My church got a new senior pastor last Sunday. Actually, he’s been around for quite a while (at least five years) as the Associate Pastor. But Ken Mbugua officially became the Senior Pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church on October 18th, 2015.
His first message will remain etched in my mind for a long time. Not because he was particularly eloquent in his delivery (though he always is), but because I believe this is one of the few messages worth retaining in a heart that refers to itself as Christian.
The title of this inaugural sermon was “The Preeminence of Christ in the Local Church” and Pastor Ken spent the rest of the time fading into the background as he presented Christ as supreme to his flock.
“I want us to grasp the one tune, the one foundation, the one focus and the one goal for which we exist and for which we will do all that we do: to worship Jesus in the local church,” he began as he crescendoed into the heights of what it means to be a church.
He ably navigated us through Matthew 16:13-20, reminding us that this is where the idea of a “church” is first introduced in the bible and Jesus takes center-stage throughout the whole introduction. The church is not just about Jesus, it is His idea and His doing.
“This is church 101. I do not define for you what the local church is.Notice that the first portion of this passage is all about the person of Christ. Who is Jesus? This is an all-important question,” he said.
The focus of Ken’s message from this passage this Sunday (as it should be every day, really) was on the person of Christ and His role in our understanding (and practice) of the local church.
“The Word “Christ” is a Greek translation of the word Messiah, which means the Anointed One, the Chosen One, God’s answer to the brokenness of sin,” he explained
If you read your whole bible, from Genesis to Revelation, you need to grasp what Pastor Ken describes as“the meta-stuff, the big picture stuff.”
“The bible is telling you that there was a time when all things were perfect, but because of sin everything was broken. And get this, the Messiah, the Christ, was God’s answer to all the brokenness. He was God’s solution to the problem. So when you speak or think Christ, think ‘answer to the question, solution to the problem’.”
God has one answer: Christ Jesus.
So what does all this have to do with the local church? Well, when Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ, Jesus responds in verse 18 of Matthew 16 with the words “…upon this rock I will build my church…” Peter’s profession is the bedrock upon which the church is built.
Ken continues: “This is Church 101. When we come to church, we need to grasp that in church we have no other answer for you apart from Jesus.
“Who do you go to with the brokenness in your life? When you find that you don’t love the things you ought to love, or don’t do the things you ought to do, or don’t enjoy the things you ought to enjoy… Where do you go? The obvious answer is that you ought to go to Jesus.
“This is really basic, isn’t it? But you need to realize that we might offer you a program. We may have a program for every problem. In fact, programs are good. But Jesus is not building his church upon a program, but upon a profession that he is the Messiah.
If you come to us with a problem that Jesus cannot fix, you came to the wrong place.
If you came to us with a problem that the gospel cannot address then you came to the wrong place.
“We only want to see things grow because the gospel fertilized them. We don’t want to see things grow because we fixed them, or we cleverly manipulated them, or we read a book on management. We don’t want that kind of growth. Church 101.”
That is a message that is seldom heard on our pulpits these days. Jesus tends to be assumed instead of being proclaimed. He has become almost a by-word, a name we append at the tail end of our petitions and in the refrains of our worship songs. But He is seldom the foundation of our very being as local churches.
This is why I am so glad and grateful that Pastor Ken chose to take us back to basics in his inaugural message. In reminding us why we call ourselves the church, he reminded us who we were. The church is really the point of the existence of every Christian on earth.
We all ought to be about the church, which is to say we all ought to be about the Christ who is its foundation.
The sermon dealt with several other things that are critical to the mission of a church on earth, such as church discipline, but my review will only end with the second point that Ken made in his message: it is Christ who does the building of the church.
Verse 18 has Jesus saying “… I will build my church.”
“The church is unstoppable because it has an omnipotent builder. This is why you ought to have hope about the future, not because you are a really creative Christian. Christ is going to build his church and even pastor Ken is not going to stand in the way of that.
“If I stand between Christ and his mission, he is well able to knock me out of the way and continue with his work. That is an encouragement for me because I know I can’t mess this up, because He is an almighty God.”
In a nutshell (and a very solid nutshell for that matter):
- Jesus is the Messiah.
- The church is built upon that foundation, that declaration.
- It is Christ who does the building.
I believe every local church needs to be reminded of the reality, the centrality and the supremacy of Christ in the identity, life and mission of the church. There is no other reason for our existence as a church.
Please spare a few minutes of your life to listen to this all important message. It will be worth your while. And after you do that, consider covenanting yourself to a Christ-believing, Christ-exalting church near you.
Because, let’s face it, there is no such thing as a “lone-ranger, riding-solo Christian”, is there?