We Christians love our church establishments. I really do get it. I grew up in it. I was mentored in it. I went to seminary and everything. BUT, it needs to change. It has to. Remember Yellow Pages? Sure you do…if you’re 25 or older. But, when’s the last time you used it? Information has been democratized. Now, there’s no need for an advertiser to pay to have their oversized ad placed on cheap yellow paper delivered to every doorstep in their market. The medium is obsolete, but the information still has value. I can hear the thought right now, “Did he really just compare the church to the yellow pages? That’s ridiculous, the church is sacred. Don’t relegate it to the place of paper marketing products.” Is it the church that’s sacred or is it the person and way of Jesus?
What if the church, as it is today, is growing obsolete? And what if that’s necessary?
The person and way of Jesus and the information about him is of great value, but the medium by which it’s delivered is losing steam. And, it’s ok for it to change.
Look, I know I’m fighting an uphill fight here. I feel like the guy in the picture above. I’m beating my head against a wall. And some will take that wall and beat me over the head with it. But, I think we are in the habit of perpetuating homogenous insular communities and miss the opportunities to engage the world around us in constructive dialogue around the person and way of Jesus. Additionally, we miss doing life within our communities in the very same way Jesus did.
What are we to do? Do we say, “Well, this is what we’ve got so let’s do the best we can with it”? Or, do we diverge and build something new? Right now, as a popularized Christian culture, we’re in the habit of improvement by iteration, just being a bit different or better than the church down the street or the generation prior. Those small changes only pander to our resistance to change.
Why did it take Jesus living and dying on earth to catalyze a movement to a new view of God and faith in light of the oppressive religion of his day? Then, over the next 1500 years the church again grew into an institution/religion. The faith world again necessitated change. Why did it take Martin Luther nailing the 95 Thesis on the door at Wittenberg to spark the Protestant Reformation? Over the last 600 years we’ve again grown into institutions. Fragmented and packaged in endless ways, and at our worst divisive, but united in the idea that the church institution uniquely and sometimes exclusively serves as the medium for the work and way of Jesus. Will we content ourselves here?
Jesus was not content with what he saw in his day. He referenced it, he built upon it and he flipped it upside down. Martin Luther was not content with the system ruling his day and sparked a revolution that democratized religion. Will we content ourselves with the status quo? Will we stay where we are because it’s what we know? Will we not consider change?
What if churches transitioned to training centers where one could go to learn then go out and live? Call it trade school for the soul.
What if those who believe in the person and way of Jesus as salvific lived outside the walls of insular communities?
What if those believers opened themselves to discussion, relationship and community with those of vastly differing views?
What if faith communities gathered as dynamic collectives of questioners engaging their worlds not in debate, but in dialogue around the person, way and impact of Jesus?
What if the purpose of church is changing?
What if the question wasn’t, “Oh, you’re a Christian? Where do you go to church?”, but rather, “Oh, you’re a Christian? How do you follow Jesus?”
Things are changing. Better hold on tight…not to established preservative practices, but to the person of Jesus. It’s going to be a wild ride!