DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed: The Chuch of Shrinking Definition
Kevin DeYoung has posted his first response to the reasons why people dislike the institutional church. I think Kevin does a fine job of explaining why it is important to have a meaningful, intentional gathering of the church. My comment on his blog is below:
Certainly I would agree that there needs to be an intentional, purposeful gathering of the church. Christians are a communal people that gather together. We see this by example in the New Testament and by command, so certainly it is a key to the Christian life. This is the problem. Agreeing that a visible, purposeful expression of the church gathering is necessary is not tantamount to agreeing that how we “do church” is proper or dare I say even Biblical.
Here is the step that seems to be missing. We go from needing a visible expression and gathering of the church and leap right to what we know as “church”. There seems to be an implicit understanding that the need for a visible, local church equates to the highly regimented, organizational, program driven, ritualistic expression that we see in the vast majority of churches. It becomes one or the other, either we abandon the local assembly entirely or we go right to the institutionalized church. There is a middle ground that sustains both the need for a gathering and the example of that gathering we see in the New Testament.
The crux of my issue is that many Christians assume that we must have a gathering, ergo we must gather like we always have gathered. In other words, it seems like more of a defense of the status quo rather than an examination of the Biblical record. What I think is missing in much of the church is an honest discussion about how the people of God should gather, why they should gather, what they do when they gather without resorting to stereotypes where we sneer at institutional churches as "steeple houses" and more traditional Christians paint everyone who doesn't walk in lockstep with the way things have always been done as some kind of theological liberals or "emergent types". I hope that this book in conjunction with others on the other side of the spectrum spark that exact sort of conversation among the Body of Christ.