Hi Frank. I read your article on The Ooze about leaving the institutional church and I really enjoyed it. I agree with all that you said and can identify with your reasons. Some people don’t seem to get what you’re saying. For instance, a few people condemned you for being bored with church, saying that boredom isn’t a good reason to leave a church. A few others said that you basically bailed out of the church instead of trying to fix it, and that you don’t love the church, or else if you did you would remain in it and try to reform it. I’d like to hear your response. Thanks.
First, when I said I was bored with the institutional church, to my mind, that betrays the lack of life that I found there. Note that I was a part of many institutional churches representing many denominations and movements. All very diverse, yet having a very similar structure and order of worship (as all institutional churches do).
Over the last 21 years since I’ve been out, I’ve visited a number of institutional churches now and then and have even spoken in them. And this has only strengthened my resolve, not weakened it.
The bottom line is that Jesus Christ is anything but boring! He’s the most exciting, incredible, amazing Person that a mortal can know. And knowing Him in an organic expression of the church . . . where a face-to-face community is pursuing Him, loving Him, encountering Him, knowing Him, and expressing Him together is anything but boring.
Thus for me, if a ritual becomes boring, it simply means that it lacks life and should be changed so that God’s people can re-connect with their risen Lord who is anything but boring.
I affirm all who find the Sunday morning Protestant order of worship (or high-church liturgy) exciting, helpful, and full of life. But for me and millions of other Christians, who haven’t found it that way. Therefore, I would ask that they equally affirm us. We are all brethren in Christ even though we may find our Lord in different ways.
Second, regarding the other objection, this again exposes the very problem that I, George Barna, Jon Zens, and many others have sought to address.
There is a vast difference between a religious system and a way of organizing Christian worship (a la, “the institutional church”) and the Body of Jesus Christ (a la, “the ekklesia”).
I have never given up on the church. In fact, I profoundly love the church and am a functioning member within her body. It’s the institutional system that I’ve given up on and for good reason. I don’t believe it’s biblical nor do I believe it can be easily adjusted. Not without major division to God’s people and no little hostility from the top of the hierarchy.
In fact, I would say that I found her . . . the living breathing experience of the bride of Christ . . . outside the religious system.
For those who feel that the institutional church system is biblical, I would simply challenge them to show it to me in the New Testament.
I speak for millions of Christians when I say this, but we gave up on a system that we felt was tried and found wanting. Does God use that system? Absolutely. Does it do any good for people? Yes, no question. Are God’s people in it? Yes, of course.
But that’s not the question that many of us are asking. We are asking a different question. Namely, we are asking: what did Jesus Christ teach about His body and what did the apostles teach about the church and how it should function and be expressed in the earth?
Those are the questions I grapple with in my book, Reimagining Church.
My article is just a short primer. The book tells the rest of the story and uses the New Testament to articulate it.
I hope that helps.