Building your Emerging Church from Matthew 16: 13-20
This is perhaps the greatest question you can ask yourself and the rest of your church's leadership. Why? This is the navigational beacon that will lead your church! Christianity is relationship driven: Christ to us, and then us to others around us. Everything we do and are to do must be lined up to Him. We have to know Him first and foremost before we can point our church to the lost, start a new emergent congregation or gathering, or do anything significant for His Kingdom (Gal. 4:19; Col. 1:27).
This passage gives us a look into a postmodern mind and directs us as a church to go to them and reach them. We are to be a magnet to draw those who are confused or hardened to Christ in the best way we can. He places a call in us; it is like a magnet that is on a compass that always points north, except ours points to Christ, leading us by the Holy Spirit as He, as well as His Word, is our compass. We need to form a heart for the lost and disenfranchised. In such a way, you as a leader, alongside the church, are the epistle to a new emerging generation-one that will be read, one that needs to point to Truth. His Word and precepts need to be a part of who we are so we have something to say as we lead others. Then, we are to metabolize it to new cultural changes and find new ways to present this truth without dilution. This is what the original Church was meant to do, and what we are called to do (2 Cor. 3:3).
In this Matthew passage, Jesus is surrounded by a crowd of people who are all probably wondering, who is this Guy? Perhaps, in the wonder and excitement, the crowd is perplexed and confused, yet willing and able to give their opinions. This is what the people around you need to see-this Guy. Jesus uses this as an opportunity to test His Disciples. Who do the people say I am? Who do you say I am? Are they ready to know? Do they know? The women from Canaan knew (Matt. 15:21-28). And, the previous passage seems to indicate the Leaders must have known, but refused to accept the Truth. Peter boldly steps up with his opinion, which does not adhere to the opinions of the crowd; he rises and proclaims his faith. He takes a risk, and even, perhaps ridicule from both the crowd and the other Disciples as he proclaims, He is the Great I Am.
This serves as a lesson to us that we have to remain in His truth and not worry about what crowds or trends have to say. Their wonderings and musings are conflicted opinions that are rooted in mere ideas rather than facts. Presumptions give into assumptions that tend to be absent of truth or effectual reality. Would they want to know the Truth if they knew their beliefs were wrong? Or would they not care, desiring rather to stay in their wrong beliefs? What about you and the people Christ has called you to go to? This passage is about not following the crowds, rather, allowing the Father to reveal, by the work of the Spirit, who Jesus is. He is the One who reveals; no person or opinion, no matter how good and informed, can take the place of His revelation.
Caesarea Philippi was not the coastal city of Caesarea; rather it was a small city, 1700 feet above sea level in the foothills of Mt. Hermon, 25 miles north of the Lake of Galilee near the source of the Jordan. This was the first century version of "Gen X" people. It was the northern boundary of ancient Israel in the territory of Gad. In Jesus' time, it was a Greek territory where the god Pan was worshipped. Herod had also built a temple there to worship Caesar. This land was one of the most culturally distant from the Jews, because it was so pagan. It was not the usual place to confess faith. Just as many of the people we are called to reach do not even know what we as followers of Christ are all about. They are steeped in their own version of paganism and relative truth. To the Jews, only the Temple or Synagogue would do. Too many Church goers today see that only "our form" of worship will do. See the problem-and the opportunity?
Jesus takes faith and brings it to the daily places of life and in the midst of sin so we can respond to who He is and climb out of that sin. He calls us just the same to do as He leads. So they said. These were the responses from the masses-the same responses we get today. It is interesting that all of the recorded responses are in the prophet category. It has been 400 years since the last prophet came before John the Baptist. The popular opinion was that a prophet would come to usher in the end of the ages (Mal. 4:5). Others thought Elijah would come back; but John the Baptist fulfilled that role. The people thought Jesus was Elijah because each performed similar miracles and judgments (Matt. 11:20-24). Jesus' attack on the Temple indulgences was similar to that of Jeremiah (Matt. 12:6; 24:1-2). The point here is how we do our church is not as important as how we invite people and behave at our church!
Who do you say? The "you" is plural, directed at all of the Disciples as well as to us today. Jesus is showing His Disciples how to take ownership of their faith by focusing on who He really is. Peter seems to answer on behalf of them all. Peter had the right idea, yet, he did not fully understand at this time. He said Christ (meaning messiah) the son meaning, as adopted (Psalm 2:7; 89:27), like David was adopted in God's royal line (2 Sam. 7:14; Psalm 2:7). But, Christ is the One who adopts us. The only way we can know who Christ is comes by the Spirit's illumination.
Jesus says, blessed are you, a standard rabbinic praise meaning, "Peter, I am happy and proud for you!" It is like being told by our parent/father that he is proud of us. This term is also emotional states of satisfaction, well-being, and contentment that results from being approved by God for fulfilling our duty. In the Sermon on the Mount, it suggests enjoying God's special favor as His Grace is working in us (Matt. 5:1-12). Perhaps, Peter is finally "getting it," receiving his information from divine illumination, as Jonah did after all he went through.
The name Peter comes from the Greek word, petros, meaning "a small stone" or "rock." The image in Scripture is Christ as the foundation stone and we as the little stones that lay on His support. We all are called His living stones, while Jesus is called the ultimate Rock-petra. The Rock we work with is laid on the shoulder of our Lord and many others who have been building it (Psalm 118:22; John 1:40-42; 1 Pet. 2:4-8; Acts 4:11-12). The "rock" Jesus refers to is not Peter himself, but rather the foundation upon which His Church is built. The foundation is Christ (1 Cor. 3:11; Eph 2:19-22). The Old Testament often spoke of people being used to build a foundation (Ruth 4:11; Jer. 1:10). But the key to building our church or any church or an Emerging Church is God, and our prayer for Him to build us up (Psalm 51:18; 69:35; 147:2; Jer. 24:6; 31:4; 28). We become the living stones who remain in Him by the confession of our faith, as Peter did.
Confession is not just a statement; rather, it is a realization that we must take hold of the Father's leading/election and make it real in our lives so we bubble over to tell others about Him, as the stones that build our fellowship up (John 6:46-49). It is important to note that the rock is not Peter himself, but the truth about which Peter is confessing (Isa. 51:1-2). Church traditions (not the Bible), stress that Peter is the foundation, and all those who confess build on his foundation. In Catholicism, the line of Popes all directly ascend from Peter-not by birth, as kings, but by confession and the laying on of hands.
Then we are given comfort for our efforts in Him; the Gates of Hades will not be able to topple us. This refers to the realm and power of death and not necessarily the actual place of Hell. Hades normally refers to the place of the dead, not just Hell and torment (Job 38:17; Psalm 9:13). But, in this phrase, the meaning is that death itself shall not stop we who are in Christ. Not immortally, in a physical sense, but our secured place in eternity. Death cannot silence His message or His Church-great words of hope and comfort for the soon to be persecuted Church! And, great words for us today for trying something new or outside of the box of "church-ianity."
Do you know what you are building? Church (Greek, ekklesia) means "to call out." This term was used by the Jews then for a "remnant community" such as the Qumran community who composed the Dead Sea Scrolls and who founded this term, versus the name for a synagogue or gathering (Matt. 18:17). The Greeks used this term to refer to people assembling in the cities for clubs or organizations. Later in the NT, this term jumps to its full meaning as ones who are called out (Acts 7:38). In its context, Jesus is using this term to expand His claim of Messiah-ship and the organization that is to know Him and make Him known (Matt. 16:21-23; 26:28). Now, we are shown the keys to the door, so to speak. Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven differs from the "Keys of Heaven" that only Jesus holds. (Rev. 1:18). The Key is simply our faith that turns the tumblers to the lock of His door, which are locked because of our sin. He is the One who opens the door for us (Matt. 18:18; Acts 2; 8:14-25; 10; 14:27; Eph. 3:5). In ancient cultures, the person who had the keys was the most powerful, or the leader of the servants (Mark 13:32-34). In the Old Testament, a high official held symbolic keys to God's Temple (Isa. 22:20-22). A key represented the authority to choose who would enter. Jesus asks you to invite others using the keys he has given you, so what stops your leadership from reaching out?
A lot has been said about what the purpose or meaning of life is, or the definition of a local church. Some say the purpose is up to you to figure out, while others say it is what you do after you find out what you like. It is not enough just to live and to build; we have to have something to live for, a hope and a direction that is imbedded in a prime purpose. But, Jesus gives us a clear picture of His purpose for us and His Church, which is to acknowledge Him as LORD and worship Him. He is our meaning; He is our purpose. Unless a person comes to faith in Christ, His teachings are meaningless, and we have no purpose. It takes the Father, through the power of the Spirit, to illuminate our hearts and minds so we can receive His Truth, and so we can have purpose to know Him and build our little Emerging Church on His foundation. This purpose gives us the keys to eternity that death itself cannot take away. This illumination becomes our faith by Christ's work on the cross. It becomes our redemption, our salvation. It is not of us-not our repentance or our prayer; it is of Him. He is our purpose and the meaning of our lives, both here on earth and for the life to come. When we have received His confession and have made it our own, then we can confess His wonder to others and God will use His Spirit to empower that confession as a small part of His revelation.
Questions to ponder:
1. If you had come to Christ sooner, what would your life be like now? You cannot go back in time; so, what can you do to further your faith as if you had come to Him earlier in your life?
2. How can this help you see and have a heart for emerging generations and people who are different than you?
3. How did you find your purpose before you were a Christian? In other words, what was the meaning for your life? How has that meaning changed as you have grown in age, in maturity, and in faith? What is it now? What does it need to be?
4. Why do you suppose people are so willing and able to give their opinions, even when they have no idea of what the facts and truth are? How can you as a church respond in care to them?
5. What did it take for Peter to boldly step up with his declaration, and not adhere to the opinions of the crowd? What would it take for you?
6. The real practice of our faith may involve a risk, and even perhaps ridicule from others. Does this scare you or fuel you?
7. What would be the reason for Jesus to take the practice of faith out of just being a Temple thing and bring it to the daily places of life? Why would this be so threatening to the leaders?
8. Would people you know want to learn the real Truth if they knew their beliefs were wrong? Or, would they not care, desiring to stay in their wrong beliefs?
9. When and how did you take ownership of your faith? Did it help you to focus on who He really is?
10. So many Christians take the winning of souls as a purely personal endeavor and responsibility to the point that they forget it is a work of the Spirit. It is good to be passionate, but we are just the witnesses-not the Witness. How can we let the knowledge of who Christ is, by the Spirit's illumination, give us passion to tell others, but not fear their rejection or feel responsible if they do not respond? Remember, we are only to be responsible to make Him known to the best of our abilities and resources; we are not responsible for how people respond.
11. The image of Christ in Scripture is that He is the foundation stone and we are the little stones who lay on His support. How can the fact that you are His living stones help give you purpose for your church and life?
12. Confession is not just a statement; rather, it is a realization to take hold of the Father's leading/election, and make it real in our lives. What does it take to make it real at all of the daily places of your life?
13. Death itself shall not stop we who are in Christ! How can this fact give you confidence to build a Christ-centered Emerging Church, and make Christ known with more passion and distinction without compromise?
14. How did this passage become great words of hope and comfort for the soon to be persecuted Church? How can you receive hope from this passage for your church?
15. Why did Jesus first use the term "Church" to mean a remnant community, as in small yet purposeful, instead of the term to mean a gathering of people? How do you define Church from this passage?
16. What have you done with your "Key to the Kingdom of Heaven?"
17. For many, finding a purpose for life is paramount, and many find it allusive. What about for you? What is the purpose or meaning of life for you? Why is this so important? How can you communicate it to those who can't find it?
18. What do you need to do to feel confident in remaining in His truth for your church and not follow what the trends have to say?
19. How can you communicate to others how to make faith their own, and not just an idea, or what you do, or where you go to church?
20. Knowing what you now know about the Faith, do you wish you had come to Christ sooner? Why, or why not? How can this passion fuel your ministry?
© 2003 R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org/