Saturday, September 26, 2009

"Church"? ... unraveling the crisis

Continuing the theme of the previous post, I’ve appreciated several observations that I want to summarize.

1)  Many Christians are discouraged with “church,” not just any "church," but “church” in general, not only as irrelevant but unbiblical.

2) Pastors and elders tend to blame the lazy and complaining people in the congregation for many of these problems.  These problems would be sorted out if people were hard-working, more submissive to leadership, and knew the Bible.
3)  Some of these complaints are surface issues, symptoms of a deeper problem. These symptoms include, but are not limited to, 

  • a general unfriendliness of fellow Christians in large group settings,
  • passivity, the masses listening to the few,
  • content control,
  • church is an entertainment production to attract a larger attendance,  
  • the church mimics popular culture with appeal to instant gratification, 
  • and an authoritarian approach where those at the top tell those under them what to think and believe without equipping them with good reasons or practice.

3) Some of the complaints are systematic, including, but not limited to, 

  • a strict hierarchy (senior pastor at top, etc) of the church creates a more passive approach from the people,
  • the institution tends to focus on abstract beliefs and programs rather than relationships, 
  • denomination create an environment unwilling to identity with other “churches,” 
  • church services, pastoral “vision” and programs tend to leave out how the Spirit moves among a people with the Messiah as the real head, 
  • leadership caters more to the masses than to individuals, 
  • our evangelical churches overemphasis on Paul’s letters to the exclusion of the gospels and Old Testament.

What I want us to consider in this post as we search for the root of this issue (and I do believe some of the root is clearly knowable and that changes can be made) is to consider that many people EXPECT more out of the “church” (as we know it) than it seems able to give.  Likewise, the “church” (as we know it), may be promising more than it can deliver.  I feel these assumptions are themselves indicators of something deeper that needs definition.

We may find some helpful perspective in identifying what the “church” IS in general.  The previous comments have made a distinction made between the people and the institution.  This is an important distinction if we're to unravel the larger crisis we see today.

  • Is the church both of them?   
  • Is the organizing of a people an automatic institution as we know it?   
  • Have we historically been thinking of the “offices” “format,” “government,” “membership” qualities of the institution in the right way (do we automatically use the verses to justify the positions and formats we have at our “church”?),  
  • Do we identify ourselves more closely with the people or the institution?   
  • Do we identify ourselves along denominational lines and part of a pastor’s flock OR do we more automatically identify ourselves with all Jesus followers in our town?   
  • Does the "way we've always done it" cloud our reading of Scripture for what it really says?
  • Is there a new way to think about this distinction  between people and institution we haven’t thought of before? 
  • And, most importantly, are we in a posture of humility, willing to change should we need to? 
Continued on next post.
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