You name it, someone is hawking it!

by drwinn on March 2, 2015

Let me begin by sharing that the following information is partly theological speculation. No one has the “whole” truth on any subject (See Roger Olson’s Theology and Speculation on Pathos). My friend Ed Cook suggests:

Dogma is what MUST be believed to be considered a Christian. I doubt that their are more than 4 or 5 true dogmas. Doctrine is what MUST be believed to be accepted into a group of like-minded Christians. Opinion is…oh well, you probably can define that one for yourself. I am appalled at the number of Christians who label others not to be Christians based on differences of doctrines or opinions.

So, when I think about the church as institution, it seems to me that the churchworld (read institutional church) of today has little if anything that maps back to the original conception of the church in Scripture. Today’s churchworld and church has been conflated and thought of as the same thing. In today’s world, when the word “church” is read in Scripture or said in conversation, the reader/speaker thinks that the reading or saying of that word means what she/he knows as church today. Over the centuries, the word “church” has been hijacked by the churchworld. What we see today is a faint shadow of the biblical author’s idea of calling the first followers of Jesus a church (ekklesia).

You name it, some is hawking it!Take USAmerica politics as an example. The church of the NT variety (there is not one model to be found therein) was not political (think: republican, democratic, or progressive). The churchworld in our contemporary USAmerican society is impregnated with politics, each of the political parties trying to reduce the others to non-relevance all the time co-opting God to their cause. All of them are guilty. Followers of Jesus are leaving the churchworld at an astonishing rate. The churchworld with all its political party slants is so full of noise that one can hardly hear the message of the gospel. The followers of Jesus are living a wrongheaded idea of its existence, as they gather like zombies in their buildings Sunday after Sunday. Everywhere in the churchworld, folks are clamoring for their niche with their agenda. You name it, someone is hawking it. Remedies galore are offered as we live in a society marked by religious pluralism, ethnic diversity, and cultural relativism.

The organization of local churches, as well as the denominations they belong to and even those who do not claim denominations, are all clamoring for new folks to sit in their pews practicing stuff that even God is most likely not interested in. At the same time, thousands of folks, some of them the most active and dedicated folks, are exiting the churchworld while hanging on to their faith in Jesus.

We think about the church (read building) that sits on the corner of walk and don’t walk in our neighborhood is the church that the New Testament talks about. It’s not! The stuff that is done on Sunday in every conceivable form of church service is straight jacketed with the same forms of activity. It is no wonder that there is a massive exit going on. The churchworld has swallowed the blue pill and it is choking on it. It should have taken the red pill.

Is there any good news? Yes, it’s the gospel of the kingdom. It is an alternative storyline from the cultural storyline that the churchworld seems to have adopted. The good news is an event has happened that has changed the world. Jesus has summoned humankind to be a part of a new and different reality. This news is not about advice on how to refurbish an interior life (a Greek dualistic thought), nor about giving good advice on present day life (read: 4 steps to…), nor is it about making sure that one’s future is secure with God in heaven. It was an event that happened and because it did, the world is forever a different place. The new dimension of the kingdom presented by Jesus tells the story of his coming, about what would happen as a result of that coming, and the moment of time lived that occurs between those two ideas. 1

The message of the kingdom is the only gospel that Jesus commissioned his followers to proclaim. Living into this story is the focus of a follower’s life. Is that the story the churchworld proclaims?

The church as the New Testament writers proclaimed was a group of followers who met occasionally to debate and discuss how their transformed lives could be lived in this new reality. The focal point of the churchworld, which is Sunday morning, does not offer this kind of an intimate interaction but rather follows a pattern that has infected the churchworld from outside its New Testament roots. By the way, don’t get present home churches or small groups within the churchworld as the idea of church that the Scripture shares.

If you are one of those who have “stepped outside the system” or are contemplating “stepping outside the system,” leave a comment and tell others who are walking the same journey what your thoughts are.

Notes:

  1. N. T. Wright. Simply Good News. HarperOne. 18-21.

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