I have just completed reading Pagan Christianity? by Frank Viola & George Barna, and have begun Frank’s sequel book, Reimagining Church.
Without specifically stating it, I believe their basic premise is that the church as we know it today is fundamentally flawed and therefore beyond repair.
In my 40+ years of being involved with the Church, I have seen, participated in, and even attempted to resurrect that which was dead. A particular problem of the existing church would be addressed and efforts made to repair the problem.
I have seen pews replaced with chairs (and vice versa). I have seen the seating arrangement changed from rows to circles. I have witnessed a multitude of change in singing–hymn books, mimeographed chrous printouts, overhead projector, PowerPoint, and Bible only. Preaching by a one-man show change to an open pulpit. Open pulpit change to just a few. And the list goes on ad infinitum, ad nauseum.
Why? Why do we continue to tamper with the existing format and structure? Why not leave well enough alone? Thankfully, Martin Luther did not have that attitude.
We continue to tamper with it for the same reason a new church is formed almost every week in our country–because someone, somewhere, believes that somehow things can be better.
Better than what? Better than what is, because what is does not satisfy. And so we continue to fidget, manipulate, organize and disorganize in an attempt to get it right.
And, that, my friend, is at the basis of most of the changes–we want to get it right. Therefore, the attempts themselves are not wrong. They usually originate with good motives, noble intentions. But, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3)
According to how I understand Viola/Barna, the foundation of the Church has been destroyed–at least by the modern expression of the church. I am coming to grips with this, and am beginning to agree with their premise.
Jesus Christ is the foundation of the Church, and while He certainly cannot be destroyed, the foundation of the modern church is destroyed, because it is not founded on Christ and Him alone. It is founded on such things as doctrinal purity, or worship style, or preacher personality, or denominational dignity. None of these has much to do with Jesus.
And so, I have about finished with the critique of the modern church and am about to launch into their understanding of what the church should look like.
So far, I am enjoying the ride.
8 thoughts on “Church Repair”
Fascinating! You have the same (or nearly the same) viewpoint I have. Which, it seems, is not the usual viewpoint on subjects such as these. My thoughts (simplified) are that … essentially, people do not come to church seeking a what. They come seeking a who. The presence of the living God. When a church is dead (which is the chronic illness of much of the American church), that presence is not there. The people go away hungry. That hunger then causes them to go searching anywhere … anywhere that might fill it. So those who believe that the true Bread is found in Jesus Christ go about trying to ‘fix what’s wrong’ … IE: by changing the what. But God doesn’t commune with chairs or pews, concrete or steeples … He communes with people … those who are willing to have a soft heart for Him. Arguments on the subject, then, that focus too much on form, or structure, or style, or what have you … I think miss the mark. None of those things matter. He doesn’t desire a house built with hands. He desires the temple inside of us to be holy and blameless – filled with praise and adoration. That is when He shows up. “You are enthroned on the praises of Your people.”
My thoughts exactly. There will be more along this line that will echo what you have said here.
agreeing with you(Dale and Annie), but it saddens me that the children of God have come to a place where at times they think they can define HIM, and have come up with a process or format that is perfect. I search feverishly at times for some of this to make sense to me. Maybe because I was away for 20 years..and returning, I see things so much more compromised than before, even with those that call theirself conservative.
Church is not about me..its about God. I think HE loves all music that is offered to HIM with a pure heart..even if I don’t like it. But the foundation is broken…Jesus Christ seems to be an after thought, and many know nothing about God (scripturally) yet sing to something they do not know. It is a very sad thing to me.
Do we just continue to abandon misled people? Or do we continually be like John in the desert, or Jeremiah..trying to bring them to their senses? This is a place I am torn..so I pray and I go, because HE sends me…
Revival starts with us, individually, and it will not spread until that happens.
Didn”t Jesus say if we lift him up he will draw alll men unto him? Jesus and his commands are the center of our beliefs, but purhaps worship, and all that takes place on a Sunday, Sabbath, etc. is our return to Him, recognition of who He is and what He does. Sharing Him with others, (lifting Him up), should go on daily,in our personal lives.
This is the first that I have heard of this book, Pagan Christianity. However, I remember reading the book The Seduction of Christianity 20 years ago and how right on I felt it was (mostly, though there were a few things I completely disagreed with). And the furor it caused within the circles we were in. Because it challenged what we took to be “correct” church practice and Christianity. Because we were raising children, we felt a real need to have them interact with other believers and their families. Thus church attendance. However, for years this has been a struggle and debate between my husband and me, with him being the one who saw absolutely no scriptural basis for what we have had to accept as “church” over these years and me being the one who felt the need to interact with other believers and there was no other way to do so. Today the church simply does not teach the importance of personal interaction — or if it mentions it, its leaders don’t practice it and pave the way. We are so bound by fears and selfishness that we are paralyzed from being what I am convinced our Lord wants us to be. Our homes are like prisons, separating us from others from both the internal (me not inviting you in) as well as external (me not being willing to accept your invitation extended to me). We have had deep interactions (extensive involvements, teaching, etc.) with 3 churches over the last 12 years and have walked away from each one, with virtually no one coming to us and asking us why. Certainly there was not one in-depth conversation generated by anyone in any of the 3 churches expressing concern over our silent departures. I know I am rambling, but I see a great connection here, for my perception of how I see what Jesus means for his church to be involves deep and extensive interaction and communication among his believers and until that hurdle is crossed, I think everything else is vain (empty).
I would also like to comment on loneliness, but don’t see a category to put it in. 🙂 However, I feel it is a direct result of the church not being what it should be, so will put it here.
I struggled with loneliness most of my growing up years. Then I met Jesus. And for the next 17 years loneliness simply was not a part of my life. We always had believers as friends and meaningful involvement in each other’s lives, even if we were only in a given geographical location for a short time.
And then, 20 years ago, we returned to the Bible Belt and moved into a small town, knowing no one.
I have struggled with guilt over the tremendous loneliness I have experienced over these past 20 years, though I guess I finally accepted it as part of life around 6 or 7 years ago. However, just lately I have heard of 3 instances that just about cover the gamut of experiences and all my guilt has finally left me. I finally truly see that I am not the problem, but truly rather our modern church/culture is.
The 3 instances:
A 30’ish married couple with young children who have been part of a church for over a year in a new community they moved into. Lonely. Are wanting to move somewhere where they might have friends. Great people. Not weird or strange or shallow. Fun loving and interesting fellow believers. Lonely.
A 24 year old son on the edges of our culture who have never even pretended to attend church or have a serious relationship with our Lord since getting out of school and out on his own. Just admitted to not having a single friend (though he “socializes” a lot). But he sees the shallowness of his social life and realizes how lonely he is.
A very sweet 80 year old woman who has been widowed many years and been a part of an established church for probably over 20 years, going about doing good. Not self-righteous or pious or full of pity. But lonely.
And so I realize truly I am not alone. And how sad it is. And cry out, “Church, where are you???!!!) It is certainly not what is out there now.
I am interested to see what Mr. Viola and his friend have to say as to what the church truly should be. I understand that first we must lift up our Lord and that our goal is a relationship with Him — not friendships. I am on board with this. Yet He walked this earth and died for us — for others. Can we do less?
Church Repair? Interesting!!! I have had many dreams in the past where the church as one would start worshipping in one accord by making up the words to song through the Holy Spirit. No practice, no lyrics, just the church being oneminded worshipping God. What a blessing this would be to see. To me this is unity. The church definately needs a repair. I am part of that church in need of this repair. I don’t want to be me minded, but God minded. I know I have the mind of Christ, but applying this everyday is difficult. But because I have His mind, I am hopeful.