Friday, August 21

What would happen if institutional churches closed their doors?

Wayne Jacobsen needs no introduction for those livng their Christian faith outside of the institutional/legacy church system. In his What If Everyone Left the Sunday Morning Institutions? Wayne shares an interesting perspective.

Let’s say today everyone stops attending our Sunday (or Saturday) morning institutions. Would the Church lose its presence in the world? I don’t think so, and in fact I think you could argue that it would have both a greater and more effective impact. Admittedly there would be some chaos with so many support staff out of work, and dealing with buildings that would be difficult to sell, but once we got through all of that, I am convinced the church would take on a GREATER presence in the world. Our world wouldn’t have a daily reminder driving down their streets how fragmented Christianity is into its various institutions because people simply wouldn’t learn how to love each other they way they are loved by God.

Those who really love Jesus would find themselves liberated from all the machinery that consumes a huge amount of time, energy and resource and find their lives in more spacious places where they would have time to get to know and love their neighbor, their colleagues at work and people they pass on the street. Admittedly that wouldn’t be everyone’s response, but the reason I don’t fear people not being ‘committed anywhere’ is that they will get to find out just how committed to Jesus they really are. And that’s good for them and good for the world. Many Sunday-attenders have no idea they are missing out on what it means to be truly committed to Jesus. They think that attending a service and dropping some coins in the offering basket validate the depth of their faith. Yes, some would end up disgruntled and fragmented, but they wouldn’t be mistaken for those who really ‘get’ this journey and live in the increasing reality of being transformed by Jesus.

To survive, people would have to become more active in their faith, seeking out opportunities for growth, for relationship and for sharing God’s life in the world. They would lose the passivity that allows people to sit through a meeting on Sunday and live unchanged the rest of the week. New believers would be taught to know the Lord in small groups who share the life of the family together, rather than as cogs in a big machine. And we would have so many more resources to do whatever God might ask us to do, like reach out to AIDs patients, build hospitals in third world countries, feed the poor or host an outreach in a local park where others might come to know him. Leaders would emerge not by their education, vocation, or ability to draw a crowd, but because they have a gift to help people grow and live hospitably so that they actually come in contact with real people.

In summary, the Church would take on a greater presence in the world just because of the number of active believers scattered throughout it every day to make him known. And it would be more authentic as well, since it would be Jesus demonstrating himself through transformed lives, which I think is far more powerful than ornate buildings, spurious TV preachers, or the excesses and failures of our institutional leaders today...

I think Jesus saw it that way too, which is why he didn’t leave us with the institutional instructions. Or so that’s how I see it…
How do you see it? Do you agree with Wayne's analysis? What do you think would happen if institutional churches closed their doors?

7 comments:

Justin Long said...

I'm not sure I agree with Wayne, for the simple fact that the #1 biggest factor in church growth today is babies born to Christian households. There are two roles in the church: one is domestic - helping believers marry believers and raise believing children - and one is apostolic, going into the world and making new disciples. If we leave the places where we gather together and worship together in community, I think there would be a huge disruption to this. This is not to say that I think all of Wayne's critiques of organized and institutionalized church are invalid. We are often too insulated. But if a church can avoid disbanding and instead simply invert its focus so that it is parish-minded (e.g. the whole geographic area in which it is situated) rather than congregation-minded (only those who are members of our Christian club) then I think we'd be in a much stronger position to help the world.

Dan said...

I am all for this. I'm not completely ready to give up on the idea of our traditional churches, but I believe that we are headed, or should be headed, toward a more house church approach. I believe that, once Christians enter a more real spiritual existence with other believers in a smaller setting and a more real existence with the Father, that more good will happen in the world, not less.

GuyMuse said...

Justin and Dan,

I don't think Wayne's point is to say that institutional church doors are going to be closed any time soon. Rather, his point, at least to me, is to help us see what those doors are doing to keep us from being the people of God in the real world. If we didn't have those church doors, how would we live our lives as followers of Christ?

Mark Finger said...

Here's a larger question: if you were stripped (over a process of time) of all your cultural and experiential ties, biases, and perceptions, what would be left? Just our faith in Jesus. My wife left me and my family turned against me (years ago): moreover, I was forced out of my culture. My humanistic identity was destroyed. Guess what? It was the best thing that ever happened to me. Now, I can truly become all things to all men that by all means some may be saved. Peace.

GuyMuse said...

Mark,

Your "larger question" brings the issue even closer to home. What is our faith really made of? Is church a crutch? Only as things are taken from us do we truly begin to realize what it is that is valuable. This is also what happens to missionaries when entering a new culture. The things we take for granted are no longer there to prop us up. One either learns quickly to cling to Jesus, or they come home and again absorb themselves in those things that give a false sense of worth and value. Thanks for sharing.

A. Amos Love said...

Guy

That's not fair...

Quit teasing me...

Eph 5:4
Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking,
nor jesting, which are not convenient...

Mt 12:34
O generation of vipers, how can ye,
being evil, speak good things?

2Pe 2:18
For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh.

Please forgive me. God loves me.

Just think of all the heating oil we could save???

Gee, would folks have to hear from Jesus for themselves? Become totally dependent on Him alone? What good could come of that? Where would we tithe?
How would God get any money to build His kingdom? Who would marry us? Bury us? Who would be our covering? Our protection? What would we do with all the out of work pastors?

So many questions, so little time.

Love and peace...

Mark Finger said...

Funny thing. The doors of church buildings swing outward. Just look at them. To come inside, people have to stop, move the door out of the way, and then enter. It's a lot easier to go out then in, if you think about it.

Imagine what kind of life would exist in congregations if everyone who went out of church doors, also went out into the world to witness to the lost and minister the Word of God to believers.