I hope this post makes sense when I get through with it. Seasons of de-construction and re-thinking (like the one I am in) can sometimes be exciting and illuminating, sometimes scary. Sometimes I feel like I’m dwelling in utter chaos inside, with no point of reference, wondering which direction “up” is. Add a little sleep deprivation to the mix, and…let’s just say I hope this doesn’t end up sounding like I’ve been spending too much time in the poppy fields.
But as I take a different look at what I grew up in, and compare it to a fresh look at Scripture, one thing that seems to be showing up in my mind over and over is how much we (by “we” I mean the church) are missing the point. A lot of that point-missing, I’m convinced, is largely due to the institutions we (again, the church) have been encased in. And because I’ve been part of that system for so long, I have to include myself in “we” and admit that I’ve spent a great many years “missing the point.”
Here are just a few examples of what I’m thinking about…
- The plan of most churches is to buy land and build buildings, set up programs that will draw people into those buildings–which, in turn, brings in more money, so we can build bigger buildings, hire more staff and have more programs to bring in more people and more money to have more buildings and more staff and more programs to… (ad infinitum). This cyclical pattern causes us to make church size the goal, and we measure our success by how many people are coming each week. Missing the point.
- We build bowling alleys, tennis courts, state-of-the-art video arcades, and even things like merry-go-rounds (in the children’s department) for the stated purpose of drawing more people and helping the “community”. Most of the “community” we’re drawing are existing believers who come in from other, smaller, more struggling churches that can’t “compete”. Most non-Christians still won’t come to our bowling alleys because it’s “church.” Missing the point.
- Because of the high costs of land and mortgages, as well as swollen payrolls and budgets, church leadership increasingly makes decisions based on the financial “bottom line” rather than how to best fulfill the commissions of Jesus. Pastors and leaders become financially dependent on their church machines, and instead of seeking ways to disciple people and help them be Jesus to the world, the goal becomes to keep people (and their money) in the church by whatever means possible. Missing the point.
- Instead of letting Scripture be our plumb line and trying to interpret its meaning and live our lives by it, we become convinced of an opinion and “interpret” Scripture to back up what we already believe to be true. Missing the point.
There are many other ways I believe we are missing the point, but…you get the idea.
So…you might be thinking, “Okay, big shot, you’ve done so well at pointing out where we’re missing the point…so what is the point?”
Umm…I’m still figuring that out. (Remember, I did include me in “we.”)
Actually, I do think I know what “the point” is…it’s just that I can’t say I have all the answers as far as how to flesh it out.
For the church…I think the point is JESUS. To draw close to Him as individuals, and to help as many others as we can to draw close to Him, too. Everything else is just details. And the problem is not that buildings and programs are inherently bad, but that we are letting the details get in the way. And that’s how we miss the point.
But fleshing that out, as I said, is what this whole re-thinking process is for me. How do we get back to making Jesus the point and not get wrapped up in the details? The first step, I think, is to step back, look at the complicated mess, and see what we can do to simplify. For us, it’s gotten WAY simple. Doing house church for 8 years shows you what you really need as opposed to what is shiny and cool to have. It really changes your perspective on what’s important.
In future blog entries, I hope to tackle some of the “fleshing out” part of this. For now, though…let me just say that simplifying and returning to the “point” is more than just doing less stuff or streamlining our programs. It’s about simplifying our thinking, learning to keep the main thing the main thing–going back to what Jesus actually said and how He lived, and from that, find out how to live that out in our world and culture. I think it’s a lot more simple than what we’ve made it to be.
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