The Jesus I Know

I am not sure why I woke up thinking about the words below in this blog. I need to begin with — I believe in the Church. Like many, I deeply love the “gathering of believers.” At the same time, I have consistently wrestled with the divisions found within each independent church’s teachings. Quite simply, at times, these teaching don’t seem to line up with the Jesus I know. It’s important to note that as I type this, I choose to look in the mirror and evaluate what I have taught and believed. There is no condemnation in these words but rather questions to ponder? What can I/we do better? How can I/we be more like Christ?

I genuinely think that the core of most Christian denominational teachings center on the idea that the salvation of humanity is at stake and that all should believe in the divine revelation and truth of Christ. Still, the modern Church seems trapped in a vicious cycle of schisms reflective of the generational curses found within most of her history. These divisions emphasize the deterioration of the backbone of unity and love that Christ consistently emphasized in His word.

schism — is a division between people, usually belonging to an organization, movement, or religious denomination.

In 1054, there was an event called The Great Schism. This time of division surrounded a complex mix of religious disagreements and political conflicts. One of the many religious disagreements between the western (Roman) and eastern (Byzantine) branches of the church had to do with whether or not it was acceptable to use unleavened bread for the sacrament of communion.¹ Bread? Are you serious? Of course, this is a slightly gross exaggeration, but the church most of us actively experience community in came to be because of a disagreement over bread. If you currently serve on a church staff, I hope you feel great peace of mind reading these words. Your local arguments over petty things aren’t new; people have been arguing over the color of the carpet for years. On one side of human opinion are those who believe they are justified in doing whatever Scripture does not expressly condemn. On the other side, we find those who impose their private views toward matters of fellowship. Leaving us to wonder if the things that often separate us center on the truth that we are trying to find experiences that fill the deficit we think we should be. But Christ is so clear that our individuality shouldn’t be the driver of why we gather. We are to be of one heart and mind.

According to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, roughly 43,000 Christian denominations existed worldwide in 2012. That is up from 500 in 1800 and 39,000 in 2008, and this number is expected to grow to 55,000 by 2025. Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary estimates that a new Christian denomination is formed every 10.5 hours, or 2.3 denominations a day.²

These stats ought not to be. It appears our Christian unity is crumbling at an alarming rate. During Jesus’ ministry, Christ prayed that his future followers (us) would exhibit a special kind of unity that would testify to the world.

John 17:20–23 (The Message), “I’m praying not only for them but also for those who will believe in me. Because of them and their witness about me. The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind — just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, so they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.

The same glory you gave me, I gave them, so they’ll be as unified and together as we are — I in them and you in me. Then they’ll be mature in this oneness and give the godless world evidence that you’ve sent me and loved them in the same way you’ve loved me.”

So what happened? Rather than unity, harmony, and cooperation, Christians are often known for their disputes and divisions. Leaving our preferences dictating a culture of Christ rather than the nature of Jesus being the primary focus of our meetings. I propose that the real meat of the issue lies less in the corporation of the church and more in the individuals that allow corporational decisions to trump the nature of Christ to which we are individually called. Could it be we are striving to love His church more than we love Him? Are we taking the easy road by allowing the simplicity of an hour-a-week church service to take the place of a deep personal relationship?

Can I confess? I have been guilty of this. I have run away when someone is in need or closed the door to someone who falls again and again because their story was too messy. I’ve had horrific conversations with people, carrying out corporate jargon that usurps the nature of Christ — at times placing allegiance to the process more than loving the person. I have followed prosperous teachings, witnessed false healings, and even walked out 12-steps to freedom leading others (and myself) to ignore that there is often a beautiful [also painful] process to wholeness in Christ. I have rebelled against seeking help believing that I could “name it and claim it.” I’ve forgotten the value of my temple while polishing the floors of the places people gather. I am guilty. I am guilty, more times than not, not because the ministries I have attended are corrupt, but because I allowed their mission statements [i.e., human goals] to overshadow the teachings of Christ; one example resides in Matthew 6:33.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. — Matthew 6:33

In this passage, Jesus teaches us to seek first the Kingdom of God. These words are an invitation. An invitation to be part of a family, where you are known for who you are in Christ, not by what you do. Within the exchange of seeking first, even the sight of a Raven can lead us to remember that God is working on our behalf [see 1 Kings 17].

I do passionately believe that we should relentlessly pursue being part of the fellowship of believers. These words are not an anti-church rant but rather a call to seek first. With Christ as our primary driver, indeed, we can begin to build unity among our brothers and sisters. Yielding rooms colored with love and thick with the very nature of The Father, Son, and Spirit.

Lastly, I have recently been listening to music with fresh ears. While shuffling through new songs, I stumbled upon a piece that stopped me in my tracks. As you finish reading these words, listen to this song with me.

The Jesus I Know [by Ben Hastings] https://open.spotify.com/album/5ezQDhbrPPzj5qNf3fS3r7?si=csra9FlFQl-IemEDVbrvRQ

[vs. 1] Do You ever feel misunderstood
When You look at what this thing’s become?
How does something that sides with the least
Be the thing that excludes them the most?

And I’m not trying to put words in Your mouth
Because I fear that’s where we got it wrong
But sometimes the Jesus I see
Seems so far from the Jesus I know.

[vs. 2] And just like these people, I blame
Have I made You something You’re not?
Because I live off the good of Your name
And in somе ways, I profit the Cross

And I’m scared if You walked in this church
You might flip all thе tables and go
So would that same Jesus love all my merch?
Or is that just the Jesus I know?

[vs. 3] And I’ve tried with the best of my words
To be true to who You really are
But I wonder how far I fell short
Do You recognize Yourself in my songs?

Because all that I want is the truth
And I hope my theology’s close
But who could summarize infiniteness?
To think I know only proves that I don’t

A mystery I’ll never quite get
That’s the Jesus I know.

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Jeremi Richardson

Jeremi Richardson

Husband to Amy | Dad to Ariah, Shalom, and Noa | Lover of coffee | Worship Leader, Studio Vocalist, and former member of CCM group, Avalon.