Let’s Simplify Church
The Kingdom of God is experiencing its greatest growth in the most unlikely places today: China, India, the Middle East, etc., while the American Multi-mystical teachings that we all know and love – from which most of us came – is shrinking. Three places in the USA where the Kingdom is thriving the most are in its prison facilities, its workplaces and in its homes. Hmmm. We can’t help but detect a pattern and some commonalities: These thriving Kingdom communities consist of people who meet in smaller relational groups that are less recognized and less formal.
Could it be that by complicating how we “do” church here in the United States we have actually DECREASED our effectiveness and our relevance to society?
In Amerca, it’s all about the 3B’s: Buildings, Budgets, and Butts in the pews. Too often, we throw common-sense to the wind in pursuit of these three, usually because we know no other way; it’s in or DNA. We’ll spend perhaps millions on a building, creating an initial attraction. Though some will stay after that initial visit, most churches rarely multiply; one hundred rarely becomes two hundred which rarely becomes four hundred, etc. Though there may be exceptions, the fact there are so few “success” stories should cause us to resist all attempts at replication.
Most of the “successful” churches in the USA have nice facilities, paid staff, websites, PowerPoint presentations, et al. None of these things are evil in and of themselves, but do they become evil when our high material standards rob from our ability to help those around us who are in REAL need? Let’s be honest: is all this stuff a product of our lust for a bigger, louder, and brighter version of church, stemming from a mindset that by polishing Jesus we would make Him more likable to the modern masses?
I think so.
As we strive to achieve our church mission and our Pastor’s vision, fancy-shmancy church has become impossible to duplicate, less relationally-authentic, less sustainable (both environmentally and economically), and less capable of responding to the REAL needs of people, in and out of the local congregation.
Incidentally, if your church has a mission and a vision statement, throw them away; Jesus didn’t have one (unless it was Isaiah 61:1) and He said He came as an example. The best Leader serves as a RESOURCE to help others in an effort to help them in achieving THEIR God-given Kingdom visions. It’s very unfulfilling to be part of a congregation whose mission appears to be financing a minister’s vision.
The first thing that comes to mind when we hear the word ‘church’ is a steepled building, right? That’s quite telling. The Church – the ‘Ekklesia’ – mentioned in Acts 19 Refers to an angry mob as well as to the folks on the City Council. We also know it to refer to the people of God who met from house to house, occasionally gathering en masse at places such as Troas when the apostle Paul came to town.
One of the hallmarks of Simple or Organic Church is that it meets in non-traditional locations. Some Simple Churches meet in parks, others in homes. Still others meet in coffee shops, restaurants and conference rooms, and, yes, even in steepled buildings (we are never NOT The Church and we are ALL always The Body of Christ, even while seated in a pew.