The Church: A Face-Lift Won’t Do!

I’m a church guy. 

But honestly, I’m like most. I have my struggles with the church. Some days I’m inspired by her, other days I’m tempted to turn and walk away from her. 

Yet I still really, really love the church and really, really believe in her.  

However, like someone going through detox, it’s undeniable that the church is in the middle of some major convulsions. The tremors are everywhere.

But as a lover of the church and a long-time practitioner within the church, I don’t want to be just another voice smugly pointing out her problems or standing on the outside launching grenades over the wall. Anyone can do that. I want to be part of the solution and play my part in a much needed revolution.

So let me offer a few things (one in this blog and another in the next) that I think today’s church should reconsider. 

We need to start by returning to a biblical understanding of the church.

I agree that many of the voices challenging today’s cultural assumptions about the church are certainly needed. And trust me, I understand why so many people are so disappointed with the church, and why so many are even outright abandoning the institutional expressions of the church. As a pastor and someone who “represents” the church, let me be the first to say, “The church has some real problems today!”

But one thing that concerns me is that many of the remedies being offered to “fix” the church don’t seem to be informed by a clear and solid biblical theology of the Church. Instead, many of the proposed remedies seem to be driven by personal preferences, practical pragmatism, compliance to cultural pressures, or catering to christian consumerism. (You may want to read that last sentence again! )

Many of the remedies focus on style or structure. More candles and less choirs, more organic and less organizational, more spontaneity and less liturgy (or in some cases more liturgy and less spontaneity), more dialogue and less monologue, more experiential and less doctrinal, more comfort and less cost, and etc….

I certainly believe the current conversations about reshaping the church are needed, but my concern is that concentrating on these external modifications may be missing the mark.

 Are we focusing on a face-lift when a heart transplant is needed? 

 

In a book Chuck Colson wrote several years ago – titled The Body, he describes the church’s identity crisis with these insightful words.     

No perception is more firmly rooted in our culture than that the church is a building – a view held by both church and unchurched. It’s no surprise that nonbelievers don’t really know much about the church’s identity or mission. But when Christians themselves are undergoing a widespread identity crisis, then we are in big trouble. For this confusion strips the church of its authority… The hard truth is that we have substituted an institutional religion for the life-changing dynamic of a living faith. Therefore, there isn’t a more urgent or critical task than the recovery and restoration of the biblical view of the church.  

I would propose that a return to the Bible and what God instructs us to do as followers of Jesus and members of His body must be the motivation for and the blueprint from which the Church is reshaped.

I do believe that returning to the biblical understanding of the church will ultimately reshape many of the programs, practices and structures of the church, but let’s just make sure we are starting with the root issues and working our way out from there.

So what should be at the heart of the church?

To fulfill Christ’s mandate to make disciples, who in turn make disciples. Without this understanding of the church’s main mission and a radical decision to return to it, just reshuffling the chairs on the deck of a sinking ship won’t remedy our problems! It’s similar to miss aligning the first button on your shirt. If you don’t get that first button properly placed, nothing else lines up right.

The same is true with discipleship. Without discipleship at the heart of the church, everything else we attempt to do will be out of alignment and all of our efforts and activities will ultimately fall short.

This first suggestion isn’t the complete remedy, but if we would return to a biblical definition and true expression of the church we would well be on our way to a historic reformation.  

I long for that. I hope you do as well!

Sincerely Submitted,

Ken L Roberts

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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11 thoughts on “The Church: A Face-Lift Won’t Do!

  1. Hey Ken, I'm hearing and reading a whole lot of shaking going on in the church. but discipleship has always been Christ's calling to us all, following Him always brings us to make disciples.

  2. Ricky

    I agree. Some good things happening in the church: a return to the basics with making disciples and being disciples at the core.

    Ken

  3. Thanks again, Ken. You really have a finger on the pulse of something. All cardiac jokes aside, I agree that the church needs a transplant. A heart transplant to be specific. I'm sitting here this morning at our homeschool co-op (a Para church organization, if you will), and I haven't been able to get one thing off my heart. It seems that the church and its para organizations are far more concerned with putting a warm body in a job of some sort than they are with ministering the Gospel to people's hearts. Isn't that the whole basis of discipleship?

  4. In my opinion…
    One of the churches primary jobs is to be a source of "Living Water" both to its members, and to the world around it. In a sense, the Church is the "hose" or the delivery system for that water. It doesn't matter if it's a big hose, or a small hose, a green hose or a blue hose, the only criteria for a successful hose is whether or not it does a good job of delivering the water. Water is an apt metaphor to describe matters of the Spirit, formless, shapeless, yet somehow still a powerful force.
    When we feel inadequate to describe the very subjective aspects of "living water"
    I think we choose to rely on the more objective aspects of church, sometimes even mistaking them as the source for life.
    But the "hose" is not where life comes from… it's the water, and living water flows from Christ.
    All we have to do is check the couplings, make sure there are no obstructions and make sure it's firmly connected to the Source.

  5. Mark

    THANKS! What a great metaphor. I agree. If we/the church aren't pointing to or helping people connect with The Source of Living Water, then are words, actions, systems, doctrines, and everything else become an obstruction to the true Source.

    thanks for your comments and interacting with me/us via my blogs. I appreciate YOU!

    Ken

  6. I've been in several churches over the years, and most emphasize 'being there every time the door is open." Unfortunately, that has made for a lot of Christians that don't have time to explore God much outside of the church because they are too busy trying to be a good Christian. It wasn't until a nasty, horrible "church split" that left me basically out on my own with very few friends (I'm single), and a deep seated anxiety about returning to church because that would mean I'd have to subject myself to more Christians….that I discovered that I was missing that relationship. I had grown too dependant on the church for my relationship with God, and once that fell apart, I had nothing. I still am in the growth part of this relationship – and have had my very life and faith rocked to the core, been at the point where I've wanted to give up several times -but something keeps my going. I just started going to a "non-traditional" church that doesn't follow a lot of the rituals of the regular church and it seems to be growing by leaps and bounds. People are searching for something real….even Christians! It's time the church focuses more on what's inside than how it appears outside….

  7. Sharon

    Thanks for your comment. So sorry for your journey with church but glad you've stayed with it. I totally agree we have to focus on the inside and not the outside.

    God's ongoing blessing and growth to you.

    Ken

  8. My experience as a minister and counselor with some 1000 pastors of 28 different denominations says…
    1. Most pastors do not teach the church how God says church is to be done
    2. Most pastors have not been taught, or understand. why churches do what they do

  9. Great post Ken! I am glad that we can trust the Lord's promise that He is returning for a Bride that is without spot or wrinkle. It is fun to know the end of the story about the Church. It is kind of like having an iron-clad investment tip on the future of a company. It is more than worth buying stock in it since the future for it is so bright – no matter how underperforming it looks now. And of course, it is His Bride.

    I told a very religious friend recently that being over critical of the church without remembering who she is, in reality is like telling the Lord, "I looked up your fiance's dress and I think her legs are fat!" You would probably be a lot more careful and tactful than that with a man hopelessly in love…

  10. Tim

    I totallly agree! I love the church because she is His bride! And as you posted we know how she turns out…pretty remarkable!

    Good to hear from you. Trust you're doing well?

    Ken