Jesus said that we should seek the kingdom of God. He never said anything similar about church. In fact, He spoke very little about church, only mentioning it by name two times in the gospel accounts of His life. On the other hand, He spoke repeatedly about the kingdom of God (sometimes calling it “the kingdom of heaven” or even just “the kingdom”) and urged His followers to seek it and to prepare to enter it. From time to time, someone will make the argument that the church is the kingdom, but that flies in the face of the rest of the New Testament which depicts the church as preparing for the coming of the kingdom, not thinking it is the kingdom. For this reason, and others, the idea of the church being the kingdom gets dropped pretty quickly.
If the church of the New Testament wasn’t the kingdom, then today’s church, with its thousands of denominations, certainly cannot be. Jesus said any kingdom divided against itself could not stand. Today’s church is nothing if not divided.
None of this is to criticize those who attend church in search of the living God. It is merely to say that attending church is not something God requires. Moreover, attending church often leads people away from a personal relationship with God because the needs of the church as an institution take precedence over the commandments of God. For example, a church has to collect an offering to be able to pay its bills, but if all its members are serving the poor and giving them money instead of coming to church and putting the money in the offering plate then the church will go bankrupt. Thus, the church member is forced to choose between obeying God and supporting the church.
It’s easy when you’re a church leader to think that you’re serving God when you try to grow your church. I know I fell prey to this thinking when I was a pastor years ago. I wanted people to serve God and I saw their serving church as a way to do that, not realizing that I was adding to their burdens by needing their time and money. Additionally, I was unconsciously conveying to them that they were serving God when they were coming to church when God was wanting them to serve Him in all their daily activities – not merely add a weekly activity to their already overburdened lives.
If you want to grow in your personal relationship with God then you’re simply going to have to go to…God. God came in the flesh, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, to put a face on God. So, you don’t have to relate to God as some ethereal, inscrutable Being. Just relate to God as if He’s Jesus – because He is!
Keep His commandments, the most fundamental of which is to love: Him first, others second, self last. Be His disciple day by day. If someone wrongs you, turn the other cheek. Above all, follow Him. Not church. Not me. Not anyone else. Him. This…is the kingdom of God.
For more context, see this overview.
The purpose of this blog is to provide information about Jesus to those who want to hear about Him without having to join something.