I recently read an interesting article in Charisma Magazine about the differences between going to church and being the church. I found the contrasts to be very enlightening and thought I would share some of authors conclusions with you.
While the author uses the term “box store” churches to describe the modern churches fixation on buildings, budgets and numbers, I think that is a little over the top. I am going to refer to church system where he uses “box store” and retain his term Kingdom centered believers for those who understand the role of the church quite differently from the church system. I have paraphrased the following remarks based on the article.
1. The church system understands church as the place you go to. The Kingdom centered believers understand they are the church. The church system makes us think in terms of church primarily as a building we go to.
2. The church system focuses their energy on presenting a Sunday worship service as the central emphasis of the week. A Kingdom-centered church equips believers to live out the Gospel Monday to Sunday every week. A Kingdom centered believer realizes that worshipping God doesn’t just take place one morning a week, but instead is a condition of the heart that motivates and drives all that he/she does.
3. In the church system, only the professional clergy are ministers. However, the Biblical concept is that all believers are to be equipped to minister for God.
4. Unfortunately, all too often in the church system people become dependent upon the minister to interpret the word of God. Kingdom-centered believers understand they are responsible for learning and discerning the teachings of pastors and teachers. They study on their own, participate in small group study and seek God’s guidance through prayer.
5. In the church system only Sunday (or Saturday) is celebrated and sacred. In the Kingdom centered view every day is seen as a sacred opportunity to demonstrated God’s love to the world.
6. I found number six to be especially important for thinking through the contrasts. In the church system people go to church to be encouraged and filled. In a Kingdom centered worship service the believers are equipped for service to bring the lordship of Christ out into the community.
There is nothing wrong with being comforted and supported in the worship service as long as we don’t expect that aspect of church to be the central core of our church experience. The church, when filling its commission, is to be a place where we develop skills and knowledge that we can use in our daily lives and share with others who need Christ.
7. In the church system there is a great emphasis upon expanding the program of the church. The Kingdom-centered church understands that believers are to grow. The church system focuses upon getting more and more people to the building and having larger and larger services. I wonder what is the point of having thousands of people sitting and listening to a minister if they are not equipped to be disciples to a lost world.
8. In the church system the Bible is used to give a sense of escapism while a Kingdom centered use of the Bible is about being stewards of the earth. The Bible gives us directions on how to live upon the earth and experience inner transformation so that we have an impact upon our culture. The church system makes our comfort and well being the central core of their teachings while the Bible centered teaching always makes Jesus the core.
9. The church system focuses on bringing the community into a building. The Kingdom centered church focuses on sending the believers to serve.
10. In the church system a pastor is called to shepherd a congregation. In a Kingdom centered church the pastor is called to shepherd a community.
I found this very insightful. As a minister I was trained to think of pastoring the congregation. When we think in terms of our responsibility for the community, however, our whole concept of service and calling changes. Instead of seeing ourselves huddled up with our church members we begin to see ourselves as ambassadors for Jesus.
11. In the church system believers come to escape their problems. In the Kingdom centered church we learn how to become problem solvers.
The author of the article lists a number of other differences but this short list gives us a good insight into what he is attempting to teach. Do you agree with his conclusions? Do you think he is too critical of the church system? I would love to hear your views on these eleven points and how you relate to them.
Personally I was encouraged by his emphasis upon seeking a deeper connection with God that drives us into the world and keeps us from huddling up in the security of our churches. We can become very introspective and self-absorbed when we think everything spiritual revolves around our church building and beliefs. We can easily begin to think that everything in the Bible is about us and we are the standard bearer of the good news even though we do little to proclaim it to the world.
It is only as we take the gospel into society that we begin to understand the Bible’s message is much bigger and more inclusive than our denomination or local church. We are part of God’s ministry but we are not the whole ministry. It is delusional to believe that people will flock to the church while we are barricading the doors to keep the world out and our church pure. As disciples of the Kingdom of God we are commissioned to carry the gospel out into the highways and byways. We are not commissioned to build architectural monuments to our egos and desires.
* Please remember our Christian brothers and sisters in Christ who are being persecuted for their faith. Some of their stories can be found at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/