Sure, institutional churches have great programs, services and staff, and lives are touched. But have they produced a mature Body of Christ?
Isn’t this the nub of the matter?
Folks can rationalize all they want and try to read their human traditions back into the Bible, but after it is all said and done, has the institutional church succeeded in seeing a mature Body of Christ emerge?
Yes, they can point to other indices of “success” – numbers, programs, lives legitimately touched, inspirational sermons, “decisions” made for Christ, enthusiastic meetings, great worship bands, buildings, etc. But in it all, where is the mature Body of Christ?
On this key issue, studies and surveys by the Barna Group and the Pew Foundation vividly show that the traditional church in the West has been a dismal failure. Conversely, outside the West the Church is growing by leaps and bounds as it has embraced a “simple” and “organic” way of being the multifaceted, relational and participatory Body of Christ.
Why has the West fallen behind? Because the institutional church in the West has not been faithful to Biblical mandates but instead has built “church” around:
- The one gifted man and his anointed ministry;
- Hierarchical and position-focused “leadership”;
- Podium-controlled gatherings and passive pews (other than following along with directed, scripted and often manipulative “worship” and dropping money in the plate);
- Monopolizing, monologue sermons;
- The bondage of tithing;
- Resource-sucking infrastructure and buildings; and
- Ministry centered on “professional” clergy.
I think the tide is slowly turning, and the days of “Churchianity” in the West are fading. Instead, God is birthing in folks a renewed longing to be the church – the beautiful, multifaceted, relational and participatory Body of Christ.
Being part of a local expression of the functioning, participatory Body of Christ is your heritage in the Lord. It is your spiritual DNA. And my prayer for you is to be open to what God is doing so that this too can be your future.
God is laying the foundation for this shift in small, pioneering communities throughout the West – in Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere. This blog, by and large, arises from what we are learning here in Virginia as we see this happening.
Others, with practical hands-on experience, are also telling of their journeys in related blogs – pioneers like Felicity Dale (in Texas), Alan Knox (North Carolina), Steven Hill (in Canada, with more of an international focus), Miguel Labrador (from the U.S. but now in Ecuador), Steve Simms (in Tennessee) and Ross Rohde (in California).¹
These vibrant voices, each with unique perspectives, are reclaiming the Biblical mandate to minister one to another and function once again as the multi-gifted, engaged Body of Christ that Jesus came to establish as His ongoing presence on Earth.
If not already, then soon, very soon, it will break out in your town and community. Maybe you will be a catalyst, or maybe you are called to watch and pray until it happens.
When it does, it will be quiet and understated. It’s not flashy. So be diligent, listening and expectant.
In the meantime, be open to allowing the Lord to burn the old ways of thinking out of you so you can be part of what He’s doing throughout the world when it begins to happen in your own neighborhood.
I look forward to reading and hearing more accounts of how you, too, are finding and becoming part of a functional, local expression of the multifaceted, relational and participatory Body of Christ. This is my passion, this is my joy.²
¹ I like these bloggers because, as I also try to be, they are not incessantly promoting their own books or ministries; they each bring a unique perspective; they are writing out of actual, real life experiences (as opposed to sometimes more popular bloggers who write about “organic” or “simple” church but have no roots in actual healthy fellowship or have no any history of consistently being in such fellowships); by and large they are theologically sound and avoid lots of the crazy stuff; and they are not insular in their outlook but have a broad concept of the Body of Christ which is not limited to promoting their own aptitudes, giftings or sensibilities. Some operate within denominational structures without being trapped in institutional traditions, while others like me have no denominational affiliations.
² Normally, I don’t include lots of links in my blogs. But if you want to delve deeper into any of the various issues I touch on in this blog, click on the link. Everything in those internal links comes from the actual experiences of a community of believers in my area who are learning to be, once again, the Body of Christ.