Greetings everyone. Rob here.
One of the things I’ve been thinking about over this time is the future of church. I sometimes think we forget that the church is the embodiment of the Gospel – the good news about Jesus Christ. It is a means to an end. The body of Christ is designed to point to the head – that is, Christ. If you see the church, the idea is that you see Jesus. Of course, the results are mixed, but I sense an urgency for the reflection of Christ to become far stronger. Yes, in us as individuals, but also as bodies of Christ seeking to align themselves with the Head.
A big question is always, “What gets in the way?” What gets in the way of churches reflecting the love, hope and joy of Jesus to each other and to the world? I think part of the answer to that is structural. Another part is sinful and another part is theological. Today, let’s take a peek at structure, knowing that there are no definitive answers, only invitations by the Spirit.
Churches start out as reforming movements, but end up becoming institutions. They own buildings and property; run committees and have boards; run internally focused activities and programmes; employ staff and manage volunteers and run outreach programmes of various kinds. Good things happen. People pray and worship; they study the Word and seek to live good lives; some people hear the gospel and turn their lives around. But too often churches become more focused on being a good church than reflecting Christ to the world. Churches generally don’t mean to do this, but it’s the nature of institutions to exist for their own benefit. Here’s the thing. Bodies are meant to move. We need to turn Church into a movement again.
It’s hard to move if you’re tied down. One of the things that ties churches down is being property owners. This is where a large part of people’s tithing goes. Buildings require maintenance. Council rates, power bills, mortgages and more suck church finances into its vortex. It also takes up the time of church members. There is always a building committee, working bees and fundraising for the new carpet or new roof. The building often dictates the size of the church. Energy is spent trying to fill and use the building and then. when 80% of its capacity is filled on a Sunday, the church stops growing.
The discussion on buildings is a way to say that our churches try to be large and fixed in place. I suggest churches need to become small and nimble. We need to free up our time and resources for the wider activity of the kingdom of God, and not just church activity that isn’t always kingdom of God activity. Large, fixed churches tend towards the professionalisation of ministry. Ministry, the action of God in the world, needs to return to the individual believer in the context of a small, supportive and empowering movement. Leaders are still needed but the priesthood of all believers needs to be embraced once again.
This can work easily for new church plants but it’s harder for existing churches. However, most churches have a small group ministry. What if those small groups were empowered to act as churches in their own right? If they worship together, hear the Word together, take communion together, aren’t they a church? They can exist as a church within a church, creating movement by embracing mission. There is only a point to this if those small churches embrace a life of mission – actively and intentionally seeking God’s will in the world and doing it.
More next week.
Grace and peace everyone.