Church…Love It Or Leave It?

 

We’re told that there is a trend, especially among younger generations, of people who are saying goodbye to the local church. We’ve heard statistics of those who leave because they no longer believe. But, surprisingly, others leave because they say they want more of God in their lives and the church just isn’t doing it for them.

Several influential Christians are among this group, including Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz and other books that speak meaningfully to younger believers. In a blog post, Miller shared candidly that he did not attend church very often because he connected more with God in other ways, like through nature and through his work.

In a follow-up blog post, he added:

I’d say half of the most impactful people I know, who love Jesus and tear up at the mention of His name, who reach out to the poor and lonely and are fundamentally sound in their theology, who create institutions that feed hundreds of thousands, do not attend a traditional church service. Many of them even speak at churches, but they have no home church and don’t long for one.

Why are so many believers dissatisfied with the church?

Often, their disenchantment with the church is legitimate. Instead of going to church, they are eager to be the church. Instead of being a face in the crowd, they are eager to be a known and needed member of a community. Instead of being passive observers of an event, they are eager to be active contributors to a shared mission. Instead of listening to a preacher pontificate and tell stories, they are eager to be welcomed into a Story that is bigger than the preacher. Instead of being around people who “accept” Jesus but who seem bored with him, they want to be around people who come alive at the mention of his name.

Would Jesus, the Head of the church, favor a churchless Christianity?

Many who are disillusioned with the church today romanticize the early church, not realizing how broken things were then as well. Take Corinth, for example. As the most prominently represented New Testament church, Corinth was also a dysfunctional mess. Factions, harshness, divisions, adultery, lawsuits, divorce, elitism, classism, and neglect of the poor were just some of their issues. The famous “love chapter” in 1 Corinthians 13 was written less as an inspiration and more as a rebuke, because each love attribute was something that the Corinthians were not. They had trampled on the ideal of what Jesus’ church should be—an infectious community of prayer, truth, love, justice, and mission (Acts 2:42-47).

But Paul never gave up on Corinth. Instead of walking away, he pressed in. As he sharply corrected them, he also encouraged, affirmed, loved, prayed for, and thanked God for them. Like Jesus, he saw a broken church and envisioned beauty. He saw a sinful church and envisioned sainthood. He saw a band of misfits but envisioned a radiant, perfected bride. And he knew that God wanted him to participate in loving this church to life.

At her best and at her worst, Jesus loves his church. He laid down his life for her (John 10:11). He will never leave or forsake her (Hebrews 13:5). He will complete the work he started in her (Philippians 1:6). In other words, Jesus never looked for more of God by having less of the church. Instead, he married her. The church is the chosen, beloved Bride of Christ. What does it say about us if the church is good enough for the Father to adopt, for the Spirit to inhabit, and for Jesus to marry…but not good enough for us to join?

In Life Together, Bonhoeffer said that those who love their dream of Christian community more than the Christian Community itself become destroyers of Christian community. He also said that the church, which may at times seem weak and trifling to us, is great and magnificent to God. Do we believe this? When tempted to hit eject on the local church, will we trust the infinite, perfect wisdom of God or our own finite, fallen instincts?

The wisdom of God says that we need the local church. Here are some reasons why.

The Church is Jesus’ Bride

In his book, Letters to a Young Evangelical, Tony Campolo said, “…you dare not decide that you don’t need the church. Christ’s church is his bride…and his love for her makes him faithful to her even when she is not faithful to him.”

The church was God’s idea, God’s plan for His Kingdom on earth. As St. Cyprian said, “One cannot have God as his Father who does not have the church as his Mother,” and as Saint Augustine once said, “The church may be a whore, but she is still my mother.”

The Church is a Family

Family is the chief metaphor the Bible uses when it talks about the church. The church isn’t an exclusive, monolithic club. It’s a gathering of wonderfully and sometimes irritatingly diverse, divinely-selected brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, grandmas and grandpas. A dysfunctional family at times indeed, but a family nonetheless.

Family stays together. When one member is weak, the others lift her up. Where another is difficult, the others confront him. Where another is leading on mission, the others join, support, pray, and cheer him on.

The Church is a Diverse Community

By design, God chose the church to be as diverse as possible. At Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, we have described our community this way:

We are builders and baby boomers, gen-xers and millennials, conservatives and progressives, educators and athletes, struggling doubters and committed believers, engineers and artists, introverts and extroverts, healers and addicts, CEO’s and homemakers, affluent and bankrupt, single and married, happy and hurting, lonely and connected, stressed-out and carefree, private and public schoolers, PhD’s and people with special needs, experts and students, saints and sinners.

We want to celebrate and learn from differences instead of dividing over them. We believe the best expressions of community happen when people come together with varying perspectives, personalities, cultures, and experiences.

The Church Teaches Us to Love

Part of the Christian experience is learning to love people who are not like us. In the church, we are given a community of complicated, beloved-by-God, always in process, fearfully and wonderfully made, sometimes faltering and inefficient people we are called to love.

Including ourselves.

Reconciliation, peacemaking, relational perseverance, and loving the unlovely are difficult but necessary steps of discipleship. Without these things, we remain stunted in our spiritual growth. Our goal in Christian community is not just tolerance of others, but authentic love and relationship. In order to learn to truly love, we must stay in the Christian community and do the hard work of resolving conflict and building unity.

The Church Needs You

As it is a family, the church is also a body. Without you, the church is missing an eye or an ear or a hand. Without you, the church is not whole.

Each of us is made in the image of God. As we live in community with one another, we grow in knowledge and experience of God by being with others who bear his image. As we learn from and rub off on one another we become better, more whole, more Christ-like, and ultimately better-for-the-world versions of ourselves.

If you are dissatisfied or disillusioned with the local church, don’t leave it. If the church stinks to you, then change its diapers. Make it better. Pray for it. Bless it. Serve it. Love it to life.

In the process, you will discover that it’s not only that the church needs you. You need the church as well.


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Showing 29 comments
  • Jerimy Kanaday
    Reply

    As a pastor in the Spring Hill community just south of you, this is a beautiful piece. Thank you.

  • Faith
    Reply

    Thanks so much for this, Scott. However, I get the sense that you might have missed the point. The aren’t leaving the church (as in the body of Christ), but the local church. There’s a difference between the two. I’d rather we celebrate our differences and uniqueness in the way we choose to worship. I imagine these people still fellowship as members of the body of Christ, just not the same way you and I do it. And if you believe it “weakens” a community, then that community probably needs to re-adjust its perspective.
    Those who have left the local church and are doing work elsewhere, fellow shipping elsewhere with different people, are still very much a part of the Church community – just not a specific and particular one. They are still the bride of Christ, family and probably interacting with a more diverse community and going to places where they are needed.

    • scottsauls
      Reply

      Appreciate your viewpoint here. I would also want to challenge it, if I may. What you are describing here is church on our own terms, versus the design and structure that Scripture calls for. For example, without pastors and elders to oversee my soul, without the messiness and inefficiencies and irritants of the diverse community into which God calls all of his children (Jew with Gentile, etc…), I am not functioning as part of “the church” as God defines it. If I am not part of a localized expression of the global church, I am not participating in the global church as God has laid out in Scripture. I am following myself versus following Scripture. So, I’m afraid that it may be your perspective that ultimately “misses the point.” Your approach is decidedly individualistic, whereas the biblical model is decidedly communal. All those metaphors of family — brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, daughters and sons — that Scripture uses to describe the family of God…and yet, your perspective seems to dismiss the notion that ultimately, we don’t get to choose who our family members will be. Part of growth is leaning in to relationships we would not naturally choose if left to ourselves.

      • Debbie
        Reply

        The biblical approach would have us gathering on the Sabbath. Respectfully, I ask, what is biblical structure and what is church tradition? I think if local churches truly operated in the way of the new testament, more people would not be seeking God outside of the church.

    • Steven
      Reply

      I agree with the point that the distinction between the church (which is his body) and the local church is being blurred. The two are scripturally distinct and any blurring of the two creates confusion from many angles, which I point out below.

      That being said, I would agree with the writer that it is not in God’s mind for His people to sever themselves from the local church. The only reason someone would be removed would be for the purpose of biblical discipline, with a view of maintaining purity and restoration of the individual. Here’s a good excerpt from an article in the Assembly Testimony website:

      “Every true believer from the sudden birth of the Church at Pentecost to the sudden rapture of believers when the Lord Himself descends to the air for His own, is part of this “church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all” Eph.1.22,23. It is used in this sense in the following quotations:

      “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church” Eph.5.23.
      “Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it” Eph.5.25.
      “And He is the head of the body, the church” Col.1.18.

      The second aspect of the word ‘church’ is of a ‘called-out’ company of believers who meet regularly in a particular locality. It needs to be noted that whereas there is one Church, there are many churches (local); hence the title of this chapter.

      Such local companies are designated:
      “Churches of God”, “But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God” 1 Cor.11.16; this tells us of their origin, they are “of God”; the term “church of God” always refers to such a local company.

      “Churches of Christ”, “The churches of Christ salute you” Rom.16.16; this speaks of their possession, they belong to Christ.

      “Churches of the Saints”, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints” 1 Cor.14.33; this reminds us of their composition, they are comprised of sanctified ones, those set apart for God.

      Paul wrote that “we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones” Eph.5.30, and since no saint can be severed from “the church, which is His body”, this underlines the indissoluble relationship of the believer with Christ!

      However, it is very different when we come to 1 Corinthians chapter 5 and see that it is possible for one to be put away from the local church for moral evil, “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat … Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person” vv.11,13.

      “The church, which is His body” has eternal character. It will be brought into His immediate presence and presented to Him, glorified, “that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” Eph.5.27. The Church will be the nearest to Him as His body and the dearest to Him as His bride.

      However, it is clear that a local church can be removed in judgment. The Lord Jesus says through the angel of the church of Ephesus, “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” Rev.2.5. The solemn fact is that the possibility of the removal of the testimony is not for moral evil or for doctrinal error, but for leaving their first love.

      It should be noted that the testimony of every local assembly will terminate when the Lord Himself returns for His own: there will be no local churches in heaven!”
      – by David E. West, England

      http://www.assemblytestimony.org/?q=node/280

  • Bill Burnette
    Reply

    Wow. I needed this like a drooping plant needs water… or like man needs God, and his other children.
    Thank you for this word Mr Sauls.

  • Katherine
    Reply

    I appreciate this thought provoking piece. I’m wondering how one chooses a local church? Middle Tennessee is right in the Bible Belt, so there are probably hundreds to pick from. How does one decide on a denomination when there are so many doctrinal differences among them?

    • Andrew Alms
      Reply

      Hey Katherine, I have a couple thoughts for you and hope they can encourage your search. I had a conversation with a friend who has lived all over the world recently and until his move to the US never had the luxury of “church shopping.”

      In our conversation about why him and his family choose the church they did in our community I was really convicted of how I can tend to look at a churches outside appearance and title (denominationally speaking) as a defining factor of its value as a piece of the Bride of Christ. Instead, my friend talked about the observed fruits of the various churches he and his family had visited and how that had drawn them in a specific direction where they saw the gospel alive and missionally reaching up and out. Truth be told, I am a life long Presbyterian and currently attend a PCA church in my community, but there are several other churches that I know of in my community that are not of my denomination that I keep my eye on and gladly participate with at times, specifically there is an Anglican and Reformed Baptist church that get me really excited! As my friend put it, he and many others abroad have lived and grown in many various denominations when choosing wasn’t an option, and I can only imagine that some of the diversity of perspective was helpful in calling them to really define what they believed to be scriptural supported.

      • Andrew Alms
        Reply

        Lol, wrong key stroke meant my message got posted too soon – sorry for the typos and incomplete thought. Here is one more essential element of picking a church in my opinion.

        Do they hold to the biblical gospel essentials? You might have gathered from my last post that the other churches I follow still fall within a certain theological tradition, Protestantism, and I largely agree with other protestant denominations (I also draw hard lines with a few of them). For that reason I think I could really find growth and sustenance in most Protestant Churches that show that aforementioned gospel outworking, however, as I have grown and examined the core differences among even protestants I have also come to define some more specifics; for example, I would choose a reformed evangelical church if I had the choice and really like the Presbyterian system of government – hence my being in the PCA. Those last specifics aside, you might start by first defining what theological tradition you agree with (as far as you feel its necessary for your growth and participation in worship), and then look for churches within that scope that you believe have clear vibrant expressions of the gospel in their communities. One final note, too, don’t just jump around, find your pick and then take 6 weeks or 6 months and really get to know the church and their pastor. After all, every church is made of many sinful people and committing to one for the long haul will eventually take lots of forgiveness (from and towards you) and perseverance – but that seems to be what we are called to, doesn’t it. Blessings on your search!

  • Teresa
    Reply

    “The church is the chosen, beloved Bride of Christ. What does it say about us if the church is good enough for the Father to adopt, for the Spirit to inhabit, and for Jesus to marry…but not good enough for us to join?” Wow. Now that made me sit up and pay attention.

    Thank you for articulating so clearly what I often feebly and fumble-y attempt to say when faced with the “I don’t need a church to worship God” mantra heard so often today. Your words have provided me with several valid speaking points I can use myself when the topic comes up again. (And it will.) After reading the article through twice, I almost wished you had dug a little deeper when it came to pointing out that “churchless Christianity” is simply not the same thing. However, you did that very thing in your thoughtful reply to Faith.

  • Cindy
    Reply

    Your words best describe the church, the importance of local church, etc I’ve ever read. There are many believers even in their 60s and beyond that no longer esteem nor support a local body. I spent a few years in prayer concerning this. I became more convinced than ever the importance, privilege, and joy of being locally linked and actively engaged together in our community and globally. We can do both.
    I loved the quotes you included!!! Thank you,

  • Darrell Simpson
    Reply

    Scott, I left the church 17 years ago. I can count on two fingers the number of times I have attended a worship service over those 17 years. This coming from a former ordained minister and ordained deacon who grew up in church from day 1. I left vocational ministry 23 years ago. My struggle and journey with leaving the church 17 years ago has been real and frustrating! Your blog mentions numerous points of what the church is and what the church should “be” from THE CHURCH IS JESUS’ BRIDE to THE CHURCH TEACHES US TO LOVE. My struggle is that the reality of the church universal is that what they practice is not what you describe above. THE CHURCH IS FAMILY if you are a member of their church. If you aren’t the members probably don’t know about you because they are so inwardly focused. THE CHURCH IS A DIVERSE COMMUNITY does not square with the reality of looking up and down the pew and realize we all are really the same. We come from the same neighborhoods and have similar socioeconomic status, have the same problems and believe the same way. It seems that “Diverse” should be more about how different we are from an ethnic and socioeconomic status than what generation we belong to and whether we are educators or athletes, etc. A “Diverse” church should look more like the people you mention in your blog AND the diverse people that Jesus lived his life with day in and day out. The reality is the church doesn’t really look that “diverse.” THE CHURCH TEACHES US TO LOVE but the experience is that they love you because you look like the rest of the members and have the same problems as the rest of the members and think and believe like the rest of the members.

    Many churches say they are mission minded but their actual mission is reaching inwardly, loving inwardly, providing bible study and life group inwardly. I am a living example of how the church is only the church to those that are members. If you are not they do not reach out to you.

    Yes, God’s human creation is a sinful man. And the church is made up of sinful men. But what the church preaches, which is what you reference in your blog is simply not congruent with what is actually practiced. Jesus spent his entire day-to-day life with the marginalized and downtrodden in society. He loved them deeply, cared for them deeply and ministered to them deeply. I don’t see that when I see today’s church. The church’s makeup, behavior and practices simply don’t square with their message. I wish they did!

    The struggle is real and the journey has been difficult!

    • scottsauls
      Reply

      Darrell, thank you for your candor, brother. My heart goes out to ministers who have become disenchanted with the church…for some, it can be such a difficult and, as Paul Tripp says, “dangerous” calling! Because sheep bite. I wonder if there might be another expression of the church that could become a life-giving home for you…I don’t know? What I keep coming back to in this specific conversation is the church at Corinth — jacked up and non-gospel in virtually every way as a community — and yet never for a minute did Paul consider checking out on them. Instead, he reminds them of their identity as saints and children of God, painstakingly corrects them for their error, and loves them to life. Even with Corinth, churchless Christianity seems to be less than ideal, yes? When prophetic voices like yours that recognize the ills of the church become dislocated from the church, what chance (humanly speaking) does the church have to reform? I would maintain that the church still needs voices like yours. But regardless…I am very sorry for whatever sorrows or betrayals or disillusionment caused you to struggle with Christ’s bride. Grace and peace to you.

  • Tessa
    Reply

    Scott, I wish I could sit down with you over coffee and talk about this, because I just don’t think you’re truly hearing those who have left the institutional church. There is such a difference between leaving an organization called church and leaving true, biblical church; so many people leave the organization and still stay true to a scriptural model of church. In most cases it isn’t about choosing family, it’s about forgiving then moving on from abusive members of the family. I urge you to have more conversations with Christians outside the institutional church, and seek to listen instead of correct.

    • scottsauls
      Reply

      Hello Tessa, thank you for reaching out on this. Absolutely when there is abuse — especially without accountability structures to challenge it — it is very good reason to move on from a local church. My piece is more about Christians dislocating from ALL local churches, versus from a single church that may be unhealthy or even toxic…in which case dislocation would be entirely merited. My simple point is that biblically, every Christian should seek out involvement in a healthy local church. And where the church has imperfections (which is all churches), it becomes an opportunity to speak up to help the church become healthier and stronger. But yes, of course…if abusive or toxic and unaccountable…run for the hills

      • Edwin
        Reply

        Hi Scott,
        I’ve had these same sort discussions and it seems to come down to the definition of the Church. Many believe that the IRS approved-social-political-economic-religiously affiliated organizations in the US are churches simply because they call themselves a church.
        And many believers are convinced that their social-political-economic-religiously affiliated organization is the only true church and many have there own special tests to verify the sincerity of the member; sprinkled, baptized, membership written in the family Bible, communion by priest, communion every Sunday, attendance, etc, etc.

        It seems reasonable to me that the Body of Christ Church would consist only of believers. And since many church organizations contain unbelievers, these church organization are not Body of Christ Churches. They are simply IRS-approved-social-political-economic-religiously affiliated organizations. And all their rules for proof of membership are not key to entering the Kingdom and are no more important to our Creator than than my membership in my local grocery store points club. And it would seem that the Body of Christ Church exists within and outside of these organizations that call themselves churches.

        So if I, a believer, gather with other believers to build each other in the faith and even if our gathering is not a formal IRS-approved-social-political-economic-religiously affiliated organization, I believe this is in fact a Body of Christ Church.
        Abandoning the IRS approved-social-political-economic-religiously affiliated organization in favor of the Body of Christ Church is a good thing. We don’t have any teaching of Jesus telling us otherwise. The social-political-economic-religiously affiliated organizations should take notice and search and try their ways and examine their allegiance to the Body of Christ.

  • Marco
    Reply

    Hey Scott, thanks so much for this post. I’ve also learned a lot just by reading the back and forth in the comments. I’ve struggled with finding a church. My wife and I long to be a part of one. If I could find a church where I live that is how you describe church, I would be all in. But the churches we’ve attended and attempted to settle into end up making us feel more frustrated and depressed than when we’re not attending church. What then? It seems difficult to find a church that is how you describe church should be.

    • scottsauls
      Reply

      Marco, tell me where you and your wife live and I’ll see if I can help you locate a good church there.

  • Michael
    Reply

    Scott, thanks for this timely article. You are right when you speak about church-less Christianity as being decidedly individualistic (in your response to Faith) rather than communal. This is reflected in your quote from Donald Miller when he says that “HE connected more with God in other ways …” I’d want to add a couple emphases to what you have said. 1) God treasures the gathering of his people to worship him. Psalm 87:2 “… the LORD loves the gates of Zion more than the dwellings of Jacob.” i.e. he loves where his people gather to worship him more than their individual dwelling places. When we gather as a church to worship him, we give tangible expression to the fact that God is worthy of all praise and honour and glory. When we don’t, we rob him of glory. 2) The local church is a visible representation of the body of Christ. It is his “physical address” on earth. It’s where God’s transforming work in his people is on display and where the Gospel can be seen. She is still a stained and spotted bride with numerous imperfections but she is not what she once was, nor yet what she will be. Where else can people go to see the body of Christ and not just a few of her parts? I would summarise this way – Church is first of all about God and not about us. He has chosen to represent his global church by way of individual churches in which HE has “arranged the parts … just as he wanted them to be” and “combined the members of the body” (1 Corinthians 12:18,24). And it is through the church that he is revealing “his manifold wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” – words written to a local church in Ephesus (Eph 3:10.) I know that many have felt hurt by a local church but let’s not give up on her – God hasn’t! Instead, let’s pray for her, love her, enter into her life, give ourselves for her, and call her to greater faithfulness knowing that she is at the centre of God’s purposes and the apple of his eye.

  • Ashley Jurado
    Reply

    I am a member of a local church and agree with a lot of what you posted…especially the last point, which is the one I think the most people miss. But do have questions, because it does seem like the early church wasn’t nearly as institutionalized as current local churches are. Is that correct? I know people in our church now who were essentially excommunicated from an SBC church because they weren’t tithing enough. I’m glad they chose to find another church instead of just giving up… I know there are tons of stories like this, and I know Jesus doesn’t like the discord, but I guess I’m wondering if the early church was more organic and less bureaucratic than many churches today have become. And a second thought is to ask where a tentmaker missionary fits into this paradigm… if going into the places or neighborhoods where there is no church, what do they do? Can they not be a representative of the church (universal) where they live and work, if they aren’t a member of a local church?

    • scottsauls
      Reply

      Great question, Ashley! You’re right that the church is not meant to be overly “bureaucratic,” and yet, one of the defining marks of a biblical church is a formal, organizational structure that includes pastors and elders who preach scripture, oversee and shepherd, and when necessary and appropriate, carefully lead “grace and truth” filled disciplinary processes to restore members who have overtly strayed from the path of Jesus. As for tentmaking in areas where no local church exists…great question! Paul being the chief example of this, everywhere he went to make tents, eventually a church was also established. Thanks for your thoughtful questions!

  • Penny Phares
    Reply

    Being raised in the church, I knew a few things. As a 30 year old seeker stuck in a small town with a small church I attended with the attitude ” These people are commanded to love me.” I was unwilling to let them know I was living with a man without marriage, using illegal substances, and had never studied God’s word.

    They welcomed me, taught my child, shared time, God’s word and other food. It was never easy to fit in but it was the only local church. 30 years later I am one of the old ladies at SRPC reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. Thank you, Scott Sauls, for speaking at our summer conference 2 years ago and reminding us how the Lord Jesus loves the local church!

    • scottsauls
      Reply

      This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing this, Penny. Bonhoeffer’s Life Together is the perfect “extended commentary” on this subject.

  • Deb Mills
    Reply

    Appreciated this so much, Pastor Scott. Thanks. We have had two occasions in 33 years of marriage where my husband and I ran for the hills. As hard as it is sometimes to stay engaged with people in a local church setting, I can’t imagine just leaving and never being a part of that community. God has lavished great blessing on us through the local church and at times we have had the occasion of looking at our own sinful, self-serving attitudes when “church” wasn’t going the way “we” preferred. Lean in is exactly the answer…as hard as that may be sometime.

    BTW, so loved your book Befriend. Thanks.

  • Patti Walker
    Reply

    Amen! Amen!! My husband is a pastor in a very liberal and hard place to minister. I myself would like to leave the church at times. Through it all I run to Jesus. Are church sounds like the one in Corinth, but the Lord has us here. Sometime I think I am the only one growing But we just keep loving and speaking truth trusting God will take care of it God is faithful and His hope is a living hope!

  • Ezra
    Reply

    So good!

  • Andrew Alms
    Reply

    Pastor Sauls, I agree 100% about our call to be a part of the church and clearly advocate for that in my circles through word and deed, though another conversation that I have slowly been engaging in surrounds rather or not today’s western evangelical church is structured in the best way possible … so, not an abandonment of the church, since I fully agree that local community is inherent to the image in which we were created, but a step back to ask if many of the issues we see among us might be addressed by a shift in how we come together. As a concrete example to perhaps encourage some responses from others, too, would a more decentralized house church model better encourage deeper relational and community interaction? Obviously each structure, or model, has its downsides (such as accountability in the above example), but a basic concept of organizations is that the healthiest ones are those that are always learning and tweaking their models. Thankfully as the church we have a really good metric of measurement by which to examine and call ourselves to task and I appreciate your holding up the Word for us to do so.

  • Steven R Knudsen
    Reply

    What I have noticed about believers leaving the church is that they want to tell others about it (obviously, those that don’t want to talk about it … I don’t hear from them). We talk and share about our spiritual walk, see where we are diverse (where we differ), we plan get togethers, we pray for one another. See where this is going? A church is re-emerging. So, this idea of leaving the local church is not quite accurate. What is happening is creative destruction, and I hope people will be bound back into the church. BTW, religion means “to bind”. Sometimes it’s bad to be bound, sometimes it’s good.

  • Cristiano
    Reply

    Great article Scott! Really appreciate the write up. I grew up in the church but then looked upon it with contempt when I got involved with a college parachurch. I stayed involved with local churches but in my heart I thought “all the action” is with parachurhes that are engaged in missions. I joined full time staff with a well known parachurch after undergrad but then when I turned 29, God called me to pastor a local church. Over the last nine years, God has slowly strengthened my ecclesiology and shown me the beauty of the church. But it’s been frustrating dealing with parachurch members or staff who’ve come thru my church because it’s so clear that their view of the church is so pessimistic and shallow. Their involvement is often unedifying and they have an air of elitism and a lack of teachability. It’s a constant fight to get them to value commitment to a local chrcuh. Since I have a parachurch background, I have compassion for them but I admit it’s still frustrating. Your article really adds to the discussions Ive had with young ppl. What has your experience been with ppl from Cru, YWAM, World Race, IHOP or any HOP, etc. who interact with your church? What’s most troubling is that I’ve found my pastor peers upholding a weak ecclesiology as they consider church planting. Many of them are bitter or jaded from Korean megachurches and feel the solution is to have as little institutional structure as possible.

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