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We’ve spent the last several days discussing a variety of issues stemmed from Brenda’s very important topic of institutional churches failing to meet the real needs of their people who are suffering abuse. Quite a bit of the conversation shifted to the subject that church as an institution is the root problem as boatrocker suggests here:
For me, what I believe about the ekklesia is not based upon how the traditional church paradigm is run, but whether it should exist at all. I’m not one who was hurt by “bricks and mortar”, though I attended for 47 years, very regularly and with much involvement, as had my family for generations.
My objection is to the very existence of pastor, assistant pastors, board of directors, running a Christian organization that sits in pews every week to watch the backs of the heads of people who sit and stand on cue. It is the thing itself, not how they run the thing, that I do not find in scripture. And as noted, people are leaving the thing in droves, many of whom fall into atheism or paganism. This is serious and not a matter of mere semantics or personal preferences.
I look at the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles, I look at their actions, and I see no organizations, no committees beyond temporary bodies to address specific problems (e.g. the 7 chosen to see to it that Greek widows were not neglected). I see no liturgy, no oratory by one person on a regular basis, no “offices”, no chains, no prison doors for those Jesus freed. I see instead real people living real lives in homes, marketplaces, and public gathering places. I see families, singles, and even vigorous debate.
Above all, I see the traditional, religious structure as the root of many evils, regardless of how benevolently it may be run. It’s an institutional, paradigm problem, a matter of kind rather than degree. It’s very much like the debate over taxes in the US: flat tax vs. Fair Tax. The former simplifies the tax code, while the latter eliminates it. The former still allows the eventual return of corruption and oppression, while the latter keeps them in a very tiny box. Kind vs. degree.
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1 Corinthians 12:18-26
But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations,various kinds of tongues. All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? But earnestly desire the greater gifts.
And I show you a still more excellent way.
1 Corinthians 12:27-31
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There were a number of you who echoed similar sentiments about church as an institution while some (including me), for whatever reason, prefer church as we know it – the brick and mortar building. It dawned on me that I really do not know what this kind of “church” looks like to those who no longer go to institutionalized churches.
I am tired of the hierarchy that I see. Sometimes when I hear the words “senior pastor” from the elders at my church I want to scream and say, “KNOCK IT OFF!” But I excuse it and cut them slack, primarily because our pastor doesn’t introduce himself as senior pastor, and also the guy is a pretty darn humble dude.
So, can we talk about what church looks like – the kind of ekklesia without the hierarchy, the hoopla, the brick and mortar, the business meetings, the membership agreements and covenants?
Where do you go to church? What does it physically look like?
How often do you meet?
What about the music? I’m a musician and it dawned on me as I’m typing this that worship is very important to me.
Who runs your churches?
Do you collect a tithe?
Where are the children? How do you ensure they are safe? The last couple of churches we’ve gone to have had robust policies to protect children (background checks for those who care for children, rules for picking up kids, etc).
How do people find you?
Do you advertise your “church” anywhere?
Most importantly, what about the Brendas? How do you address the needs of the many Brendas who have real financial needs?
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Final note: when searching for scripture to use for this article, I was struck by the last line of Chapter 12 which was discussing the Body of Christ: And I show you a still more excellent way. Is this more excellent way referring the next chapter – the chapter on love? I never put that together before – they’ve always been separate for me: Chapter 12 = the body of Christ and Chapter 13 = love. Maybe whomever numbered the chapters had it all wrong and should have kept the love chapter together with the Body of Christ chapter? Doesn’t that make better sense?