The apostolic church (where it all started) can be described as a movement of disciple-making. It was making disciples of Christ that resulted in the primitive church that followed (the next couple hundred years). In Christendom (the next 1500+ years), the church can be described as the keeper of status-quo; disciple making of the church, building a church culture. Building churches, we do not make disciples of Christ. Church, by definition, is the effect of making disciples of Christ, not the cause. We do not build a church in the hopes of making disciples; we make disciples who become the church in person.
If you start with the church (which is historically impossible, but we are usually ignorant of history) you enable consumers who are dependent on professional providers of religion, but you do not make disciples of Christ. Built to consume, the church uncontrollably sucks the life out of everything that happens across its path; claiming as its own (as a rite) the life of the community. The people who populate its statistics are takers; they habitually come to “services” prepared to take from the religious provider and from one another. Even the professional providers, though depended on by the consumer, are consumers themselves; taking from the people to feed their incessant need to be needed.
In the new paradigm church (like the apostolic church), Christ is calling people to follow Him – to be a disciple of Christ – not build churches and count its own disciples. In this era we start with Christ – resurrected and imparting (or imputing) His own faithfulness to (into) humanity. We do not enable, but equip; not consumers, but disciples; breathing life into everything and everyone that enters our sphere of influence. We claim nothing but the Cross of Christ as our own; our lives are ever expanding relationships with Him; empowering others to give, to live a life of pouring out in service to others – prepared to give all that Christ has given us – the church, the expression of Christ on earth.
Like the circular logic in the question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” (Incidentally, the chicken came first. Have you ever read Genesis?), we confuse which came first, Christ or the church. At first, the implication seems absurd but, as with the rhetoric of the chicken and the egg, we get lost in the information and lose touch with reality; it’s the old “not seeing the trees through the forest” adage. What Jesus did in His life’s ministry, when He walked the earth in the misty recesses of time, has nothing to do with life as church. When He was nailed to the cross He redeemed and reconciled humanity, but it is His resurrection and ascension that empowers humanity; resurrection and ascension make redemption and reconciliation possible, and not the other way around. It is the power of His resurrection life, today, that empowers humanity to “follow Him.”
The resurrected Christ (the chicken) births resurrection life in us (the egg). Our incubation is discipleship lived out in community, called “church.” Otherwise, we build a church and lay eggs hoping to get Christ, but continually get offspring of the church and not Christ. So, “if a tree falls in the woods” of course it makes a sound even “if no one is around to hear it.” It doesn’t make a sound because we hear it; we hear it because it makes a sound. And it is resounding, whether someone is around to hear it or not. Do not be fooled, Christ is making disciples for Himself. The church doesn’t make disciples of Christ; disciples of Christ are the church.