The Journal


We didn’t know whether to chuckle or shed a tear.

The president of a “ministerial fellowship” had just explained the group’s rasion d’être: “The fellowship is here to make us more effective and enhance ministry in our community.”  Then he explained his view of what that looks like, “That’s why this fellowship is for pastors.”  As in, “pastors only.”

 

Do we still not get it?

 

This guy was neck-deep in a room full of capable, gifted believers passionate about ministry and reaching and teaching for Christ.  But the only people he saw were the “paid professionals.”

 

Is this “ministry” Jesus’ way?

I visited a local church web site the other day.   “The web site has been recently updated” Lois enthused.  “Lots of cool stuff here.  XYZ Church is one happenin’ place!”

 

And that may be so.  But I had to wonder, based on what the web site communicated, perhaps inadvertently.

 

The home page featured one slide after another of … the building.  Four walls and a roof.  Now, it’s a beautiful building, no question.  Vaunted ceilings.  Stained-glass windows.  Professional landscaping.  Photos of the interior showed more of the same.  Plush carpet.  Color-coordinated decor.  A state-of-the-art sound system.

 

This outfit had obviously spent considerable thought and no small sum of money to look good.  The home page also listed service times, upcoming events and a welcome message.

 

What struck me, however, was the lack of people.  I mean, not a single face appeared on the entire home page.   Not one.  Every single photo pictured a building from various angles, inside and out.

 

Is that what we’ve settled for, “church” as four walls and a roof?  How does that square with the New Testament model?

Some “church” contexts have gotten some complicated and flashy that it takes a “professional” – sometimes a team of “professionals” to ‘do church.’

Is that the biblical model?  Did Jesus say, “Professionals only need apply.”  Have we gotten some comfortable in our Sunday morning “holy huddles” that we’ve missed the heart of His message?

“The arrangement and mood of the building conditions the congregation toward passivity.  The pulpit platform acts like a stage, and the congregation occupies the theater.  In short, Christian architecture has stalemated the functioning of God’s people since it was born in the fourth century.” – Viola and Barna, Pagan Christianity

Have we become so used to tending the “shoreline” that we’ve missed the deep water of walking with Jesus?

How about “church” in a family-type setting rather than an “institutionalized” one?  How about meeting in homes, living rooms, coffee shops, parks, or wherever the people are?  How about “lowering the bar of how we ‘do church’ and raising the bar of what it means to be a disciple?  How about being Jesus’ “hands and feet” wherever we are, instead of for an hour a week inside a building with a steeple on top?

“I love Jesus, I can’t keep on doing church the way I always have.”

 

Is there something more?

 

What about sharing life, rather than 90 minutes a week?

What about room for everyone to serve, not just an elite few?

How about “church” that isn’t a building with a steeple on top, but real people meeting real needs, mixing and mingling in their communities, to the glory of God?

 

God is calling together little communities of the heart, to fight for one another and for the hearts of those who have not yet been set free. That commeraderie, that intimacy, that incredible impact by a few stouthearted souls – that is available. It is the Christian life as Jesus gave it to us. It is completely normal.

– John Eldredge (Waking The Dead ,193, 203 )

“Little communities of the heart” is one reason some believers give for departing the IC.  There aren’t any.  Not saying’ that small groups don’t exist in the IC.  They do.  In fact, “small groups” is becoming the latest and greatest in church programming these days.  But a brief encounter with a few relative strangers for a few weeks is not the same as a “community of the heart.”

As John points out:

For the most part, they are disappointing and short-lived – by the very admission of those who try them. There are two reasons. One, you can’t just throw a random group of people together for a twelve week study of some kind, and expect them to become intimate allies. The sort of devotion we want and need takes place within a shared life. Over the years our fellowship goes camping together. We play together; help one another move; paint a room; find work. We throw great parties. We fight for each other… This is how it was meant to be.

How is your “community of the heart?”  Where do you look?  With whom do you link up?  Who fights for you?  Whom do you fight for?

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” – Mark 16:15

 

Whatever happened to the concept of “Go”?  One of the reasons we left the IC was because its main focus was on bringing people in, rather than on going out to where the people are.  Even the traditional Christmas and Easter “outreaches” are more of the same: inviting people INTO a building so they can join the church club.

Note that the word “Go” is a verb.  An action word.  It does not imply sitting back and spectating while one or two or a handful of “professionals” do the “go-ing” – if there’s any at all.

Is that what biblical Christianity is about?  What would Jesus say?

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