Wednesday, September 21, 2011

to church or not to church

And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Ephesians 1:22-23

Jesus is the head of the church. And the church is the body of Christ. Jesus died to bring the church to Him. And He rose to show us His authority over all things, even death. Jesus is supposed to permeate and fill believers and thus fill His church. This is His church, and we have no business trying to tear it down.

I have seen a disturbing trend among many Christians in the past fifteen years or so. We have Christians advocating the abandonment of the local church. It usually comes with great criticism of the contemporary church. And the reality is that they are critical of some program or strategy, confusing it with the theologicial construct known as the church. It may be some personality of some Christian leader that upsets them. Their solution is to emphasize personal spirituality over corporate spirituality. They will then gravitate towards family first or self first in order to justify the abandonment of the church.

In many cases their criticisms are spot on and I would share them. The reactions against excess are justified. But the solution proposed does not fit the problems described. The solution should be to follow the biblical command to gently instruct and reform the church, not to abandon it altogether. Some people have become so antagonistic that they refuse to even use Jesus' word for His own body. They refer to themselves as living in a "missional community" rather than a "church". This is probably a sin on my part, but when I run into someone like that, I like to tweak them just a bit by continuing to use the word church to describe their experience.

I don't think it is wrong to avoid a building or a structure. The early church evidenced in scripture was so persecuted that they probably never would have considered owning a building. However, I do think it is wrong to abandon the assembly of believers. It is God's design to reach the world. And to refuse to fellowship with believers in a traditional church altogether is disfiguring to the Bride of Christ. Paul did not tell us he went around establishing "communities" or "households" on his missionary endeavors. He left behind local churches, often still in development, with leadership and structure in place, and possessing a body of teaching centering around the gospel of Jesus Christ. I bet it was a pretty messy experience at times.

To one degree or another a holy discontent ought to always describe the church. Lord knows I have had well nigh enough of contemporary excesses such as lavish buildings, Christian marketing, personality-driven ministry, slavishness to faddish programs, Christian celebrity idolatry, anemic curriculum-based sub-par teaching, and a caricatured Christian sub-culture that somehow wants to be as cool as the world's "real" culture... just slapping Jesus onto worldly desire or trend. Even with all my discontent, I know that leaving the church behind is not the answer. Instead, proclaiming and modeling authentic Christianity within the community of believers collectively known as THE CHURCH is absolutely necessary. Jesus died for the church, which is comprised of all Christian followers of Him, and He knew what we would become when He did so. If my Lord and Master loves this messy church Bride, so should I! He calls us to just passionately follow Him, laying aside the charts, the self-enamored thinking, and the programs we want, refusing to take our eyes off Him. Jesus is the head of the church!

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

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