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. 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.
Great post. God is doing some mighty things around the world. Thanks for mentioning my blog, Jim!
GREAT post, Jim! I am so GRATEFUL to be a part of Being The Church! Abundant GRACE to you!
I’ve pastored and church-planted in Africa and Asia…and find the abuses and corruption of the New Testament model are pervasive. How foolish of us to slate the ‘western church model’ and elevate the model embodied in developing countries…planted and mentored by us. The appropriate answer is to humbly and graciously seek to express the purposes of God in our lives, in our culture, in our time.
If I understand your point, it is that the “New Testament model” also has problems just like the institutional church model. On that, I agree. In fact, I have been deeply alarmed at some of the things I’ve seen in the “organic” church community, and in some “organic” fellowships I’ve visited. Past blogs have addressed some of the problems in the “organic” community.
Yet I have also seen great fruit from other expressions of the “organic” New Testament model.
My perspective comes down to this observation: Some have been able to forge a mature expression of the Body of Christ in an institutional church setting – but it is despite, not due to, all to that’s to contrary in that setting. It is rare, but possible.
Others who are willing to take hold of its advantages have been able to forge a mature expression of the Body of Christ in an organic, “New Testament” setting because that setting more naturally facilitates it. However, like any framework, the form does not guarantee success and it ultimately comes down to the motives and attitudes of the people. Those with ulterior motives can abuse and manipulate it, and those who want it to be an insular cocoon as they escape into their hurts and wounds from the institutional church can also do so.
One model, my experience shows, works against mature expressions of the Body of Christ, and the other model has much greater potential to foster it. But the success of either model depends on people who are of good faith and have hearts that seek after Christ, regardless of their church structure.
Bottom line: I would rather reproduce the good model, then try to urge people to succeed despite the other model. Some may be differently called. I’m OK with that. But my passion is to deconstruct what’s structurally at odds with a mature expression of the Body of Christ, and then share with folks what we are seeing work as we undertake the task of reconstructing the foundations found in the New Testament for being the church.
BTW, Russell, I have greatly enjoyed your input as we’ve also interacted on Facebook. Thanks for taking the time to be engaged in what God is doing today.
I think I totally agree…. This is only the second blog entry I’ve read of yours, strange you sound like a different person here. I like this post. I’m going to read more.