Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Church, Business or Body?

It seems that there has developed an epidemic in the church, a situation that is proving to be dangerous. The epidemic is nothing less than a consumer-based conception of church attendance. This plague is fueled by a misconception of the nature and reality of the church.

The first misconception of many Christians who have grown up in this modern era of self-satisfaction is built on a cultural rather than a Biblical view. For them the church is nothing more than a service organization, a business that dispenses a spiritual product for a consumer-minded audience. They attend, looking for something to satisfy themselves, and when their satisfaction is not attained they will “shop around” for another organization that will “meet their needs.” It’s like going to McDonald’s and not being pleased with the level of service. Without any difficulty, they will seek out another fast-food source that will satisfy their demands.

Another misconception is built out of a modern idiom that states: “The church is a hospital for sinners not a hotel for saints.” This saying implies that the church is nothing more than a place for the lost, sinful world to find healing (spiritual, emotional, etc.). This is a good thought and a necessary function, but when a person is healed they have no need to remain at the hospital and leave to find more pleasant surroundings. So, though this is an understandable expression it lacks a Biblical point of view.

Both these current conceptions of the church center upon a need-based paradigm that focuses on the interests of the “client” whose only reason for coming is to satisfy their desires. Many ministries and ministers are currently functioning along that same paradigm, striving to make the church something that will keep people around, with their needs met and their self-interests fulfilled. The Apostle Paul may have experienced this same issue when he wrote to the Philippians concerning church members: “For everyone looks out for his own interests, not the interests of Christ” (Philippians 2:21).

But what does the Bible say about the church? There are many titles associated with the church, many references and images that the Word of God uses to describe the nature and function of the people of God. Words such as: Bride of Christ, House of God, Temple of the Holy Spirit, Pillar and Foundation of the Truth, Assembly of Believers, Holy City, Royal Priesthood and a host of others are used, bringing a stirring and remarkable understanding of what the church is meant to be. It is imperative for all believers to abandon the notion that the church is simply the spiritual version of a fast-food restaurant, organized to dispense a product, made to cater to the whims of personal preference. Christians must return to a Biblical understanding of what the church is and what it means to belong to the Body of Christ. “So in Christ, we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Romans 12:5).

The church, ultimately, must first be identified with the Lord Jesus. As Romans 12:5 states, the church must be “in Christ.” It is impossible for a lost person to be considered, even remotely, as a part of the church because they fail the first qualification: being “in Christ.” Second, the church must be united in their association with one another. The church is: “we who are many.” There is a definite reality of the church being an amalgam of personalities. Yet, the “many” form “one body.” That is, though different in personalities, the church is united in nature—forming a cohesive organism that is singularly devoted to one another. It is difficult to believe that a person is a member of the church who has no desire to be collectively associated with the rest of the body. And for believers who are associated in spirit as well as function, it is delightful to recognize them as belonging to the body even if they have no “formal” declaration of membership.

Escaping the mindset of consumerism church attendance and returning to a Biblical view of belonging to the church is the only way to stave off the epidemic that has found its way from our culture to our congregations.

Rev. Michael Duncan

1 comment:

  1. It is amazing to me the number of young (and not so young) people who are going back to square one,to form their own home groups. They are fed up with the political side of organized church and religion and simply want to get back to the basics. Truth. The Word. Praise. Worship. Prayer. Loving one another. And then a sending out into the world to live and work, etc. as Christ would have them live and work, etc.