’t you a minister? He said I can’t
get a job. Oh? He said nobody will hire me. My elder said
you know we have a new church; Dr. Schuller’s the
only pastor there. He needs a lot of help. You should
come and work for us, and he said yeah I’d love
to. First of all, it was inappropriate, the various stages
you go through before you assume the right power to hire
somebody to be a minister at that level. So he reported
his quote gift end quote at the next board meeting. And
I cringed because the seminary he was going to and had
graduated from at that time, no longer, that time was
very negative. In fact, professor’s said Schuller’s
going to hell. He never preaches about the cross.
And so this
young minister was hired as a co pastor, he took it that
it was God’s calling for him to straighten me out.
Yeah. And to straighten the congregation. The things he
said about me from the pulpit, without my being there
were quite humiliating. I prayed about it, I didn’t
ask him to leave, but I prayed that God would take care
of it in His own way. A week later, he got a call to his
own church. Senior pastor. So God punished him. That’s
left. But he had his own congregation going. They were
still there and they were angry and so they threatened
to split the church and they did. And in a dramatic time,
about a third of them just walked out. It was very humiliating.
Wow. All was an answer to prayer because when I said God,
what am I going to do? I listened and I heard loud in
the brain and ideas do have different volume. Even if
they don’t produce sound, the volume is in their
impact. And their life oh what am I going to do with a
church? I had a 40-year goal. I had a dream of building
a great church. And I cried. And into my brain came the
line, a loud line, “I” I recognized that it’s
Jesus. “I will build my church! It’s not yours
anymore, Schuller. It’s Mine. I’ll handle
it” and He did. When I heard the word “I will
build My church,” you know what I did? I got out
of my chair in my study, I looked at it and said Jesus
please take over! Sit in that chair and the next consistory
meeting as I said, I didn’t sit in the chair, it
was empty. And there were whispers. I will build My church.
And He found you and brought you here. He found you and
you and you and you. I needed you like you’ll never
know! Why am I thankful for the people who join this church?
Cause I went to the edge of hell to hang in here for over
50 years. And God helped me through it and God almost
always uses people without asking them. He used you and
today I can say to you, I look ahead at the years at how
God is finding the right people for the right slots, and
I’m so thrilled that He’s giving them the
passion that He has. My son, this is not our church. It’s
Christ’ church. And He’s blessing it, keeping
got the message. If they come here, we will turn the cynics
into seekers. We’ll turn the seekers into believers.
And we’ll turn the believers into achievers! And
that’s the whole gospel.