To Church or Not To Church – That Is the Question

little church Some of the comments on the last couple of posts (“Osteen in the Lobby” and “Sounds Like the Devil”) have touched on something that I have been struggling with for some time:

Is today’s typical church paradigm even close to what Jesus envisioned two thousand years ago? And if it’s not, how important is this? After all, our society, culture, government and lifestyles are radically different than then. But these things are very different today than they were 150 years ago when the newer paradigm was first becoming common.

If we find the present situation wanting, then what do we do? Find a church that most closely fits our perception of how it should be? Or do we work towards remaking the church, a relatively slow and laborious process, something that the ’emergent’ conversation is so much about.

Or, as my good friend BuddyO is attempting, do we toss that paradigm aside and try something ‘new’. Rather than;

…rely solely on ‘the Pastor of the Day’ to tell them what God has to say to them (for some reason a seminary degree makes a pastor more qualified to tell me what God has to say to me than I do..?….?Yet another black mark for the modern church.)

Wouldn’t it be better for a small group to gather and read and meditate on a scripture then come together and hear what it speaks to one another?

Buddy is a close friend of mine and has been my Christian mentor for over five years. Not having been with the church as long as him may be the reason I have had a greater tendency to question the status quo (and at times entertain ideas with the flavor of ‘heresy’). I’ve felt that the church has lost much of its relevance for quite some time. Now, someone else is putting their money where my mouth is and I’ve got cold feet. Buddy is working through some of this on his website:

Last year there was an article in ‘Christianity Today’ about Mark Barna, church analyist and guru at large. In it he said this:

Are you worried about the church where you were baptized, taught, married, and given Communion? That’s only a “congregational-formatted ministry,” one of many ways to “develop and live a faith-centered life. We made it up.” Writes Barna, “Whether you become a Revolutionary immersed in, minimally involved in, or completely disassociated from a local church is irrelevant to me (and, within boundaries, to God).”

Barna illustrates with two fictional characters who “eliminated church life from their busy schedules.” Why? They did not find a ministry “that was sufficiently stimulating” and “their church, although better than average, still seems flat.” Too bad for the lowly local church that people today insist on having “unique, highly personalized church experiences.”

So where are the Revolutionaries going? To “mini-movements” such as home schooling, house churches, Bible studies at work, and Chris Tomlin worship concerts. What matters is a godly life, so “if a local church facilitates that kind of [godly] life, then it is good. And if a person is able to live a godly life outside of a congregation-based faith, then that, too, is good.

So, what do you think.

  1. #1 by inWorship on September 13, 2007 - 6:57 pm

    Thanks for the clarification. i think we are on the same page here, I was just confused by your statement.

    I think we do need to take Sunday mornings off the plate as a gauge for size of churches though. Maybe you aren’t doing that, but I can see how it can be an unspoken thought. I know in our fellowship, we have purposefully worked to grow smaller as we grow bigger. Our gauge has not been set by how many are attending, it has always been by how many are being changed and affecting the community around them. I have always been against a crowd, but I am not against large groups of people. Can this be done better in smaller groups of people…yes. We have a very strong emphasis on our attenders being involved in smaller groups that are challenging, equipping and sending out people into our community.

    I love your last paragraph. that is the heart of the ministry I am involved in. I love what you are doing and I am anxious to see it in action.

  2. #2 by Richard Evans on September 14, 2007 - 2:18 am

    Don’t feel alone when you say, “Uuuhhh, let me just say I don’t feel smart enough to join in here. ” I have said that some blogs back! When I don’t understand something, I blow bubbles and watch the pretty colors!

    The discussions here give me hope!

  3. #3 by Christian Beyer on September 14, 2007 - 6:29 am

    Thing is, Richard doesn’t need any soap. 8) Good to hear from you, friend. I’m waiting for some new stuff on “Waiter’s Rage”. You whet my appetite.

  4. #4 by Christian Beyer on September 14, 2007 - 11:58 am

    I was reading some Frederick Buechner this morning and he said something interesting. He reminded me that the first apostles had nothing in common other than Jesus called them out. They weren’t at all like a men’s softball team, a woman’s bridge club, a political party, a social club or ….many of our churches. It seems to me that what often happens is that like minded folks with similar educations, backgrounds, ethnic makeups and political ideals end up grouping together to learn about, worship and serve God.

    Perhaps this contributes to the problem. It certainly tends to bore me.

    BTW, there is a post by Ed Stetzer over on Catalyst that is relevent to this discussion ;

  5. #5 by ric booth on September 14, 2007 - 9:02 pm

    I love this post and the discussion thanks. A good friend of mine who (like many) is also struggling with the 21st century church wrote an interesting piece on his myspace blog:

    Eulogy for a Church, by Bill Petruzzo.

    You may find it interesting.

  6. #6 by titus2woman on October 13, 2007 - 3:58 pm

    We’ve been homechurching as a family for years now, but as Tam said, I’m feelin’ very outta my league here! LOL! (((((HUGS))))) sandi

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