Interacting with the Postchurch Perspective: A Necessary Conversation

If you have read my books Pagan Christianity, Reimagining Church, and From Eternity to Here, then you are aware of two things:

1. I believe the church that the New Testament envisions and that God has had in His heart and mind from the very beginning is quite different from the typical traditional church of our day (which I have dubbed “the institutional church”).

2. Many “simple churches” and “house churches” (so called) do not embody the church after God’s own heart either.

In light of the above, I’m an advocate of what I call *the organic expression of the church* which I’ve written about extensively, especially in Reimagining Church.

That said, there is what I call “the convenient substitute” on the planet today. It’s postchurch Christianity.

The postchurch “church” is neither an institutional church nor is it an organic church. It’s something else. I call it the “phantom church,” the “ghost church,” the “nebulous church,” and the “amorphous church.”

Click here to read the unedited article I wrote on the postchurch perspective

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Comments

  1. says

    Frank,

    Read Pagan and reimaging. I am now trying to work through post church. I like Neb church the best. I think it is crucial that we operate organically and not just see error in institutional church practice, form and function need to happen to make art. Beauty is found in these vessels of clay that hold God’s image and His Spirit. We need to bring that beauty out. The battle is still raged against us to keep us silent. We must not use our freedom to sin and hide our talents or we will not see redemptions beauty and power.
    Hoping for a brighter day, pressing on, lead by His great love.

    Martin

  2. Jubilee says

    I guess I should elaborate that any expression of the church that we finally get all figured out and near to what is actually on God’s heart, if it comes back down to, “now that there is a group representing a functional organic church in your neighborhood you MUST be part of it” there is something in that which will instantly become somewhat unhealthy; being part of “church” in the NT was something that arose organically because people WANTED to be with one another and were finding their association with one another to be life-giving and filled with the nurture of Christ flowing to and through each one – but it was desire that motivated it, not some sort of “thou shalt be part of this type of expression of church”…

    • says

      Jubilee. It seems to me that you’re reading all of this discussion through a grid. No one has said or implied that they have it all figured out. And no one has made a Law out of this. Far from it. You’ve put it into very legalistic terms — terms which I myself would strongly disagree with and everyone I know who belongs to an organic expression of the church would as well. I hope you will take the time to read “Reimagining Church” and “From Eternity to Here” as it will help you to understand the larger context behind the discussion and the spirit behind it. It will remove the grid as well.

  3. tommyab says

    D. Boyd, can I attempt an answer ?? I think you’re pastor demands are soooo typical.
    He sees for sure that there is problems, his diagnosis about “difficult people” is right, so he asks for more activities… In my mind, it only accelerates the rotation speed of the vicious circle institutionnal churches are in. In a New-Testament-church, the only engagement necessary is the engagement toward Christ, and all the rest comes naturally… it is like the first months of a new human couple that are in love, they do things naturally.

  4. Kimberly says

    Frank, I just found out about your book (Pagan Christianity) and have ordered it. I’m sure when I read it, it will answer this question more fully, but in the meantime, would you point me to a blog post of yours that shows a quick sketch of what you envision the authentic Christian church to be? Thanks so much!

  5. Dominique Boyd says

    I love your one another test for ekklesia. Live in harmony with one another, care for one another…forgive one another, teach one another….

    I have a question: Do I need to “undifficult” myself before entering into ekklesia (or a great institutional church that is going organic)? I ask because my pastor asked the congregation, in essence, why we are not engaging (leadership, sunday school etc.). He asked, is it because of difficult people? I smiled because I feel like I have been the difficult person. So, I wanted to undifficult myself prior to engaging. Comments anyone?

  6. Jubilee says

    Hmmm.
    Well, I think “the church” maybe is more organic than we give her credit for sometimes. I see her gloriously marching forth when her members are gathered together in Zion… but I also see her expressing her otherworldly nature and beauty when her members are isolated from each other at times but still following the Head. The Kingdom flows in all the places she goes, so long as she is being faithful to Him. Sometimes her faithfulness to Him is see as each one clings to the others in fierce devotion and lays down their lives for them…and sometimes she is just as faithful to Him as she throws off those who try to shackle her heart to a form or formula (even one touted as organic) and goes into the wilderness as individuals. Is she not marching as one, even when she is only marching one by one?

    Community that comes from the recognition of the Christ in each other will always have its counterfeits in those who try to create community with manmade commitments and forms, whether the label is organic or otherwise. She is free. She adapts, and morphs, and appears – disappears – reappears….does she not?

    • says

      Jubilee. I really don’t understand what you wrote nor your question. It doesn’t appear to interact with the specific points made in the two-part article.

  7. tommyab says

    post-church way of living christianism should be only a desperate and temporary situation, where we as christians are heartfully seeking to live the church as it is described in the book of Acts,…

    it is mistake to forge a theology that justify the individualism and the lazyness of the post-church way of doing church

    there is many christians in the institutionnal church that try to obey God in their “church”, but are perfectly aware that their church should never be described as what God wants, and therefore they refuse to justify their church with a twisted theology…

    it should be the same for a christian who is in a post-church situation

  8. tommyab says

    we just have to read about how much Paul was passionately into the *ecclesisa* in the epistle, and we there have a hint about how much God himself is passionate about Her…

    We read Paul’s heart in 2 Corinthians, or 1 Thessalonicians, or Ephesians, … and we cannot stay untouched…

  9. Darlene Muffler says

    Honestly, I ‘m not sure what everyone is expecting from church… of any kind.
    I am the church. We are the church.
    I have found the greatest gift I possess is the ability to seek God wherever I am.
    Most thankfully I have daily revelations of how richly He lives in me and through me. The immeasurable passion to accomplish His perfect plan and perfect purpose in the indiividual lives of His family thrives in our personal willingness to know Him.
    I am most blessed and highly favored to always be where He is.
    He has never left me nor forsaken me.
    God is in us and working through us. That is the revelation of the gospel of Christ.
    Of all the places I go and find what I need as well as what I want from God I have found no place equals the foot of the cross.
    Wanting to stay there long enough to receive and embrace as my own the kind of love that stood in my place of punishment, and accepted my death as His own begins in me, in my passionate desire to be in a genuine relationship with my Creator, the Lover of My Soul.
    Try viewing the Passion of the Christ without the audio on….be still and know I Am…look at the women and their willingness to step into the sufferings of Christ.
    I’ve only met a few precious men willing to stay at the foot of the cross, and witness the kind of love that never fails.
    How I thank God the Father for all His sons and His daughters.
    Isn’t it really all about how we live the abundant life of Christ, now?
    The intimate choice of placing God first, above everyone and everything, daily.
    How can I even begin to love His family, my neighbors, as Jesus commanded, until I first enter into the width, the depth, the height, and the length of His love for one such as me.
    How can we imagine the immeasurable, fact, God is Love,
    He first loves us and names us as His very own, before the foundation of the world.
    Thank you Frank for your faithfulness.
    Blessings abound.

    • says

      Darlene, thanks for the kind words, but I must respectfully disagree. Some of your statements are classic postchurch … the very thing I’m taking dead-aim at in the article. You are NOT the church. And neither am I.

      If Christ dwells in us, we are *members* of His Body. But … the “ekklesia” the NT envisions is a LOCAL community of believers who live a shared life together and who meet together regularly.

      That’s what the church is.

      The NT knows no other kind of church. I’ve spent a great deal of time trying to convey this very thought as well as the idea that God’s eternal purpose is bound up with the ekklesia, i.e., local communities of His people assemblying together regularly and living as a community under the Headship of His Son. Not as a doctrine, but as a reality.

      If we miss this, we miss everything as it relates to God’s highest passion.

      It’s very hard to get this idea across in some quarters. We are up against a mindset. A formidable one. It’s either the institutional church mindset or the postchurch mindset. Both prevent us from seeing what God is after with respect to *His* ekklesia.

      Postchurch is really individualism on religious steroids. As such, it’s incompatible with authentic Christianity, which is intensely corporate. Of course, the typical institutional church fails here also.

      Hope that helps.

  10. Jim Gray says

    i agree…that is why we must go back to Scripture …i’ve been teaching through Acts this summer and it’s been very educational

  11. says

    Clarifying my comments from wherever that was that I was on facebook commenting…

    I am guilty of reading a bunch of authors but not, in this case, of blending them together. When I wrote “logical conclusion” I probably should have said, “inevitable conclusion” about the connection between “post church” and your first two books. I would also say that my opinion is also based on those I’ve had conversations with who I would describe as “post church” none of whom would describe themselves that way. They selectively quote your first two books to me and assure me that if I would just “detox” from the “institution” I’d see they, and you, were right.

    Again, when I tell them I’ve read your books and agree with most of your conclusions they assure me that I’m just not getting it because I still meet with people in a rented building on Sundays at 10 a.m. This, I’m assured, is NOT organic. I’m not confusing you with them and I think your clarification here will be interesting to follow to see if those “detoxed” and those of us still apparently “toxed” will hear you saying the same thing.

    • says

      Thanks Brian. I think some people skim books or read them through their own grid. In short, I don’t understand how someone could carefully read “Reimagining” and conclude the postchurch view as something that the book advocates.

      For instance, this is a quote from page 40 of “Reimagining Church.”

      “Postchurch Christianity. This paradigm is rooted in the attempt to
      practice Christianity without belonging to an identifiable community
      that regularly meets for worship, prayer, fellowship, and mutual edification.
      Advocates claim that spontaneous social interaction (like having
      coffee at Starbucks whenever they wish) and personal friendships embody
      the New Testament meaning of “church.” Those who hold to this paradigm
      believe in an amorphous, nebulous, phantom church.

      Such a concept is disconnected with what we find in the New Testament.
      The first-century churches were locatable, identifiable, visitable communities
      that met regularly in a particular locale. For this reason, Paul could write
      a letter to these identifiable communities (local churches) with some definite
      idea of who would be present to hear it (Rom. 16). He would also have a
      good idea of when they gathered (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 14) and the struggles
      they experienced in their life together (Rom. 12—14; 1 Cor. 1–8). While
      unbiblical in its viewpoint, the postchurch paradigm appears to be an expression
      of the contemporary desire for intimacy without commitment.

      Organic Expression. Throughout this book, I will argue for this particular
      paradigm. I believe that the New Testament is a record of the church’s
      DNA at work. When we read the book of Acts and the Epistles, we are
      watching the genetics of the church of Jesus Christ expressing itself in various
      cultures during the first century. Because the church is truly a spiritual
      organism, its DNA never changes. It’s the same biological entity yesterday,
      today, and tomorrow …. “

  12. says

    I’m glad that more people are becoming disenchanted with the state of today’s church. Personally, I attend church services out of a sense of duty. What I hear every Sunday does not bear any resemblance to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

  13. says

    Thanks for this article Frank! I think this is a very common problem, especially for those of us who haven’t experienced much in the way of “organic expressions of the church.” I think this is an issue I, as well as the community of people I gather with, have struggled with. We are seeking to get past it and to begin experiencing and expressing Jesus in an organic way. Your writings have been a great help!

    Tob

  14. Steven Shytle says

    Well said. After reading your books, I realized how I immediately fell into the Postchurch mindset. I am so glad that I realized that it in no way felt like the experience you define as organic. It felt artificial. As I have moved on, I see in hindsight how easy it is to sink into the Postchurch mentality.

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