Sjolander Road Fellowship

Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

are jesus and the church inseparable?


Somewhere I read a statement similar to this: I love Jesus, but I don’t care for his fan club. This expresses the sentiments of many people, I suspect. They respect the story of Jesus’ self sacrifice and his call to an astoundingly new ethical standard, but they cannot abide the institutional church which claims the exclusive right to interpret the story of Jesus and proclaims that no one can embrace Jesus except through church affiliation.


How is it that the institutional church and its dogma have been injected between mankind and Jesus? Supposedly you can’t have one without the other. As I have noted before, Jesus had almost nothing to say about the church and yet the church has managed to usurp the exclusive license to disseminate the benefit of Jesus to the world. The emphasis of Jesus was always on the coming invisible, internal kingdom of God, an entity which in no way resembles the church as we have known it. The institutional church is seen everywhere in elaborate buildings, established hierarchies, and rigid programs. Nothing internal and unseen in all of that.


Undoubtedly, the church will rebut that their mandate is established by God in the teachings of the New Testament writers, especially Paul. Paul does speak frequently about a called out people or ecclesia, the Greek word which translates church in the New Testament; but there is no evidence that the 1st Century ecclesia was anything like what we have inherited in the institutional church today. Additionally, we still have to deal with the fact that Jesus preached the kingdom and not the church.


Whatever the ecclesia represented in the teachings of Paul there is no reason to extend it into our day. The church likes to justify its continuing existence by citing the so called Great Commission and claiming itself as the mechanism through which that will be accomplished. It is evident from the Book of Acts that the Apostles understood the Great Commission as applicable to Jews only. Additionally, we see that their focus was not on the church but rather on the restoration of Israel’s kingdom. If Jesus envisioned a worldwide evangelistic effort involving the church, as an outgrowth of his ministry, he failed to get that vital point across to his closest followers. Paul then comes along and begins to actively pursue the Gentiles and include them in the church. However, Paul on several occasions, declares that the Gospel has been successfully delivered to the whole world (Col 1:23, Romans 10:18; 16:26). This was clearly not all the entire globe since much of the globe was not even known to exist at that time. Therefore, the Great Commission, as taught by Christ, must have been limited in scope and duration and lends no justification to the existence of the church today.


No, the truth of the matter is that Jesus and the institutional church are completely separate. One can freely embrace Jesus and leave the church, its dogma, its programs, and its leadership behind. Jesus didn’t die to make men subjects of the church and its laws. He came to free men from the bondage of the law and draw them into the promises of God. Those promises were assured separate and apart from the practice of religious lawkeeping as the Jews had known it and as we have managed to perpetuate it for nearly 2000 more years.