It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fulness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful schemeing. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (NIV, emphasis mine)
1 Peter 2:9
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (NIV, emphasis mine)
“The contemporary church seldom focuses on equipping every believer for the ministry of revealing Christ to the people around them. This is a primary reason why the mainstream of our society, which is spirutally adrift, is beyond our reach.” (Jim Petersen, – Church Without Walls, pg 61)
So I’m sitting at the coffee shop today and reading Jim Petersen’s book, and listening to one of The God Journey podcasts (The Power of a Transformed Life), and watching the people around me and talking to Dad about where He wants me and how I’m going to be of use to Him and his Kingdom and the people around me etc. and I’ve made some decisions. *gasp!* Actually, I think it would be more accurate to say that I confirmed a decision that I made about 4 months ago, but wasn’t prepared to put it in concrete at the time because I knew I was still dealing with events of the previous 6 months.
Anyhoo, basically I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t want to ‘do church’ any more. I don’t want to plant another church (there are enough out there already), I don’t want to ‘go to church‘ any more, and I certainly do not want to attend/participate/be a member of ‘a church’ any more. But before you get down on your knees and start praying for me (feel free to do so at any point after I’ve clarified though – more than happy for you to talk to Dad on my behalf!), the reason I don’t want to do any of the above is that I’ve decided to ‘be the Church’.
‘Semantics!’ I hear you say (that was you wasn’t it?)! But ‘hogwash!’ I respond! Let me explain…
In my experience, even though I know that the purpose and intent of those in leadership has been to “equip the saints for works of service“, I also know that for the most part, because of the presuppositions of those within the insititutional church, it’s near impossible (not saying completely, but near on).
I’m not entirely certain of the reasons, I know that even with the best intentions of making the people the centre of what we do, for some reason, discipleship (check out Dallas Willard talking on ‘the cross and discipleship) just doesn’t ‘take’.
We run bible studies and various courses, and preach and teach and lead and invite others in, and still there appears to be an underlying assumption that ‘that’s what the pastor is paid to do’ – to pray for people, to minister to people, to be available when we want to know what the bible says on any given subject, to preach, to teach, to counsel etc. afterall, he’s the one that’s been ‘called of God’ that has done all the study, that is, in essence, the expert professional Christian.
When in reality, from what I can tell, that’s what we’re all called to be/do!
We’ve all read the ‘body’ portions within the scripture, and we’ve certainly heard various pastors preach on the importance of the body and how we’re all important, and how we all play a part, and I’m almost certain we’ve all read and/or heard of us all being ministers of reconciliation etc, and for the most part we certainly give mental ascent to these things and yet, it seems that unless we’re ‘in leadership’ within the church, then we expect that there’s nowhere for us to ‘use our gifts’.
Of course, we love it that our pastors preach this stuff, it is afterall, truth, yet, as Jim Petersen says (and I love this):
Truth is not given to increase our knowledge. It is to be lived.
So, all this brings me to the conclusion that I want to try to do this a different way. I want to do this in such a way that Jesus is the leader, he’s the one that teaches us, leads us, encourages us, and I want to walk along side others as we, together, walk out this truth. I’d also like to stay away from the natural pitfalls of being a part of an institution.
Before I finish, I’d like to clarify what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that going to church is a bad thing, I’m not saying that pastors etc are bad roles, and I’m not saying that instituational churches are not good places to go to. Without these things, I’d not be feeling equipped enough to actually try to do this differently. If you’re comitted to the process of becoming a disciple, and if you’re in a good ‘church’ with good leadership who are committed likewise, then you will become a disciple, you will impact the people around you, your life will be transformed.
My main concern is that the contemporary church has become culture bound. There are so many things that we take for granted, that are the ‘norms’ of church life, and I’m not sure how those things can be challenged when they are so ingrained in us. I’m not certain that the way we ‘do church’ and the fact that we are ‘the Church’ can be easily distinguished, and for me, at least, I think this is a necessary distinction, and one that I need to make and make clearly if I’m going to do the stuff I believe Father is asking me to.