What if the church structure we have built is not bringing us into closer communion with the body, but is instead making us look less and less like the Bride of Christ. What if the church (going to church, being members of churches) is keeping us from being the church? The church is cherished, and rightly so. But the church has major issues. Not just dying mainline churches. Not just latte serving churches or liberal emerging churches. It is a problem in stoutly Reformed, conservative churches.
What is the church?
Somewhere we go?
Something we do?
Some place we belong to as "members"?
We have developed a very structured, very carefully defined idea of what constitutes "the church". But does what happens on Sunday morning equate to the church we see in the New Testament? We gather at the appointed time. We sing a couple of songs picked out for us, and often listen to someone else singing while we sit there. We sit back and listen to a man we have hired to preach a message to us. Sing and pray, go home. Repeat weekly. Don't stop going, because then you are "forsaking the assembling of the saints". Is that what was intended for us?
I think of our close friends from "up north". We would have the occasional meal together. We would hang out with one another. Our kids would play together. We would help each other out when there was a need. What separated us is where we went to church, we went to church A and they went to church B. But when we get together and break bread together, when we help around the house when one or the other is gone, when we lift each other up in prayer and in helping with the kids when we need it, that is the church. It is not a complete expression of the church, there was not a preaching of the Word, or discipleship or a breaking of bread in communion. But we were His sheep, gathered together in fellowship, lifting one another, encouraging one another. We have by and large lost that sense of true fellowship, true community, true communion of the saints and replaced it with an organization.
How do we seperate the culture and the tradition that clutter things up from the simple expression of the church, the church without committees, without budgets, without ivory tower academics? That is the question, and it is on the minds of many Christians these days, Christians frustrated with the state of the church. We need to follow two steps: First, have the courage to set aside our comfortable assumptions and second, to open up the Word and look at what it says. That is what this series is all about. It is not a vendetta. It is not an attempt to be rebellious. It is not a rejection of authority. It is just a sincere desire to have a conversation, and if Christians cannot talk about the church without getting nasty and personal, what can we talk about?