Is it possible that the institutional, Western model of “church” is killing us? Okay, I know what you’re thinking…no I don’t, that just seems apropos after such a caustic question.
Let it be known that I am not ultimately interested in speaking against something that many people hold to in great regard. I am, however, interested in the willingness to consider if there is wisdom in discarding old wine skins that are no longer (if they ever truly were) useful.
The concern is, we have a relatively large number of people who “go to church” (a problematic phrase) in a regular manner and comparatively few saints who are truly equipped, thereby, for the work of service (Ep.4:12) or “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” (1 Pe.3:15). In many cases, I have heard people state that the reason they “go to church” each (or nearly each) Sunday is to get a refill of that “hope that is in you” so they don’t do something stupid like vote for Trump or Hillary.
Knowing that there are certain brands of eschatology that promote the idea that the worse it gets, the better it is (wrongly assuming this means we are closer to the moment Jesus sweeps in to save the beat and battered church from its miserable failure to preach the gospel in the whole world and make disciples of all the nations), I would ask the reader to consider if the current state of affairs in the nation (or world) reflects the idea that His kingdom has come on earth. Are we giving evidence that we are making headway, overpowering the gates of Hades?
The solution is not simply to dismantle an old model of church in arrogant, post-modern rebellion without having a better alternative that is intended to encourage the production of good fruit – simply creating a lounge where people of all stripes can hang out in pseudo-unity, making one another feel good about their shared deficiencies (as opposed to overcoming such deficiencies). However, we do need a gathering (many gatherings) of sincere believers who meet with the intention of growing up and becoming well prepared to represent God, His kingdom and His truth in the power of the Holy Spirit (Ep.4:11-16; 1 Pe.1:13, 3:15-16; 2 Co.10:3-6; Mt.16:17-18, 28:19-20; Titus 2:11-15; Act 1:8).
Finally, I have heard it promoted by a training organization that worship is not a lifestyle, it is a particular event staged to encourage people to focus on God. First, I am not against particular events held for the purpose of focusing on God. However, this does not mean, nor does it prove that worship is not to be a lifestyle. Second, such events do not necessitate music (not that I am against music). Thirdly, such staged events do not guarantee that those gathered are actually focused on God (as opposed to the worship leader / team or the music). Our reasonable service of worship is, “to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God…and do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Ro.12:1-2).
May it never be said of us, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition” (Mk.7:9).