A recent Christian Science Monitor editorial asks, “Who needs church?” My answer: without a radical revision of purpose and practice, no one needs church, in the way that church is currently formed and expressed.
The usual caveats apply. I understand that vibrant churches exist– churches that are alive in the Holy Spirit, churches that are changing people’s lives and transforming communities. These are churches that have died to the old ways, and have risen to new life for a new day. They have embraced “not-knowing”– realizing that the church in North America can no longer rely on the old package of tired answers that perhaps one day in the past was sufficient, but which no longer serves. We live in troubled times, and the church has been slower than slow in responding.
While these vibrant churches do exist, and while the deep warming glow of the gospel of Jesus is as relevant to human flourishing as it has ever been, what we have received as the function and practice of “church” is not adequate to that gospel. Too often the church acts like a club, and while it may be a community, it is a community that must be committed to giving itself away. Many people love their church too much, and the gospel not enough. In that instance, you end up with a church that a few people want to preserve in the name of nostalgia, but that no one else needs.
People need the good news, not the church. Or, more positively: people need the church to the extent– and only to the extent– that the church is the direct and immediate expression of the good news. People need the church no more than that, and no less.
An excerpt and the link follow:
Who needs church? The purpose of church may not be apparent in everyday life. But there comes a moment when we all wonder if everyday life is all there is. Church is waiting to help answer that question.