The church in almost every form available in the western world simply doesn’t work. This isn’t a statement of pragmatism, but of realism. Ask any leader in any church why the church exists and you will get an amazing array of answers. No matter, the answers they give and the results they achieve are miles apart. Of course, the leaders you talk to will say that their church is different. At their place lives really are changed, church does have an impact on the individuals who attend there, they are not irrelevant. The truth, however, is drastically different. There are literally volumes of information based on studies of church goers of every variety all with the same conclusion: church has no measurable impact on the lives of those who attend (http://www.barna.org/).
Did Jesus make a mistake in instituting the church? Or is the church as we know it so far from what Jesus intended that its irrelevance is inevitable? While the Bible teaches that Jesus instituted the Church (capitol “C”) and plans for it to be a force throughout history, the institutional church (small “c”) is a man-made creation that may have served a useful purpose historically, but presently is of no consequence.
The Church (capitol “C”) began as small groups of people gathered in homes, committed to being Christ-followers (not knowledge-gatherers), participating in every facet of their culture permeating it with the salt and light of Christ. It was led by people who were visibly gifted, not in an authoritarian way, but through consensus and spiritual discernment. They met regularly to teach and be taught, to share meals together, spend time together and pray together. They pooled their resources so that there would be no physical needs among them. They took care of the poor and the widows and orphans. They collected funds to buy food for famine ravaged areas of their world. In short, they lived their lives to help people … all people … in the name of Christ.
How did that evolve (devolve?) into what we have today as the modern church? Today's church is typified by two models …
- First, the multi-million dollar enterprises whose bureaucracy rivals the Federal government and infrastructures mimicking a Fortune 500 company. Their sole purpose for existence– actual, but not stated – is to keep the machine going.
- Second, thier smaller cousins … congregations who are self-centered and self-absorbed, inwardly focused, legalistic, judgmental, and quite certain that everyone is going to hell but them.
If these are the only two options we are presented with when we talk about church, is it any wonder that people are leaving it en-mass? Can it be any more irrelevant?
And yet, what could be more relevant than people determined to make a difference in the world one life at a time … loving people instead of ignoring them, helping them instead of judging them, serving them instead of using them. In short, living our lives like Jesus taught, giving ourselves away with no strings attached … no ulterior motives … no agendas. How significant and purposeful is it to be someone who has entered into a relationship with Jesus Christ, and because of that they are committed to living their lives as authentic human beings in relationship with other human beings … whether they ever gather in a church or not?
It’s the difference between churchianity (small “c”) and Christianity (capitol “C”).