My Church Post, Part III
There is a quote on one of the aforementioned church websites (which one you’ll have to figure out for yourself) which states the following:
The worst mistake has been that Christians have tried to make their church programs or worship services their third place other than their home or workplace where they can relax and be in good company on a regular basis . The key is that third places need to be in public zones.”- What if more Christians spent their regular “church” time in places where they could meet others and begin relationships with them what might happen?
Although on the face of it I would agree with the premise of removing the “third place” from the confines of a church setting, it’s church programs and worship services that are imitational church models. Indeed, the opinion given demonstrates the prevalence of imitational church because it accepts church as something to do instead of who Christians are. Each of the churches I visited mentioned on the previous post have their peculiar ways of doing church on a typical Sunday, but that is the problem. I don’t know any of them enough to determine how deeply they apply church to their daily living, but I’d suggest that because they all do “church programs and worship services” the depth of their understanding of church is limited by what they do rather than who they are.
Each of them have buildings to maintain, rent/mortgage/utilities/insurance/etcetera to pay, and to keep paying such means the organization has to have an income sufficient to cover expenditures. Politics becomes the order to promote the greater good. To render biblical judgments on disagreements or arguments among church members can be costly, particularly in financial terms, because it could mean losing members.
Within imitational church, membership is more a function than a relationship. Relationships between church members occur at a common level, meaning that members have no deep connection to those in leadership and vice versa. Though the roles mayn’t be so overt, the imitational church maintains a classic clergy laity divide. The pastor or church leaders, therefore, either avoid or confuse disagreements between church members by following contrived, expedient church mandates. There can be all sorts of explanations and excuses for it. I’ve encountered a good one that fooled me for a time. Some church leaders may even think that imitational church is all there is to follow Christ, that it’s somehow divinely destined. Such thinking is myopic and incognizant of the God of scripture. All man-made organizations are the same, imitational church included, and I believe it’s foolish to think any church with legal incorporation having a government 501c3 status is any different. The term “church politics” might not even exist, except for imitational churches.
This is where I diverged from going to church, as if that phrase meant what it should. Unfortunately, a good deal of my prior church devotion was misplaced, but God can take the worst mistake and turn it to good. For that reason, I recognize there can be good which comes of imitational churches. I turned to Christ, was baptized, was married and raised our children in such churches. I committed myself to this kind of thing for years. My dissatisfaction, combined with some difficult personal church situations, brought me to understand that even good can be the enemy of the perfect. Evil can be obvious, and it so permeates everything in this life that even that which appears good can be corrupt. Christianity is our only salvation from ourselves because I believe in evil. Maybe I’ll rant more on that later, but I digress.
I could go back to it, put on a good front, but it just wouldn’t be the same. There is the matter of fellowship which doesn’t happen as I’d like, but it’s better than playing the church dating game from Sunday to Sunday. Even if I somehow found ourselves adopting some imitational church to be a part of I’d know what to avoid or to be drawn into. I know more of the fake than not to appreciate the real thing. Essential church can’t be compartmentalized.
I know too much now to ever play the committed Christian part. (Institutional churches are to commit Christians to not for committed Christians to be a part of.) Was I disillusioned? Certainly, but I don’t think I’m the only one. The statistics point to more and more believers similarly dropping off church rosters. Read Barna’s “Revolution” if you don’t think so. We’re still on an odyssey. Our lives center around Jesus, His work and the Word. Everything else is superfluous.
Essential church lives life in such a way that Christians are congregating anywhere, on the golf course, in a fishing boat, at a baby shower, etc. There are no programs, just Christians being the church. Believers live His life. A God powerful enough, encompassing enough and strategic enough to save mankind through the death and resurrection of His Son doesn’t need the feeble devices of humans to propagate His life in churches.
(I invite comment.)