I've Been Thinking...

I’VE BEEN THINKING........ about Big -”C” and little -”c”, where “c” stands for church. The Big C is the church universal, eternal - every person that ever was, is and will be chosen of God to be a part of His Kingdom is in it - Church. Little c is the church down the street. The church people go to when they say, “ It’s time to go to church”. It’s the organization run and operated by people, to help people meet God and find their way in this world we live in. There’s lots of kinds of little -c “churches”, different flavors, shapes and sizes. And both Big -C and little -c are important. But they are different.

These two “c”s coexist. They overlap. Yet, they are not one and the same. Some people are in both ‘’c’’s, yet others belong to one and not the other. For example, there will always be people who go to the church down the street, but they won’t be included in the Kingdom of heaven. They really don`t want to follow Jesus. And we need to be honest, Jesus himself said, “Many are called but few are chosen.” “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner... closes the door...he will answer, I don’t know you or where you come from.” Not everyone who goes to a church is born into the Kingdom, in the same way that not every person that owns a car is a mechanic. Going and believing are two different actions.

Then there is the opposite situation. There are people who for various reasons can’t be a part of a local church, yet they know their Lord and Savior Jesus very well. They help build the kingdom, fellowship with the saints, and walk with the Holy Spirit as best as they know how. There are sometimes circumstances that cause people to be unwelcome, or unable to attend as a member in a little c - church, but they are included in God’s eternal Kingdom. It is unfortunate that race and career status, handicaps, and doctrinal beliefs often create separations and barriers within a local church. It shouldn’t be this way. But again, to be honest, we all know these problems exist.

The key to remember is, The kingdom of God is made of people, not organizations. And once we see this, it radically rearranges not only how we do business in the little -c church organizations but also how we relate to others in the body of Christ. Once we see that only those belonging to Christ are kingdom brothers and sisters, and that the many other very nice people, (who we like very much but who are not willing to open their hearts to Christ), may well not be with us in eternity. It changes how we organize our church meetings.

There are Christians that go to a different kind of church than I like, but I see their faith and the Spirit in them. I must accept them as family. There are others, who I not only like, but they are in my peer group. I see them regularly. But when it comes to Jesus and His Lordship, they always back off. I fear for them. I intercede for them, but I must never give them false hope by calling them family, when they are not yet connected to the Head.

Once we see that it is possible to start a church and gather a hundred members, and begin to pay the bills and look real good to other missionaries around us, and still not have added those one hundred souls into God’s Kingdom, it changes how we teach. It is possible to be more interested in collecting people to come to “our” church than it is to lead people into the walk of faith. It is possible to be more interested in keeping people in my church organization, than to release them to follow Jesus, the Master, and let Him lead them wherever He may choose.

If starting churches is the goal, we will not reach a lost world. If training and releasing people to know and follow Jesus is the goal, whether the numbers are many or few, they will fill the ranks of God’s glorious kingdom and the numbers will multiply in God’s time by His power.

Jesus was not interested in numbers, though He allowed huge crowds to join in to listen. He fed thousands, and trained and released a dozen. His focus was on disciples, while his love and energy flowed out to everyone. That is a hard act to follow. Our energy and commitment falls way short when it comes to loving everyone equally. And we also fall short in faith of being able to walk without provisions while giving everything away to strangers, as Jesus did. But may we never fall so low as to build a church organization that provides for our needs, while we allow the members to believe they have a free ride into heaven by their giving alone. No one can buy a place in heaven, or work for it either.

Every religion in the world offers some hope or promise for some action on the part of the members. Christ is different. Every religion in the world also intimidates and uses fear to oppress those members who stand up against the authority of the organization. Christ is different. He gives freely. He releases freely. He offers both hope and a caution. There are two roads. He says one is narrow and other wide. Few are those who choose the narrow, but that way leads to Life. The majority choose the wide road because it’s easy, but it’s way leads to death. The choice is ours, and it is not to be taken lightly.

There is no “in” group, no perks for anyone’s ego in Kingdom thinking. In fact Jesus purposely makes it easy to choose the wide road, and hard to follow though on the narrow one purposely. It is not a game. It’s not manipulation. Jesus knows the consequences are too serious. No one enters heaven without being tested. No one should be deceived into believing they have already made the team because of some performance on their part either. I don’t mind that unbelieving people often attend little - c church faithfully and even give financially. Yet that is not a qualifier in God’s Kingdom.

Everyone who knows Jesus as Lord and Savior is saved by grace through faith. We cannot judge another’s heart. I dare not completely trust my own heart. The stakes are too high. I continually come to Jesus as a wretched sinner. “Today, Lord, save me today.” I continually need new grace.

If we are so cruel as to allow anyone, without faith and knowledge of the person of Christ, to believe they are on their way to a glorious future in heaven, just because....they come to “church”, we are to blame. Little “c” is not the same as Big “C”. The local church, whether Roman Catholic, Protestant, or any of the thousands of flavors and sizes are just little c, human organizations with the glorious commission and a God-given calling to train, teach, and release one by one new believers in Christ , to be a part of the ongoing training, teaching, caring, accepting, loving, sharing......heart of God.

Do you see it? It’s fantastic. Big C never fails, never has, never will. Little c is never perfect, never was, never needs to be. Little c is the scaffolding the contractor is using while he builds the Eternal Cathedral. In time it will all come down. In the end every denomination, every Christian organization, every group will cease to be. Only the Kingdom of Christ, His body, the perfect reflection will remain. Little c will be done. And no one will notice when it’s gone. So those of us involved in little- c church need not be so protective and denominationally self-centered. May we never loose true zeal and passion for the real Kingdom.

I can remember the time and the date when God personally showed me this truth by mental revelation. I was very zealous and ambitious to see God’s Kingdom grow to overcome the world. To me, back then, “winning was everything”. I believed the Kingdom was the sum total of all the world’s Christian organizations combined. And I dedicated my life to building them bigger and stronger. I also felt that others had better do the same or get out of my way. I was determined to win by organizational and financial power.

And then God showed me a new picture. I was reading all the red letter verses starting at the beginning of Matthew. The kingdom is like this...the kingdom is like that...But that Kingdom was not what I was building. So I asked, “Lord, what is your Kingdom?” And then He showed me a person’s face and then another person’s face and another. And He told me to count them, but instead of being able to count “one, two, three”...the voice inside my head said, “one, one, one...the Kingdom of God is ONE ...person”. Every person is a vessel for the fullness of the Kingdom.

Big -C must increase, while little -c must decrease, not in numbers, but in authority. Sometimes we take little -c too seriously, while not taking Big -C seriously enough. Little -c can absorb our time and interests at the expense of Big -C without knowing or meaning to do it. In fact, little -c has a way of becoming an end in itself.

For comparison, a business does not exists for the sake of it’s employees. The employees serve the business to make a profit, for the sake of those who own the business. In the end, the employees do hope to gain. But the employees are there for the sake of the business. But in the case of little -c, it’s only reason to exist should be to serve the people coming into the Kingdom. But unfortunately it often becomes a business.

And so people working with churches face a constant battle in priorities. Does our local church serve God? Does it serve the people? Or does it serve itself? When we see little -c as a vessel, only a tool, just a shell in which to put part of the kingdom, little -c’s boundaries are easier to maintain.

Unfortunately, many Christians do not see it like this at all. They look at little -c as one and the same as the Big -C, as if they were equivalent. If I build my local church, or my denomination, or my mission organization bigger, financially stronger, is the Kingdom of God extended? Maybe, maybe not.

If members stop coming, has the Kingdom of God deceased? Possibly, but probably not. In the past I made any sacrifice for my local church and expected everyone else to do the same. But the question remains, would I make the same sacrifices to help someone else's church grow? No, that was not part of “my” kingdom. And that’s the real issue, who’s kingdom are we really building? It’s almost always an issue of control.

Do we want Jesus to be in control, completely, and without our permission? Or do we want to be in control and just ask for Jesus’ blessing. I’ve lived both ways, and there definitely is a difference.

It seems so obvious to me now that I see it. The priority and goal of Christians must be to extend the Kingdom, Big -C, with the King on the throne in that Kingdom. We should teach people to first, submit their whole life to Jesus Christ, second to be a part of the Kingdom Big -C, wherever Jesus leads them to go, and third to participate in little c because we all need to grow. The very opposite would be to teach people to submit first to little -c, the local church, and let it decide where they fit in the best. I believe this is a dangerous temptation for both for the leader and the follower. It tends to create blind faith and pride, rather than humility and dependence of Christ. Yet, I see it happening all too often.

Secondly, we must create organizations that exist to meet the needs of their people, rather than the people meeting the needs of the organization. Organizations are disposable, people are not. Organizations can be useful for a season and then discarded, people should not be. Organizations are not eternal, people need to know that they are.

There are two distinct ways of thinking. For years I saw human organizations as God’s Kingdom on earth. Many pastors and missionaries still do. But there is another way to think. And it is far superior and extremely freeing. Once I saw that Christ does rule in His Church, I began to understand that not all well-meaning Christians are on His team. Many work for their own kingdoms. And though people are evangelized, trained and helped in many ways, it’s not God highest; because the control stays in the hands of the pastor, leader, or missionary. Our hands must always be open, ready to release.

Little -c should look more like a convenience store, a place to pick up what one needs now, and get back into the action, rather than a storehouse, where people are added and kept frozen for the future. Little -c should be everywhere, different shapes, different flavors, and meeting at different times of the week, so any and every person can find one and walk in.

Local churches could be resource centers, or even command posts for strategic outreach. What they must not be is “kingdoms” unto themselves. There is only one lasting eternal Kingdom. And once we see Big -C and little -c as different and separate, everything we do in the Christian community takes on new meaning. I say it again, both “C’s” are important, we need them both. We simply need to know where to put our priority. God’s grace be with you.

© 2002, Warren Okerman