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Sunday, November 01, 2015

Support your local Church Club?

Over at Church Leaders dot com Frank Powell wrote a letter to the American Church. "Dear American Church, I am not renewing my membership."

His complaint is that churches are too much like clubs. Country clubs, mostly. Not focused enough externally. Primarily focused internally. That sort of thing. "Your mission is comfort and security," he complains. Instead they should be "reaching the needs of your community and your world."

Now, I have to say that he has some good points. One of them is "It is also not a declaration of every church in America." Thus, we'll need to keep in mind that it's a generalization. He has a valid complaint when he points out that some see church as "resources to be used on them and their needs", specifically to those who give to the church. Faulty perspective. He is concerned about "the shallow end of the pool" concept. In a "club" they keep conversations superficial. So when do we get to real struggles in real Christian lives? How do we bear one another's burdens? Good questions. He complains about competition between churches (stealing the "best members" and the "best pastors" and the like) and the lack of cultural diversity in churches and the squabbling and division that takes place in churches and the need to "keep everyone happy" in churches. I'm in agreement with this kind of stuff. And I'm sure we can eliminate this problem by banning people ... all people. Because, as anyone can tell you, when imperfect people are involved, nothing is perfect.

Oddly enough, then, I seem to split from this (what appears from the comments on it) popular viewpoint ... at the beginning. His premise is that the function of the church -- the gathering of believers -- is "an external focus." Funny thing. Jesus said, "By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35) That "one another" refers to "you guys", the "one another" of those who are disciples of Christ. We are indeed to love others -- neighbors, enemies, etc. -- but the primary indicator of being a disciple of Christ is to love disciples of Christ.

Paul says,
He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from Whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Eph 4:11-16)
This is apparently in direct contradiction to the "external focus" touted by the Frank Powell types. The focus of the church, from this text, would be unity of the faith, maturity of believers, fullness in Christ, solidarity among Christians, being equipped to work properly. It's odd. Nothing there about "external focus". Nothing about social justice or meeting the needs of the community. Nothing about "felt needs". And not very often have I seen this view as the primary focus of the churches I've been in.

"So," I can already hear, "you're saying we should not be missional, gospel-centered, meeting the needs of the community, evangelistic, any of that stuff?" No, that is not what I'm saying. I'm saying that the biblical function of the church -- that gathering together of the "called out ones", the saints -- is to equip the saints to do ... all that stuff. Look, Jesus didn't command the body of believers to "Go and make disciples." He commanded disciples to do it. The church, then, would be the entity that equips the disciples to do it. In other words, yes, all those things need to be done. But the "external focus" would be the focus of believers, not the church. The church would be the armory from which we get our weapons to fight, the storehouse from which we get the goods to give out, or whatever other appropriate illustration you might come up with. It is the place where we are trained and supported to do what individual believers are supposed to do. (Note: By "individual believers" I don't mean to suggest that we must do these things alone or one at a time. I'm just saying that the church isn't designed for that.)

But, hey, that's just me. I've offered two biblical reasons for my view about the purpose of the church. You may have others. And I'm fairly certain that there are some who will say, "Stan said it, so it's wrong." Given. But be sure in your certainty that I'm wrong about this that you include Jesus's and Paul's words in your alternate view. I'll be glad to listen to a biblical disagreement on my own conclusions.

1 comment:

Danny Wright said...

I posted on this yesterday too, although I didn't like what I posted that much. But after reading this I've got to give that some more thought.

I think it was the likes of the "Franks" in this world I was talking about when I mentioned church hoppers and spiritual elitist.

I was already thinking what you said when I read, "How about banning people... all people". :)