Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Dis-organized Church

This is a day in which people are leaving what they mockingly describe as "organized religion" in favour of loosely organized gatherings of a spiritual nature. While I am not in favour of all that takes place under the banner of the established church today, this recent phenomenon is a step backward for the cause of Christ. There is much to be said, but let's briefly consider some thoughts about this topic.

In general, the dis-organized church is made up of groups of people meeting here and there with no real leadership, doctrine, or practice. They tend to talk a lot about Jesus, love, and social action, and they closely follow Christian pop-culture.

1. The dis-organized church tends to be made up of disgruntled people from a variety of local organized churches. Yes, unfortunately it is true. People that are happy in their home church don't leave in search of the dis-organized church. Instead of encouraging these wandering souls to go back to their church (assuming it was a Bible teaching church) and make things right, the dis-organized church unethically latches onto these lost sheep even while their shepherds (pastors) are seeking their restoration. As a result, the disorganized church has a higher incidence of negativity, bitterness, and unresolved issues.

2. The dis-organized church is dependent upon the organized church. Generally, the groups that make up the dis-organized church have no building for funerals, few (if any) Biblically competent leaders, and no resources of their own for such things as camp ministries, counselling, book publishing, schools and colleges. The unethical practice of taking resources from the organized church while walking away from and defaming it is an issue that the dis-organized church must face.

3. The dis-organized church tends to attract leaders that have had difficulties in the organized church. Sometimes they have been injured by the very people they cared for and are looking for a place to heal. For those in this situation I have great sympathy, but there is a better way. Others have themselves caused pain and injured former ministries within the organized church, and for this reason are not fit at this time to lead. Whatever the reason, the disorganized church tends to have little or no Biblically qualified, competent, and steady leadership.

4. The dis-organized church in general has little if any emphasis on the preaching of the Word of God. Usually one of two things happen. Either an emphasis placed on worship (read this "music") and dialogue about Jesus (not the totality of Scripture), or they find high profile preachers and teachers on the internet and follow them in a haphazard fashion.

5. The dis-organized church accomplishes little in the areas of ministry and evangelism. This is a function of their aversion to organization. If there is no sense of a larger mission for the group that everyone is expected to embrace and sacrifices to achieve, there will be much talk but little accomplished for the cause of Christ. Results come from organized effort.

6. The dis-organized church has trouble with balance. Because the dis-organized church has a hatred for leadership it gets blown around a lot. The group gets caught up in each new wave of spiritual fads that come from a cultural Christian commericalism. Each new book, blog, or teaching series affords a new tangent for the group to persue. Rather than being steadied by a broad doctrinal base, the group is found to be rushing about madly in all directions.

7. The dis-organized church is missing key aspects of what constitutes a New Testament church.

Authority - The New Testament model of church planting is that of established churches birthing new churches by means of men selected by the Holy Spirit, commissioned, and sent out under the authority of the already established "mother" church. Churches give birth to churches. Much hurt has come from church splits and rogue preachers trying to start their own church without the support, endorsement, and foundation of an established congregation.

Doctrinal Agreement - A church is more than a group of people assembled. Those people have to be agreed on some basics in doctrine, otherwise the gathering is no more than a spirit themed party. Doctrine is the backbone of the church. Love is the hands attached to that skeleton. To get those backward is to truly put the cart before the horse.

|Discipline - The New Testament shows us that part of the body life of a church is accountability and discipline. Scriptures lay out the ground rules for this aspect of the church. In general, however, the dis-organized church is full of people who are there because they would not make themselves accountable to spiritual leadership and discipline. The dis-organized church is not the maverick new movement it pretends to be, but rather it is a movement of passive, self-focused rebellion against spiritual authority, structure, expectations, accountability, and discipline.

8. The dis-organized church has a best-before date stamp on it. In most cases, if not all, the dis-organized church is demographic specific. Most times those who are taking part are in the twenty to forty age bracket. For many reasons (that we will address in another blog post) the demographic specific church does not have longevity.

My conclusion is simple. Although many (because of their complaints about the organized church) love the idea of striking out on their own and having a loose, non-committal, spiritual gathering each week. This does not constitute a Biblical church. It may be properly called a Bible Study, Prayer Meeting, or Spiritual Gathering, (All these terms are very generous labels given what generally takes place at these events.) but to call this kind of gathering a church is Biblically inaccurate. Simply put, the dis-organized church is not a church in the Biblical sense.

What is a Biblical definition of a church? A church is a group of born again, baptized believers who voluntarily associate and  assemble under Biblical authority, leadership, doctrine, and discipline for the purpose of building each other up in the faith, observing the ordinances of baptism and communion, and  proclaiming the Gospel worldwide.

(DISCLAIMER: I am not in this post referring to the house-church. There are house churches, that are engaging the whole of Scripture, meet the benchmark to be a Biblical church, and are actively trying to share the Gospel. I am thankful for those who are making these efforts. Many, if not most of our present, established churches began in this fashion.)

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