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Changing the Way We Do Church 6

It's time to finish up my series on church reform with these last two entries.  You can read the past five entries here to catch up with what I have been saying and, of course, you comments, criticisms and additions are most welcome.

The sixth step in church reformation is

6.  Move from fads, copycat programs, and trite and phony rituals, traditions and doctrines to creative initiatives in the Spirit of (but exceeding the results of) the early church.

I am 58 years old and I have known the Lord for 35 years.  I have seen a lot of movements come and go and have studied many others who came and went before I came and studied.  I have lived through discipleship, seeker-sensitive, charismatic, cells church, signs and wonders, and house church movements. I have seen spiritual "stars" and "celebrities" come and go with their followers willing to follow them off a spiritual cliff.

Today we have missional, emerging, G12, reformed seeker-sensitive and a few more that I am not even aware of.  I have studied the Reformers, the Quakers, the Shakers, the Salvation Army, the Christian Missionary Alliance and the Methodists, They have been launched, matured and taught by sincere men and women whose heart was to create an expression of the body of Christ that was consistent with biblical principles and their interpretations of the same.

The problem I see is that as soon as one of these emphases or movements is started, people flock to read and study them so that they can copy, emulate or assimilate their "best" traits, which are the ones that "work" best.  Others flock to attack the new movements, and the blogosphere is full of people devoted to one philosophy or another. 

My only recommendation is that we keep on seeking, listening and innovating where church growth and evangelism are concerned.  Don't just do something because someone else is doing it and they are having success.  For example, I have seen so many churches with the attitude, "We pray or worship a lot in our church and God is blessing it.  If you prayed or worshiped like we prayed and worshiped, God would bless you and you would grow, too."  Suddenly spiritual prayer becomes a technique and it loses its spirituality.  Then books and conferences on prayer-growth or worship-growth appear and people buy or attend them to learn how prayer or worship can "work" for them, too. People then become part of the prayer-growth-worship movement to the exclusion of everyone or anyone else. 

Then the prayer-growth emphasis becomes a movement and maybe even a denomination, which then regulates how you pray for effective church growth (or even non-growth -- some churches don't want to grow).  Finally, I have heard many churches state that they want a New Testament church.  I understand what they are saying, but I don't want a New Testament church.  I want a church that exceeds those results.  I don't believe that the early church met in homes because we should only meet in homes.  I think they adapted to what they had and they were successful.  Now we must adapt to our culture and do what they did:  prove that we can present a relevant gospel to our generation.

Whatever church emphasis you adopt or follow, please make sure it's a spiritual exercise and not some shortcut that exempts you from seeking the Lord for yourself.  And when you adopt it, don't try to make it an iron-clad, no exceptions philosophy that condemns or criticizes those who don't do it like you do.  If it is Spirit-led, then follow the Spirit and keep your eyes on Him.  If it isn't, well I've seen enough of those in my lifetime and I'm not interested in feeding any more of them with my enthusiasms or loyalty.  And I've had my expectations shattered again and again by men (and women) who had the "word" for the day, only to crash and burn when their initial insights could not stand up to the test of time or human limitations. 


Felicia Linch

Dear John,
interesting reading and for me very timely. I have been concluding that Church where I live,especially the Charismatic/non-denominational church,is getting a little formulaic; ironcially something that Charismatics/Evangelicals and non-denominational churches have often criticised the so called Orthodox church (Catholic and Church of England/Anglican)on for years.

I take heed to your call to find something that does not lock out the working of the Holy spirit, that doesn't merely stick to rules or tradition or become a copy cat; whatever church emphasis we follow. my prayer is that the 'Church' really will unite as the body of christ and that whatever approach we follow that as the body we can grow, share and learn from these different expressions of love, worship and service to our Lord.

I have read with interest the book: "So you don't want to go to church anymore"- wayne jacobson, and also his blog which is What I love is the way they express their decision to step outside what is often called organised church- they want to share the Gospel with others and 'live life loved', i.e.knowing the Father loves us, and that Jesus loves us and that its not performance based.

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