what’s my beef with ‘church’

Some of you may have sensed that I have a bit of a beef with ‘church’. I probably need to clarify, its not so much with a specific church (I love my present church, and also my new church). My beef is with the concept of church as it has been distorted from its original meaning and purpose. I really resonate with the book by Dan Kimball, “They Like Jesus But Not The Church” (which I would recommend by the way, click the image for details). So what are some of my concerns?

  1. Jesus only uses the word “church” twice (Matthew 16:18, Matthew 18:17). Of course He often speaks about His followers as a community, but He only uses the word ‘ekklessia’ (the called and gathered ones) twice. We use it all the time, and, chances are, had a tough time removing it from our conversations for a week.
  2. The church has a negative reputation, one that it probably deserves in many ways. Negative, hypocritical, judgmental, exclusive, guilty of shocking and shameful atrocities throughout history… its not a pretty picture.
  3. This negative reputation makes sharing the good news very difficult. People can’t get past the bad news of the church to appreciate the good news of Jesus. And sometimes our way of communicating the good news itself is bad news.
  4. When we say “church”, we mean building, or a denomination, as in ‘where do you go to church’ or ‘what church do you belong to’. The magnetic pull of this mistaken understanding is too hard to resist, even when we try to stop speaking about church this way.
  5. Church is not somewhere that we go, or something that we belong to, its something that we experience, that we do. It happens everywhere, wherever two or more gather in Jesus name and do what Jesus did. Church is everywhere, wherever Jesus-followers serve Him together.
  6. All of our programs focus on the word COME, which is tied to the church. Jesus commanded us to GO!. Instead we huddle and hide in our buildings, enjoying our little sacred space safe from the big, bad secular world, and only letting outsiders join us if they become like us.
  7. We act as if what happens Sunday morning (you know, ‘church’) is the essence of church, when in fact its really what happens any and every day of the week, wherever we are.
  8. The church is a means to an end, i.e. the kingdom of God. But we have made it the end. We build churches, rather than building the kingdom. Jesus said HE would build the church when we faithfully testified (like Peter) to the truth of who Jesus is. The rock upon which Jesus will build His church is the true testimony of Jesus, as expressed on the lips and lives of His followers.
  9. We worry more about the appearance, or the care of our buildings, than about the state of the lost. The money we invest in our facilities is frightening. And the battles that have ensued over church issues is even more frightening. Nothing wrong with a building as a tool for ministry, but maybe our views of church are so far off that we are not capable of having buildings without getting distracted and destructed by them.
  10. Our greatest need is not for more churches, but for more disciples, more followers of Jesus. Somehow we need to figure out how to produce them before we produce more buildings. The result will be gatherings and communities, but they will not be known as Jesus disciples because of their buildings or because of their membership papers, but because of their love.
  11. Is the word “church”, which originally meant something better, no longer helpful or useful for today. Again, I think of the word ‘gay’. It originally meant one thing, yet now means something very different. It may be legitimate to use it in the old way, technically, but will people today know or appreciate what you mean by it? What might we call ourselves, if not church? Maybe we should drop the name altogether? We can leave it up to people to call us what they want, based on their experience of us.
  12. I want to stress again, I am not per se against having buildings where followers of Jesus gather. But I think that, given the distortion in the understanding of the word today, those followers had better first establish why they are gathering, what they are to be doing, before they think about what kind of building will suit their purpose. And surprise, surprise, it likely won’t need a steeple!

OK, enough rambling on my part. Any feedback? Are there more reasons to dislike the word ‘church’? Or are there good reasons for me to reconsider?

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One Response

  1. Hey I like this. I have some 9 or 10 minute videos that are from Mark Driscoll on my BLOG. My topics are closely related to this one. I contrast religion today with the Gospel. Its a little less building focused.

    Some of the more interesting Pastors in todays culture are turing large warehouses into Churches and as long as they are being real and genuine about their own sin they seem to be growing and doing well.

    My BLOG:

    http://spadinofamily.wordpress.com/

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