Toward a Better Church

‎Recently I was directed to "My Next Church" by Kent Williamson. It's an article expressing what Williamson views as the ideal church and all of the faults in many churches. Faults most of us can relate to.

He proposed an admirable goal for his next church:

My next church will actively engage the culture. It will not wait patiently for seekers or the lost to wander through it’s doors. No, instead it will prayerfully seek them. It will not abandon the arts, but instead will actively pursue them, both in creating them and experiencing them. It will attempt to live culturally relevant lives, not to be seen by the world around us hip or in, but in an attempt to become all things to all men so that more may come to know Him.
Finally and probably most importantly, my next church will be about the great commission and the greatest commandments. It will actively pursue making disciples (not merely converts) of all men. It will actively be about loving our neighbor as ourselves. And it will actively attempt to love the Lord our God with all our heart soul and strength. The message of my next church will not change, but it’s methods will."
That is what church is about, but the ideal church he projects gets distorted in the midst of pointing out his many frustrations with the church. He wrote that his next church "will discourage argument for arguments sake over the finer points of theology that have divided so many for so long."

Will it not have enough time to talk about finer points of theology because it will too busy dividing and condemning others on finer points of ecclesiology? I'm not picking on Williamson. I believe that he expresses thoughts that many discouraged and disillusioned Christians have about the church. But in barraging the church with such vitriol, people who desire the church to be more than it is substitute one poisonous, divisive fruit for another. It is just as detrimental to divide over lesser points of theology as it is to divide over lesser points of church structure.

Williamson writes:

My next church will meet in the community. It may gather at a coffee house, a restaurant, or a neighbors yard today, and a playground, a theatre, or a parking lot next time, but the focus will not be on meeting to cloister ourselves from the world. 
Williamson would have to meet at an everchanging venue to find his goal of a church being about the great commission and the great commandments. Having an established building to gather in rather than a mobile, spontaneous gathering is irrelevant to us reflecting the Kingdom of God and being the people we are called to be. The Church can be found in a mega-church, a small rural church, and a group of Christians that don't want a formalized community and choose to meet in a coffee house one week and a parking lot the next. Praise God for His diversity and glory in His victories all around.

I hope that Kent Williamson finds the Church, but I also hope that he hasn't missed the Church around him because of his strict ecclesiology.

What I see in a lot of the "sanctuary church is evil" conversation is that the argument is based on an ideal structure that is not given in Scripture. 

The hermeneutics that would be needed to state that a church should not have a building is the same hermeneutics that leads some groups to think that baptism is essential, participating in the Lord's Supper must only be on Sunday, and instruments cannot be used in the weekly worship gathering. It is the idea that if something is not explicitly stated in the New Testament or wasn't in practice with the early church, then it cannot be implemented today.

Personally, I wish the church where I was a pastor at didn't have a building, but we have tried to transition the building into being a missions center for the community rather than a place that is only used on Sunday mornings. We now house a Kid's Clothes Closet to provide clothes to children in need. We have invited in a daycare that will be able to provide childcare to families in need and also help pay for the building. We are open to more uses of the facility that can bring God glory. A building is a big expense. We must realize that it is only a tool. It is an expensive tool, so we better get a great use out of it for Jesus' glory. We must never forget that it is just a tool, neither moral or immoral by itself. It's moral or immoral based upon what we use it for. 

The hermeneutics that are against having a paid minister goes contrary to Scripture. I was an anti-paid minister person for a while. It was something I had to wrestle with when I felt God calling me back to the ministry for my livelihood. I didn't want to do it because I strongly felt that ministers shouldn't be paid. That was me forcing the Scriptures to say something that it doesn't say because I wanted the church to be something other than what it was and is. Once we start forcing the Bible to agree with the pain in our past from abusive Christians, we can miss the bigger picture. Let us not fool ourselves. These abuses can occur in the institutionalized church or in a freer form of church. 

A clear church structure was not given in Scripture. I would presume that was intentionally done by God because we would get legalistic and divisive over our interpretation of it. Instead, we are given the Holy Spirit who guides us and works all things for the good of those who love Jesus, the head of the church. The key for a healthy local church is to have the people who gather together living with Jesus as their head. When that is the case, the arguments over structures become meaningless. Hence, a local body can be mega, mini, transient, or some other structure.

We see through the epistles that God works locally. This means that what would be a vibrant community in one area might not connect with the people in another. The church cannot be cookie cutter, but it must be diverse. There are some elements that should never change from church to church, but most of what a church appears as is cultural. Cultural elements can change. It is essential that each local church is under the Lordship of Christ, or the church will just become a comfortable club (usually not social). I am happy to see people connecting to God in exciting ways in different settings. All believers are God's people no matter what structure or non-structure they find themselves living in community with other believers in.

We could have the best structure or non-structure in the world, but without the people who call themselves followers of Jesus really surrendering to His Lordship, it would all be meaningless. It is through surrendering to Jesus and living radically that lives and institutions, including faulty churches, will be transformed into His image. Let's get to surrendering.