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Comment highlight: Hindering the church from being a greater witness to the world?

Posted by on Sep 16, 2011 in comment highlights, definition | 7 comments

Comment highlight: Hindering the church from being a greater witness to the world?

I want to highlight (what I think is) an awesome comment left by Scott on my post “The exclusivity of the modern local church.”

In that post, I had argued that the modern concept of “local church” tends to separate Christians from one another, such that we see each other as ekklesia (“church”) only when gathered within the context of that “local church” (but not a subset or with another group).

At the end of the post, I asked two questions. I’m not going to repeat them here, but Scott includes the questions in his comment.

Here is Scott’s comment:

Alan, you asked:

1. Do you agree or disagree with what I’ve written here?

Yes, I absolutely agree. The evidence in scripture for this kind of exclusivity is scant to non-existent. And if we think of the Christian faith in terms of a movement (which I think it is and was then) rather than an institution then this makes sense. Also, Jesus (in contrast to the religious leaders of his day) seems more inclusive than exclusive to me.

2. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree, what would happen to the church (ekklesia) if we treated the assembly (“church”) as less exclusive, as I’ve talked about here?

I think a beautiful thing would happen. The church would have a greater witness to the world! But as long as we have expensive buildings and salaried pastors (I am one so this is not stone throwing) it is likely to be impossible.

There is a reason for the exclusivity you describe. It is inherent to our practice of “church.” Our practice of church today creates a competitive and protective mindset that just can’t be ignored. We have too many obligations (debt, salaries, programs, membership rolls, etc) to provide for. There is a motive behind keeping it exclusive. It’s not right and I hate this (I struggle with it all the time), but it’s the way things are.

absolutely agree

What do you think? Is the exclusivity of the modern “local church” inherent in our practice of church today? Does our modern understanding of church create a competitive and protective mindset? How do we help one another move away from that, or should we?


7 Comments

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  1. 9-16-2011

    I’m always perplexed at the fear many local church leaders demonstrate at the notion of someone leaving to attend a different local church. Couple that fear with the understanding many local church leaders have about “church growth,” and you have a competitive and protective midset. In their minds, they will fight anything that poses a threat to “lose anyone” who may be inclined to leave.

    But, according to Paul’s instructions to Timothy and Titus, the “growth” leaders are responsible for is spritual growth and accurate teaching of the truth, not how many butts are in the pews, and thus the financial support that comes with that.

    I believe this is, in part, behind much of the pandering many churches do to their audience.

  2. 9-16-2011

    Dan,

    I think you’re right. While many (perhaps most) have good intentions, it’s hard to deny the competition and protection mindset.

    -Alan

  3. 9-16-2011

    Dan, you bring up a great question. In my experience the fear of many church leaders is in part (not always and not in every situation) in response to the congregation. Church members expect pastors to produce – attendance, dollars, programs, etc. This creates a lot of pressure not to be concerned about the making of disciples, but to be concerned with growing the organization.

  4. 9-17-2011

    Scott,

    That’s a good point. I think the relationship between leaders and others can shift into codependency, if we’re not careful.

    -Alan

  5. 9-17-2011

    Alan,

    Scott is so on target,as is Dan. Scott’s reply to Dan is very pertinent. In a reply to me a few days back, you mentioned failed pastors. The pressures placed on pastors have a large bearing on many of the failures, regardless of whether falling into sin, or burnout.

    Psychological and physical factors, which affect their spiritual strength, have never been understood, or even taken into consideration, in the traditional pastoral scene.

    No human being is, or can be equipped, or prepared for what is expected, without falling apart in some way, and feeling completely unable to speak about it, even to peers in ministry.

  6. 9-17-2011

    Aussiejohn, you are spot on.

  7. 9-18-2011

    Aussie John,

    You’re absolutely right.

    Scott,

    He’s usually spot on. I’m praying that God moves him to North Carolina. :)

    -Alan