The church of our Lord is so much more significant than an organization made by men, so much more than a building or a name or a procedure manual; it is the very purpose of God in action. Yet, in this world, such an organization might well prove to be expedient; a useful tool: Fine and dandy.
Yet no denomination or brotherhood of believers that I have ever heard of has any legitimate reason to claim to be the only group of Christ-followers. The church is so much more than that.
Of course you are free to disagree, but in my view, we must train ourselves to stop thinking of church as some kind of an institution, for the reality is that church is not an institution at all; it is movement. When our Lord went through the countryside preaching the Kingdom, He spoke Truth to the people; He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, made the lame walk and drove out demons. The word of what was happening spread like wildfire and the crowds became larger and larger. People came from miles around to hear the Truth, to be healed, to gain sight, to walk, and to be spiritually cleansed; it was a movement that even the authorities could not stop. After His resurrection, He passed the mantle to His disciples, and they did the same, even under persecution, and the movement grew, precisely because it was God’s purpose in action to save humanity from sin and death.
We might wonder why we don’t see such a movement today, a movement that changes hearts and minds for Christ, and that is a fair question for us to ask. The answer I propose is this: Movements change hearts and minds, the movement, the Way, that was the church, changed hearts and minds for Christ, until like all other movements, it stagnated and became an institution that must maintain the status quo instead.
This is why we need a whole new way of thinking about church today; we must begin to see that church is not an institution, but a movement, a movement that changes lives for Christ.
Is church a list of programs, or a set of traditions, ceremonies and pageantry? Does it really matter what style of music you have, or whether or not the preacher (by whatever name) wears robes, a suit or jeans? Is it possible to worship without candles or a certain type of décor? Do we choose a church because of its youth group, its seniors’ ministry or its bowling league?
Ah yes, the most powerful force in the modern church: The way we’ve always done it.
Yet church as a movement changes lives for Christ. The church as an institution maintains the status quo.
Many of the things in this category are matters of personal preference. When I am at home, what I may prefer gets some attention, but in the Body of Christ, we have a much higher calling than “self”. Our traditions are usually good; they are often the great ideas of an earlier time, but the real question we should ask is whether or not they still contribute to the building of God’s Kingdom. If they do, that’s great. If they don’t they are obsolete and out they go.
Programs are all well and good if they help build the Kingdom, but if they don’t, we need to try something else. To put it another way, we may have many excellent ministries that meet the needs of our community and bring healing and hope for many, and this is a very good thing. We also might have ministries that either never connected with the needs of the community, or that no longer reach the needs of the community, and we mustn’t keep them around for old times’ sake, for that is how a movement begins to stagnate and turn into an institution.
No doubt you can think of many other examples of how “the way we’ve always done things” has held our great movement back. I’m reminded of what John wrote:
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
The great question is this: How do we get back to the Movement Jesus began how do we set the Church free?