For a little more than five years now, I have been reflecting on the future of the church. Admittedly most of that contemplation has been centered on me and what the future of the church was for me, and how I was to fit within it. Most of the time I do not fit within the cute seeker friendly programs offered by church nowadays, and what is important to me is very often not important to church, and the other way around. I need a place with meaning. I need a place where I can ask questions without being labeled a heretic or trouble maker. When I look at how things are done now, and then compare them with the first church, well I find very little similarities. Sometimes I even wonder- are we following the same God? Understandably our churches and the first church will be different; after all we come from different cultures at different points in history. However our church now does not resemble the radical religious movement of the first church instead the church more resembles the religious institution that Jesus came to destroy. Jesus, it is important to note, made no effort to create a church institution while He was on Earth. In fact He had no headquarters, no grand building where His followers could go to, and did not write volumes on church doctrine. Jesus walked from community to community preaching a strange Gospel, a gospel of sacrifice. Jesus meant for us to follow His teachings and example, but instead we have crafted a new Gospel to suit our own lusts. We have found the message difficult, but rather then abandon the message we altered it. Now our Gospel of a personal savior is easy and seeker friendly. What is the future of the church? I think it will be what we make of it. For some of us we can never return to institutional Christianity again, for others of us, we will work for reform from within the system.
I think the first thing we need to do is move our focus from man and put it back on Jesus. Right now most churches are built around a man and his personality. The man, or pastor, calls all the shots and without him you cannot move. We need to stop looking to the man, and start looking to our God. Church needs to be governed by the church as a whole and not governed by the man. We need to try and let others preach, spend the money, decide what outreaches we are doing, and make doctrinal decisions for a change. Christ’s church is made up of many different members with many different personalities and gifts. A church service should be an opportunity for us to hear from more than one or two men. We should be able to hear from the entire Body of Christ. Can you imagine going into a church service that is lead by the Spirit instead of by a man? When we stop looking at the man, then our agenda will change. Up to this point we have been working towards the vision of one man (the pastor), but when we shift our focus to Jesus, we can begin to work on His agenda.
So just what is that agenda? Jesus came to give us life and life more abundantly. Not life as we think, but life as God thinks. In God’s idea of life, the down and out are blessed, you are blessed when you lose the things most dear to you, and you are even blessed when you are persecuted. In God’s life, He was pleased to see His only begotten son crucified. The highest honor in God’s life is to be put to death for what you believe. Jesus said if we were to follow Him we would have to pick up our cross. Well that was a bit weightier than I intended for this article so let’s leave that for later. I think it will become a future article on sacrifice. So we can follow the agenda of Jesus instead of the agenda of the man. What is cool about that is that very often the man’s agenda is concerned with himself, but Jesus’ is concerned with you and me. Being concerned about your neighbor is like the core of Christianity to me. I think the future of the Church is not in buildings, but instead in the hearts of men and women. Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is within. It is time we started to believe that, and stopped spending millions on buildings to house the people we have attracted to our programs. We can redirect that money to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, educate believers, and care for the sick, and on and on. The future of the church is within.
P.S. I realize that not everyone will picture the same church as me. I believe that is why God created individuals with different talents, tastes, etc. You should be able to find a group to suit your needs.
This blog was inspired in part by the following:
AN INTERVIEW: with a Modern-Day, Sunday-Morning, Church-Going Christian by Frank Viola (www.theooze.com)