Friday, September 23, 2011

Have we messed up the idea of church?

Typically it’s the third generation of a product that takes on change. Second generation stays similar to the original but it’s the third that gets tweaked to make it “better” than the original. Better may be more nearly defined as more desirable, more personally pleasing or more uniquely compatible with current tastes.

Back in the day, we couldn’t wait for the revealing of the new cars each year. With great anticipation we’d wait until the day the showroom was filled with the new models. Often cars were radically different from one year to the next. After a while costs entered the picture and they started keeping the same style alive for three to five to now even ten years. It’s nearly impossible today for uninformed consumers to tell the difference in this year’s model and last year’s.

The church goes through a similar process of change. It latches onto a style and holds it for decades until someone introduces a new approach and the bandwagon fills rapidly. Traditions suddenly become old and obsolete as new ideas crowd out “the way we’ve always done it.”

Church as we knew it only a couple of decades ago is nothing like the church today. And the church today is so far removed from the early church there is very little remaining of what was the original model. It has been tweaked to the point that it has become all about us and very little about the Lord who established it.

Originally, the church was a collection of Believers who came together to solidify their faith and flesh out of their understanding of who God was and what living underneath His Lordship meant. To do this they needed the strength of worship, the power of instruction and the support of fellowship. Going to church was an unknown. They were the church. And wherever they gathered church happened. They lived church throughout the week and came together regularly to reinforce the growth and changes in their lives that came from personal discovery of the purposes God had for them.

It is unlikely they brought their unsaved friends to this assembly. It wasn’t about them either. It was designed to give Christians a collected experience connecting with God that would encourage, correct and reshape them for how God wanted them to live in the world. It was through this assembly they found courage and a message to carry to their unsaved friends to help lead them to salvation and then incorporate them into the fellowship. You don’t think the reason they first called believers Christians at Antioch was because they went to the church house together, do you?

Today, we’re creating an image, a style, a showcase to demonstrate we’re cutting edge. We’re so focused on our presentation that we rarely look at content. We evaluate what goes on during the service but never question how what we’re doing is making a difference during the week. We pride ourselves in the belief that we know how to do church. But what is being accomplished in our displays of creativity and presentation of talent? What goals are we trying to reach? Why are we even doing church?

It would be helpful if church leaders would re-read the Book instead of the books on how to do church. That they would take us back to the essentials of worship, prayer, testimony, teaching, fellowship and communion with God. Help me get in touch with Him so I can better sense His direction during my week. Don’t fill my schedule so full of activities you want me to participate in that I can’t seek out and do God’s will. Don’t busy my life to such an extent I can’t minister to my own family and friends. Help me feel His conviction not your guilt.

The Church is an extension of the life of Jesus, a collection of Believers combining their lives to demonstrate on a larger scale the goodness of God. Somehow we need to reclaim the fact that it was His design not ours. What we’ve turned it into says much more about us than Him.

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