Where would Jesus go to church?

There’s an interesting article in today’s Baylor newspaper, The Baylor Lariat. World-renowned theologian, and Truett Seminary professor, Roger Olson poses the question, “Where would Jesus go to church?” (see the article)

He comes to the conclusion that if Jesus lived in Waco, he would probably go to church at Church Under the Bridge. Olson writes:

“…I [am] convinced [Church Under the Bridge] is where Jesus would go to church in Waco. It’s open, inviting, diverse, without pretense and full of people who know they are society’s outsiders.”

But Olson goes on to say that he doesn’t necessary believe “we should automatically do whatever we think Jesus would do.” He would rather “try to take something of Church Under the Bridge [back to his] home church.”

What do you guys think? Where would Jesus go to church? Would he go to church at all? Should our churches be places where Jesus would actually want to go?


27 Responses

  1. it’s the only church where i felt truly accepted and could unabashadly praise God.

  2. I think that Jesus would go to church wherever the people were, and not wait for the people to come to Him. What a great post!

  3. Jesus doesn’t go to Church. He is the Church. And He is the Church wherever those who contain Him go.

    So, Jesus goes to Church in lots of places. If He were a single man walking the face of the earth today as the Son of Man He would be limited to one venue. But, praise GOD that He is not limited to any single venue or any single type of event or function. Heis SO much more than we can dare imagine. So, I will not begin to try to figure out who is right and where HE would choose to be. I will go where He leads. As He leads me. I believe that is what He is calling Chris and I to do today. To be with Him wherever it is that He wants us to be. There is no correct place to go. Just a correct person to go with.

  4. Having recently looked at Luke 4, the first thing that came to my mind was that he would go to the synagogue, as was his custom.

  5. I think that’s a total cop out by Olson.

  6. Good thought provocation. I’ll have to borrow it whenever (down the road) I’m pastoring a church again….

    Another question I would ask is “Would Jesus be welcomed in my church?” Of course the quick answer is yes, but after we think about it, and look more closely at who Jesus actually was, how he actually lived his life, and, especially, see that the people he almost never failed to tick off were the religious folks, maybe we’d have to find a different answer.

    Or change the way we do church.

  7. I think I might be with you on this one gk.

    Here’s a new question – and maybe it deserves a separate post – can the church be the church without being “open, inviting, diverse, without pretense and full of people who know they are society’s outsiders?”

  8. If you know Dr. Olson at all or have had a class with him, you will know that his conclusion is not a cop-out. Olson is simply being true to his own conclusions and beliefs about the church. I have him (Olson) for class – Social Justice Capstone. We have talked about ideas related to this extensively and Olson mentioned that he was writing this article. More than anything, I think his purpose is to spark thought and conversation, not necessarily a give prescriptive for what all churches should be or do.
    I do agree with him that the church should be open, diverse and without pretense. Very few churches actually are any of these things.
    Also to address the comment about Jesus being the church: Jesus is not the embodiment of the church, but according to the witness of scripture the church is the people of God of whom Christ is the head.

  9. Christy – thanks for contributing this. I certainly don’t want to judge Dr. Olson because I don’t know him and also it’s not fair to judge him based on this short article alone. However, I think the kind of reasoning he gave can be used by many people as a cop-out. Reasoning like, “Sure, the church should be open, diverse and without pretense but I’m just going to do the best I can to influence my own situation. I don’t think Jesus necessarily means for all of us to live this out in actuality (like Church Under the Bridge). As a result, I will do the best I can to bring a little of that to my own nice church in the suburbs.”

    Again, I’m not saying Olson is doing this. But I am saying that many people might use this kind of reasoning as a clear cop-out. Oh yeah, and by “people,” I mean me.

  10. Yes, I did not mean to insinuate that Olson is a flake by any means, or at least more than any of us. Trust me, I’m the king of cop-out.

    But I think the church as a whole cops out saying things like, “I give 10% of my salary, therefore, I’m doing enough financially” or “I just gave that homeless man a fiver, I’ve taken care of the sheep.” I think if we really took the lessons of Jesus to heart – or “take Jesus back to our church” – the church, every church, would look so different than it does today that we wouldn’t recognize it. Does that mean that churches are getting Christianity drastically wrong? I think so.

    And does that mean that it doesn’t exist in the world today? I don’t think so. I think it does, but maybe not at church. Maybe in soup kitchens, shelters, prisons, work programs, villages, and basements. I think these might be the places that Jesus would be accepted and are living in accordance with the teachings of Christ.

    Even the church I currently go to, I don’t think they’d accept Jesus. I don’t think most churches would. I mean, let’s face it, he was probably pretty gangly looking, smelly, and above all, confrontational. I don’t know of many (any?) churches that would accept him as he was, in the flesh.

    Semi-related: have you read “The Year of Living Biblically?” It’s a premise that I think we really need to tackle. Whether it’s written as a satire or not I don’t know, but I’d be curious as to the nature of it.

  11. I’m going to play devil’s advocate. Or, church’s advocate.

    I can definitely see the aspect being talked about here, and I get it. We are far too comfortable being comfortable, and our churches reflect that. But there’s something about me (and I don’t just think it’s denial) that thinks there are too many people who genuinely love Jesus to think we’d definitely just chuck him out the door if he walked into our church(es). Look at the disciples! They screwed everything up! They told the children to go away, looked for the approval of men, denied and doubted Jesus, etc.–but they still hung out with him and they kept trying to get it, to get him.

    I definitely think we’d be uncomfortable with some of the stuff Jesus would say and do if he walked into our church(es), but I don’t think we’d all just point him to the door. Again, I do get what’s being said here, but I also think that Jesus is loving people through many different churches. Do we still have room to grow, especially when it comes to loving the disenfranchised? YES!!! But there is still (of course) something of Jesus in loving–really loving–the hurting among us who happen to have lots of money. There’s something of Jesus in loving people, period.

  12. I just read an interview with the author of “The Year of Living Biblically.” It’s written by a ‘reverent agnostic’ who compiled and attempted to follow all the laws/rules in the Bible. Here’s the link (how do I make it a link?) http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/novemberweb-only/145-43.0.html
    There’s also a link to an excerpt within the interview.

    My favorite quote from the interview: “And I’m very proud, because I think I’m the first person to out-Bible-talk a Jehovah’s witness. He came over to my house and after about 3 1/2 hours, he looked at his watch and said I gotta go.”

  13. Thanks, Amy. I think I’ll have to pick up this book, now.

  14. Thanks for the great comments. I think this is deserving of a follow-up post. So I’ll work on that (rather than commenting here).

    As for the book, I have heard of it and it’s on my “wish list.” Seems really interesting.

    His website:

  15. Yes, unfortunately, I think the Bible that he’s living out is only the Old Testament. My question (and I think the intent of the post) is “what does it look like to live out the New Testament?” At least, that’s what it was after I hi-jacked the thread.

  16. Well, he’s Jewish, so that would only make sense.

  17. Somewhere I read that he followed the Old Testament for 8 months and the New for 4. But I could be wrong about that. This book is on my wish list as well.

  18. Jesus fits into all kinds of boxes that we create. the box that he would only come to my church. the box that would come to all our churches. and even the box that he wouldn’t come to any of our churches, because they’re all wrong. a box is a box is a box.

  19. So Joe, I appreciate what you are getting at, but does that mean we just shouldn’t think about these kind of questions?

  20. Not at all, but I do think we have to be careful about putting Jesus into boxes (I do it too). Maybe what I mean is we should always have before us is epistemological humility.

    I’m just really uncomfortable, although I’ve definitely stated it a time or two, saying that Jesus would exclusively or would not exclusively go my church, their church, etc.

    I like to think its both, as Barth says Jesus is the Yes and the No. Certainly the church we find in Acts is a signpost of the coming kingdom, yet the churches we find in Paul’s letters are filled with corrupt and jacked up people.

    If we exclusively go a church that we think jesus would go to, than we very well may not go to a church that Paul would have gone to and vice versa.

    what do you think? and sorry if i came across wrong in my above post…i sound ass-ish, my bad.

  21. Joe – you are definitely “ass-ish” and that is definitely your bad. But I forgive you because you just coined a great term – “ass-ish.”

    But I get what you’re saying. In all things Jesus, I should have the humility to say that I don’t have it all figured out in my nice little box, or whatever. My way is not the way. But at the same time I think we should be pushing and asking the questions about Jesus and his message for today. What does his message look like today, how does it express itself, etc. But we must realize it’s not about finding the one way. Because that doesn’t exist (at least I don’t think so). I just thought Olson’s little article was thought-provoking. I’m not really promoting any one way here – just searching, thinking, imagining.

    Thanks for the input Joe – I think what you’re saying is important.

  22. the first coined term comes free, after that i’m gonna have to charge :)

    Here’s a question. Do you think we should do everything Jesus did? For example, what do you with Matt 15:21-28?

    I think there are probably some things that Jesus did that I simply cannot, will not, and might not have to do (i know that can be and is used as a cop out for actually living out the gospel and the sermon on the mount). I guess my quote earlier was just a reaction against Olson as a cop out, because I liked what he said.

    You’re right, even though we often box Jesus up, that certainly doesn’t mean we shouldn’t question and provoke discussion and make positive statements about “a way.” I was just drawing out that we must be humble and careful when placing Jesus in a “camp.” Jesus in not a republican, democrat, liturgical church, emergent church, house church, traditional church, pentecostal church, catholic church member, soup kitchen attendee, homeless, homeboy, etc; but he is all of these things.

    sorry this is so long.

  23. Joe – as for your question, no, I don’t think we should necessarily do everything Jesus did. I also don’t think we should live by “what would Jesus do.” I think Olson is right about that. It’s just hard to know when to do what Jesus says and when not too, right? It’s just hard. In some ways I think that’s what Olson is dealing with actually. GK’s question of “what does it look like to live out the NT” is a tough one. And that’s what I’m thinking through here. I think my tendency over the years has been to not take Jesus’ teachings and actions seriously enough. I certainly don’t think that’s Olson’s problem – it’s my problem. Does that mean I should go to CUTB? Not necessarily. But I also want to be careful (I’m talking about myself) not to just do what is easy. I imagine you would agree with that.

    You’re absolutely right that Jesus is not in any one “camp.” I couldn’t agree more. I would even add to your list “christian” and “non-christian.”

    I don’t think we’re far off from each other on this Joe. Not at all.

  24. tushe my friend, tushe!

  25. You first have to answer the question, “What is church?” Is it somewhere you go, or something you are? Of course, the Greek ekklesia means “gathering”, but “gathering” is altogether different from a church “meeting”. The early church held many different types of meetings for various occasions and needs, but they were all distinctly separate from the “gatherings” of saints. By that I mean, people always gathered together as Christ’s body, whether 2 or 200, preceeding all meetings. The “gathering” that Jesus talked about when naming Peter as his foundation, was not a weekly meeting in a temple, basilica, or under a bridge. He was referring to the new way that Christ’s body would be manifested in his people. In gatherings. “Where two or more are, etc.” Ekklesia may happen everywhere, in everyday circumstances involving people who pursue Christ together, which is when the body of Christ becomes manifested. So asking, “Which ekklesia, or gathering, would Jesus go to?” is like asking, “Which air molecules would he breathe in?” Well, wherever he happens to be at the time. Wherever he is received by people and wherever he is able to receive people. The same is true for Christians, or should be. We should go where we are received and where we can receive others.

    I recognize that the question intended was likely, “Which church organization’s meeting would Jesus attend?” Therefore I should address that by saying the word ekklesia would be best described as an umbrella term for all kinds of interactions among saints. Anywhere saints mingle, they become the body of Christ, and that is ekklesia. Ekklesia is larger and more encompassing than just meetings. So my answer is, Jesus would likely only attend meetings where he had prior “gatherings” and experienced “body life” with the saints. If he was not in a place where he had some sort of meaningful interaction throughout the week, the meeting would be mostly irrelevant to him, unless he had an opportunity to then participate in a “gathering”, which may also occur during meetings, although from my experience, meetings are usually times set aside for specific purposes as a result of prior body life, not so much for getting to know each other. Meetings should be the natural result and a fulfilling point of prior body life, and a time to deal with things that are relevant to that body life.

    That’s my 2 cents.

  26. […] Where would Jesus go to church? (25 […]

  27. Where would Jesus God to church?
    Very easy.
    His costum was to go to the house of worship
    ( synagogue) on the Sabbath Day. Since Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, he would continue to go to church on the Sabbath Day.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: