The Church Is Not a Political Institution

And 4 other misconceptions everyone makes about the Body of Christ

There are a lot of things that the Church is in our culture: The physical representation of God in the world, a place where Christians can gather to encourage one another, God’s chosen method of spreading the Gospel.

All of these things are good and biblical manifestations of the Church in the world around us. But of all the great things that the Church does in the world today, there are also some traps the Church can fall into. And like anyone that wants to be healthy, we ought to be performing regular checkups to make sure that we’re not falling into one or more of these traps:

The Church is Not A Political Institution

When the Church first got started, it was a grassroots movement of working class citizens in an occupied nation in a small corner of the Roman Empire. But as more people were added to the Church, the Church began to increase in influence and power. Eventually, Christianity was adopted as the official religion of Rome. As a result, the Church was able to influence laws, enforce its morality and even coerce people into joining the Church.

That kind of power is something the Church still has in some cultures today, but there’s nothing in the New Testament that supports this kind of power for the Church at all. To the contrary, Jesus modeled a surrender of power and influence in order to become servants of all. If the Church becomes connected to the state, even unofficially, it has to serve two masters—something Jesus tells us we won’t be able to do.

If the Church becomes connected to the state, even unofficially, it has to serve two masters—something Jesus tells us we won’t be able to do.

The Church Is Not a Club of Like-Minded Individuals

The Church has always been a collection of people from different cultures, backgrounds and experiences. Despite that, many church buildings are full of very homogeneous groups of people. Churches tend to be separated by race, age, political belief and any other number of factors and types. But the whole New Testament is full of reminders how the Gospel is Good News for everyone in every circumstance.

Because of that, the Church needs to embrace diversity. It’s easy to gravitate toward the people who are like us, but a body needs all of its different parts. We all benefit from a diversity of cultures, races, talents and personality types. And we can better accomplish the mission of the Church if we embrace that diversity.

The Church is Not a Stronghold Against the World

You’ve probably heard this at some point: The world is evil, and the Church has to stand up against that evil. People like to use the phrase “in the world, but not of the world” to insist that the Church is supposed to protect itself from the world.

But the Church isn’t opposed to the world. Church isn’t an “us vs. them” game. To the contrary, Church is an “us for them” game. We’re supposed to serve and advocate for the people in the world. We want to share the Gospel with them. We want to affirm people as valuable and loved, and we want to help people come into a better relationship with God. That doesn’t happen if we treat the world like an adversary we protect ourselves from.

The Church is Not A Building

Church isn’t supposed to just be a place that you go. If Church is just a thing that we go to once or twice a week, then it’s not living up to the mission Jesus set up for us. Church is who we are. We’re the Church when we worship together on Sunday, but we’re also the Church when we go into work on Monday morning or go to the movies on Friday night.

The Church isn’t opposed to the world. Church isn’t an “us vs. them” game. To the contrary, Church is an “us for them” game.

The Church isn’t a building; the Church is God’s hands and feet in the world. We may meet in a building, but we do that in order to encourage each other, build each other up and get ready to go back out into our lives and be the Church in the world around us for another week. If our Church experience centers around the building that we meet in a couple times a week, we aren’t accomplishing the Great Commission.

The Church is Not Supposed to be Comfortable

Many of us get comfortable in Church. It’s where we grew up. We’re used to the way things go. We go to Church and we sing songs we like, talk to people who think like us, and listen to someone tell us things about God and the Bible that we already agree with.

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But what if that’s not enough? What if being comfortable with Church is a sign of complacency? In the New Testament, churches were sending out missionaries, bringing in new speakers, trading letters with each other. For a brief period of time, church members were all giving up their possessions to the church and sharing with anyone who had need.

I’m not saying we have to go to extremes, but we ought to be doing things that get us out of our comfort zones. Because growth happens in discomfort. We should be participating in missions that stretch us. We should be giving up more of ourselves than we feel safe doing. Because that’s where God is able to use us the most, and that’s where we draw closer to God. If a church is comfortable, it probably isn’t doing much that’s worthwhile.

The Church does a lot of things well in the world today, but there are also a lot of ways that the Church has adopted roles and characteristics that may be detrimental to our overall mission. We need to be willing to examine ourselves to prune out these undesirable characteristics so we can be more effective in our mission of sharing the Gospel and participating in God’s work of redemption in the world around us.

Top Comments

Stanley Crescioni

46

Stanley Crescioni commented…

I really liked this article. Your point about getting comfortable in church is something that really spoke to me. I think back to Jesus and Paul's journeys and both made a habit of staying out of their own comfort zones to serve others.

6 Comments

Stanley Crescioni

46

Stanley Crescioni commented…

I really liked this article. Your point about getting comfortable in church is something that really spoke to me. I think back to Jesus and Paul's journeys and both made a habit of staying out of their own comfort zones to serve others.

Michael Leapley

7

Michael Leapley commented…

The church should be full of Christians that believe the inerrant Word of God is the truth. And this understanding of God's Law should heavily influence who you vote for. Every law on morality is based off of a standard, which is God's law written on man's heart. So if you support something that goes against God's law, be prepared to face His judgement.

Steve Cornell

344

Steve Cornell commented…

I appreciate the concerns raised in this article. Given the growing polarization and divisive tone of politics, I understand why Christians might be tempted to distance themselves from the whole project.

It seems that no matter how graciously we engage, we risk being misunderstood as taking sides with a “Radical Right” or a “Radical Left.” It seems much easier to “just preach the gospel.”

I feel for those who want to avoid what appears to be a sure way to create misunderstanding or to get people mad at you.

Yet caution is needed regarding the line, "there’s nothing in the New Testament that supports this kind of power for the Church at all."

Some leaders ask, “Where do you see Jesus or the apostles getting involved in politics?”

Of course, this an argument from apparent silence and overlooks the fact that those who lived during the periods of history represented in the Bible were not part of democratic forms of government.

We are simply not living in the same political situation as Jesus or the apostles. This is part of what makes our function a little more complicated. We are part of a participatory system where we have the opportunity to influence the formation of laws and policies for the common good.

We cannot use arguments from silence to negate a calling to responsible citizenship.

As we pursue a common good with others and each one brings his or her beliefs, morals and values to the discussion, robust and respectful debate is often necessary. We must not shy from engagement or feel obligated to marginalize our voice.

Yet we should not approach engagement as an effort to win culture wars. Such language (and the demeanor that often accompanies it) is not fitting to responsible Christian participation in a representative form of democracy. But let's not go to the other extreme and spiritualize passivity as humble service when we are given clear opportunity to be engaged.

Let’s be as informed as possible and speak the truth with boldness while being considerate and kind toward opponents.

I am on a bit of a mission to encourage believers to think more deeply about influence. If interested in some of my concerns, see, https://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/thinking-deeply-about-our-in...

Steve Cornell

Third Side Of The Story

19

Third Side Of The Story commented…

The mystical body of Christ is the kingdom in effect. Dominion is truly the duty of the Church. America trapped Protestantism and morphed into what it is now; although gone, with its American legacy. Of which was not truly a representative force in government, because America was not officially of a religious faith. Formally permissible only in a ceremonial deism or when society included Protestants--even the New World kind. --As Old-World Christendom dwindled for the New-World.-- Since than the American Protestant cultural aspect is no longer even profanely existing. And as a consequence its effects are seen the world-over i.e. Americanism. Hopefully and still preying into American-Protestant nationalist lore: Although Roman Catholics have been so Americanized; each diocese is a testimony to the imperial faith with its state apparatus.

Bryan Lee Davidson

18

Bryan Lee Davidson commented…

Tyler Jarvis can get away with saying say this stuff because he is a pastor. Most church goers can't. As for "The Church is not supposed to be comfortable", well done! It's often not!

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