The Distracted Church

Scott was thinking about church yesterday. So now I’m thinking churchy thoughts. I’ll let Scott go first.

Scott said that Stanley Grenz, noted evangelical theologian, said that evangelicals do not have an ecclesiology. In other words, evangelicals don’t know much about the doctrine of the church.

This causes some musing on Scott’s part:

“What I’ve found interesting is the number of people who have left that church who have not reconnected anywhere, who have not yet joined another community of faith or who have but remain relationally and spiritually disconnected. And I have to wonder at this, on some level, even as I understand quite intimately how difficult that process of reconnecting is. Is it that there are no communities of faith in our area where people can find a home? Or is it that there isn’t enough of a sense of the significance of the ekklesia to push them to reconnect?”

He goes on to take his own stab at church:
“Here’s what I think the church is: The church is the community of people who are gathered in Christ to image God to a watching world.”

To a certain extent, I would agree with Scott and/or Stan. The evangelical church’s sense of ecclesiology is weak. How else could business principles infiltrate the church to such an extent?

My own view is that we have settled for far less when it comes to church. That is why a lot of Christians find themselves on the fringe of church. It’s not so much that they lack a conept of the church, they have a rough idea at least. The problem is they cannot reconcile their own congregations with the true function of the church.

That helps explain why we have lots of Christians who complain about church, but don’t do anything proactive.

I have already stated on this blog that the church is God’s people. Our first responsibility is to be the church wherever we find ourselves. That includes worship of God and loving one another.

Unless we can figure out how to live as the church with one another, then I can’t see our gatherings having much value. That is why large congregations are back-peddling to build small groups. We have learned that just squishing everyone under the same roof is not enough in order “to be” the church.

We are looking for something and we know it’s missing, but we can’t quite put our fingers on it. I think part of what we long for is to simply be the church with one another.

And think about this. We have all kinds of “churchy” things to do that may pass as “being the church,” but are really just jobs. I was a worship leader, but I was not good at being a member of the church. I was wrapped up in quarrels with people who didn’t like contemporary music. They weren’t good at being the church either. With perfect hindsight, I’ve encouraged other worship leaders in similar struggles to just stop all music for a time. Address the problem of unity while the smoke-screen issue is removed.

Churches also become wrapped up in preserving themselves and their programs to a certain degree. Every program added is something else to maintain. Every square inch of facility is something else to occupy time and money. Then we discover that our church lacks a sense of community, so we tack on small groups. We keep everything else though and give only a portion of our energy to the one most important thing: intimate worship and community with the church.

In my opinion we aren’t quite sure what church is all about. Church attendance does not mean we grasp ecclesiology. It may. But it may also mean that we are stuck in a tradition that has taken on a life of its own.

We all have vague notions of what church should be, but we become distracted by all the extras that church has become or all of the parts we dislike about it.

5 thoughts on “The Distracted Church

  1. Randy

    I agree with most everything you posted. As do many of the people that I associate with. How is it that so many people from different areas all share similar feelings regarding church?

  2. andrew

    yes … a strong ecclesiology, and a deep ecclesiology is needed . . . but i also see a lot of talking about what church could be and not a lot of evangelism and relation building with outsiders.

    there are a lot of people DOING church but not having the "conversation" about it.

    still, i am glad people are now getting serious about ecclesiology.

  3. Ed Post author

    In response to Andrew’s comment . . .

    I think a shift in ecclesiology may help with evangelism and consequently church planting.

    Neil Cole’s book , Organic Church, has changed how I live, pray, and think of evangelism and church. I am actively involved in praying for churches to be planted in two locations right now and a big part of that is praying for people to receive the Gospel as I share it with them.

    In other words, once I realized that churches can be planted almost any where and with any mix of people, so long as they are in relationship with God and seeking him out, I have been much more proactive in my approach to sharing the Gospel.

    So in my case, a shift in ecclesiology made sharing the good news a heck of a lot easier.

  4. Bill

    Ed, I have no idea what the word ecclesiology means. Quite frankly, I don’t care. It all goes back to John 3:16, Ephesians 2:8,9, and Romans 10:8,9.
    But, you’re involved in prayer for two locations. Right on, only God can do it. Go boldly,if He leads you to do the work.

  5. ScottB

    Ed – good thoughts; I posted some related comments on my blog.

    andrew – I’m glad for the folks who are doing church, but I think there are a lot of others who aren’t and perhaps need that prophetic imagination (to borrow from Brueggemann) to stir them to action. Talk and action don’t have to be disconnected – in fact, maybe that’s part of the problem. What do you think?

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