Saturday, January 3, 2009

How could church be different

In my last post I was searching for answers about why a million people are leaving church a year without joining another church. Are they leaving God? Are they just not into Christianity anymore?

The overwhelming majority of Americans seems to consider themselves to be spiritual, though there is a significant and growing minority of atheists. So are they changing to a different religion, maybe?

The answer, according to recent research, is that many, many church-goers are simply getting worn out with church. To boil it down, church has become a place where more and more people are feeling obligated to attend, watch a show, pay your money, shake some hands, pitch in with volunteering, and -- whew -- go home. More subgroups of people are feeling isolated and alienated; women, particularly educated and professional women. Young men. In fact, singles of all varieties. Divorced people, people without children, people in unusual circumstances, people with less than perfect lives, or life styles....In our packed lives, this unfulfilling, and often meaningless, ritual has become easier and easier to let fall away.

But that doesn't mean that all one million of these people -- a year, remember, a million a year -- are becoming worn out with the Lord. No, far from it!!! Many church leavers are not Jesus leavers, they are (yeah, couldn't help myself) totally Jesus lovers.

Enter the amazing book, "Reimagining Church," written by Frank Viola; preceded by "Pagan Christianity," written by Frank Viola and Geroge Barna, and to be read with "Straight Talk To Pastors," also written by Frank Viola (which is actually my favorite of these three books).The following are some musings on "Reimagining Church," which I will post in sections, since I spent a lot of time thinking....

Here's the big, big question: One bishop rule began very early in the church’s life – a mere one hundred years. Why? What was more attractive about one bishop rule than the more organic (to use Frank Viola's word) life of the church up until then?

The answer can be found in the doctrinal battles the apostles faced from the very first day, practically. Paul battled the Judaizers (and poor Peter got caught in the middle), the pagan-influenced antinomianists and the pagan-influenced ecstatic worshippers. John battled the Gnostics. Once these mighty men of faith had died, their protégés were the go-to guys for these issues.

One bishop rule must have been inevitable after that.The sheer growth of the church must have presented meeting-together issues. Once they were banned from synagogues and the temple, where would they go? In real life wealthy people opened their homes, and medium wealthy people had their homes remodeled to handle the size of the congregations. Christians were building meeting halls long before Constantine.

The next blog will talk about those issues I stumbled over in "Reimagining Church."

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