Speaking the Truth in Love

A Christ-Centered Church

Several years ago I heard an excellent Gospel meeting message presented by Billy Smith, dean of the Freed-Hardeman University Bible department. His sermon challenged the assembly to make Jesus the focus of faith, worship, daily living, and hope. Billy introduced his lesson by noting a common criticism of the churches of Christ. “Our denominational friends acknowledge that we have restored New Testament church organization,” he said, “but they claim we have lost sight of Jesus in the process. We are ‘church-centered’ rather than ‘Christ-centered.'”

Why would other church-goers reach such an unflattering conclusion? Sadly, some congregations are lifeless and dull. Genuine love and warmth are missing from the assembly, and the church makes no real effort to reach lost and hurting people. However, since denominations have lifeless congregations too, something else may be at the root of this serious accusation.

The underlying reason for the criticism seems to be that many church-goers divorce the Jesus of the Gospels from the Jesus of the other half of the New Testament. The Jesus presented in the Gospels is perceived as tender, loving, compassionate, and forgiving. He says virtually nothing about the church’s organization and worship. Thus, it is concluded, Jesus has little interest in such things. As long as Christians follow him in good character, compassion for the poor, and love for each other, their church organization and worship matter little.

This is a false conclusion, though. The Jesus of the Gospels is the same Lord who establishes the church, organizes it, and ordains its proper worship. The Gospels (Matthew-John) present the earthly ministry of Jesus, and the other inspired New Testament books (Acts-Revelation) interpret his beautiful life in terms of daily life in the church, of which Christ himself is Head (Col. 1:18).

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