Thursday, March 13, 2008

Babies and Bathwater: Unwarranted Critiques of Modern Churches

by JM
There has been a growing trend in evangelical circles which charges the “institutional church” with the demise of Christianity in American Culture. Certainly, this is not without merit. There is irrefutable evidence that the typical church has failed to impact her culture. The question then becomes, “what is it about the typical evangelical church that renders it ineffective in infecting her communities with the transformative power of the gospel?” In the attempt to purify the church, unfortuantely some have thrown the baby out with the bath water. Among the elements of Western church that are labeled as deliterious to the church, there are these:

1. Sermons - Monological talks (i.e. sermons) that last longer than 30 minuites: "They" say that the Word of God should be shared in a discussional format. One person laboring over a passage promotes passivity, disengagement, and at the worst, is an expression of dominance.

2. The Suppression of Music/ Arts: "They" say that music and emotional expression should constitute the bulk of our time, not one man talking about the bible. To the extent that a church fashions their worship around the exposition of God's word, that church isn't worshipping.

3. Large gatherings: A church should be no bigger than who you can relationally connect to. The house church movement is the most appropriate form of church.

4. Sunday Morning Gatherings. Some say that Sunday mornings have become esteemed higher than they should. They proceed to argue that these day-specific gatherings actually have pagan roots.

5. Litergy - most "formalized" expression of worship (that aren't monastic or eastern orthodox) is a suppression of the Spirit's movement.
In light of this criticism, listen to the description of the early church in 140 AD by Justin Martyr.

‘On the day called the day of the Sun a gathering takes place of all who live in the towns or in the country in one place. The Memoirs of the Apostles or the writings of the prophets are read as long as time permits. Then the reader stops, and the leader by word of mouth impresses and urges to the imitation of these good things. Then we all stand together and send forth prayers’ (Barclay, The Letters to Timothy, Titus and Philemon).”
Notice, we read that they

1. Met on Sundays
2. Met corporately in large gatherings
3. Spent most of their time having one guy talk at them
4. No Worship Band.
5. Proto-litergy.
It's facinating to note that the church grew from 25,000 in 100 A.D. to 20,000,000 by 300 A.D. Apparently, these components did not impede the progress of the early church

May I counsel our well-intended brothers: emerge gently, thoughtfully, and graciously.