Jesus and His Church – an excerpt from Intrusive God, Disruptive Gospel

The following is an excerpt from Intrusive God, Disruptive Gospel by Matthew Skinner.

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Cover ArtThe close associations Acts makes between Jesus’s influence and the activities of his followers should make us less inclined to embrace a religious view in which God exists somewhere “out there” while we human beings hope to make an occasional connection.

The Gospel of Luke characterizes Jesus’s life as a prolonged “visitation” (see Luke 19:44). Acts implies the visitation continues; Jesus has settled in among humanity—still working, still saving. We can find him manifest in Christian communities. Or at least we are supposed to.

If Jesus’s connection to his followers exists today in ways similar to what Acts suggests, then Acts encourages me to see churches (the people, not the buildings) as vital communities, crucial for the gospel of God’s salvation to remain known and attractive for generations to come.

This connection also raises cautionary red flags, given that many people have long catalogs of instances in which churches (the institutions and their members) have been abusive, selfish, or apathetic. Or simply boring.

When Acts ties Jesus and his people together in such tight knots, its theological vision can spawn idealism or cynicism, depending on my perspective and how motivated I am to get out of bed on a given Sunday morning.

The communities of believers that spring into being in Acts exist as the products of some major disruptions: Jesus visited, he was resurrected, and the Holy Spirit came. The Christian communities that exist now have organic connections to those disruptive experiences from long ago. But smaller, less perceptible disruptions also hold these communities together. To see them, we need to peer deeply into these groups and consider the individuals who compose them.

What troubles, determinations, or longings make a person participate in a community of faith? What kind of salvation draws her in? How does she hope her involvement might affect the wider world? Ask these questions of enough Christians enough times, and we may begin to see signs of Jesus in the experiences of his followers even now.

Finally, God is not limited to the communities we encounter in Acts. Later in the story, further disruptions will come. Many of these shocks to the status quo will convince members of those communities that God is also busy elsewhere, accomplishing salvation and occasionally directing Jesus’s followers to catch up and recognize other ways of doing things and other places to do them.

These parts of Acts remind readers that the communities of Jesus’s followers, although they are crucial means for people to experience salvation, are not exclusive or required means. God works in other settings too. The plan of God remains much grander, and more spread out. It remains so today.

©2015 by Matthew L. Skinner. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.