I'm reading a book called, Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion. What a breath of fresh air! After a slew of books pronouncing imminent doom on the established church full of doomsday prophecies for the, I've found this book extremely refreshing.
I've read all the doomsday stuff. I've read the emergent stuff, the emerging stuff, and the missional stuff. I've read the church-planting stuff and other stuff I won't mention because I'm tired of typing, "stuff." While I have found all of it helpful in some way, these perspectives share a common a belief system:
- The established church is on it's death bed.
- It must change not only methods but belief systems
- The church should focus less on conversion an and more on "Kingdom" (defined as a deeper focus on social "justice.")
- Those who don't see things they way they do are behind the times or at worst– actually working against the Kingdom of God.
The authors of Why We Love the Church believe the institutional church needs work, but argue vehemently and rather persuasively that the arguments used in an attempt to scare established churches out of the status quo and some people out of the established church are largely hyperbolized, as are the virtues of "emergent," "missional," and other newer approaches.The authors have also written, Why We're Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be.
It's not perfect, but I am glad someone stepped up and wrote this book. Here are some excerpts from just the early part of the book (that's as far as I've made it):
Regarding the slew of recent doomsday books:
is becoming so commonplace, you could Mad Lib it:
The institutional church is so (pejorative adjective). When I go to
church I feel completely (negative emotion). The leadership is totally
(adjective you would use to describe Richard Nixon) and the people are
(noun that starts with un-). The services are (adjective you might use
to describe going to the dentist), the music is (adjective you would
use to describe the singing on Barney), and the whole congregation is
(choose among: "passive," "comatose," "hypocritical," or "Rush Limbaugh
Republicans"). The whole thing makes me (medical term).
I had no choice but to leave the church. My relationship with
(spiritual noun) is better than ever. Now I meet regularly with my
(relational noun, pl.) and talk about (noun that could be the focus of
a liberal arts degree) and Jesus. We really care for each other.
Sometimes we even (choose among: "pray for each other," "feed the
homeless together," or "share power tools"). This is church like it was
meant to be. After all, (insert: "Where two or three are gathered,
there I am in the midst of you," or "the letter kills, but the Spirit
gives life," or "we don't have to go to church, we are the church").
I'm not saying everyone needs to do what I've done, but if you are
tired of (compound phrase that begins with "institutional" or ends with
"as-we-know-it"), I invite you to join the (noun with political
overtones) and experience (spiritual noun) like you never will by
sitting in a (choose among the following architectural put-downs:
"wooden pew," "steepled graveyard," "stained-glassed mausoleum," or
"glorified concert hall") week after week. When will the (biblical
noun) starting being the (same biblical noun)?
On the established church:
part of a church-and learning to love it-is good for your soul,
biblically responsible, and pleasing to God.
And I don't mean the "church" that consists of three guys drinking
pumpkin spiced lattes at Starbucks talking about the spirituality of
the Violent Femmes and why Sex and the City is really profound. I mean
the local church that meets-wherever you want it to meet-but exults in
the cross of Christ; sings songs to a holy and loving God; has church
officers, good preaching, celebrates the sacraments, exercises
discipline; and takes an offering. This is the church that combines
freedom and form in corporate worship, has old people and young, artsy
types and NASCAR junkies, seekers and stalwarts, and probably has
bulletins and by-laws."
On doomsday prophecies:
"Again, I wish
more people believed in Christ and that the people who claim church
affiliation actually showed up in church every Sunday, but when over a
hundred million people in this country attend church at least once a
month, it seems a bit of a hyperbole to suggest that the church in
America is about to disappear into thin air."
On the seeming irrelevance to the "real needs" of society (after acknowledging some validity to the claim)
things probably are better off because there are churches on every
corner. I imagine some problems are not as bad as they could be because
of Christian programs and witness in that community. Do we assume
police officers are worthless because we still have crime or parents
are pointless because kids still do stupid things? Not at all. Why then
do we assume that the existence of an unmet need or ongoing tragedy in
the world is unassailable proof of the church's failure?"
If you get the chance. The book is well worth picking up…if for no other reason than to hear the other side to the alternatives in a common sense, plain English way.