A friend of mine just told me he was reading a book called Jesus Has Just Left the Building, and asked me my thoughts. It’s another of these (unfortunately, increasingly popular) books about how somebody has gotten disillusioned with church, and left the “organized church” for…something else, I’m not sure what. Now, here’s the disclaimer: I haven’t read the book, and I’m not sure what the “something else” Paul Vieira has left for is. Fine. Maybe he’s doing what I suggested in my response to my friend, I don’t know. But there seems to be an increasing number of folks who call themselves Christians who are chucking church because they’re disillusioned with it. Well…without saying anything else, I’ll just let you read what I wrote him:
1. These types of books/sentiments are becoming more and more common.
2. I understand the frustrations. I sympathize with many of them.
3. This is one of the reasons why Red Oak is different from a lot of churches in some ways (and probably could/should be in some others, frankly). Yesterday, we had a lady and her son, homeschool speech folks, visiting from Orlando with the McLeans. They have left “traditional church”. She loved Red Oak, the informality, the round-table, look-people-in-the-eye format. The fact that we closed with an extended session of prayer. The fact that our music, though “canned” without live instrumentation, drew attention to Jesus and not to singers. I was thrilled. I’d like to think that Red Oak is, or at least is on the way to becoming, the kind of church that such folks could be part of and say, “yeah, you know, church can be something different.”
4. I think that leaving the church outright is a dangerous overreaction. What I’d say to these folks is, “disappointed with church? Sure…I get it. So am I, many times. So…start one that works right. Incorporate the basic essentials, and leave off the nonsense that you find frustrating. Preach/teach the Word. Worship in simplicity. Do it in a home if that works for you. Observe the ordinances. Commit yourselves to Jesus and each other. If you do those things, you’ve got a church. But you need a church; don’t toss out the baby with the bathwater; just give birth to a baby that looks differently, that meets the Scriptural minimum requirements for a church.”
I have a lot of leeway for differing expressions of “church”; hey, I’m in the middle of a church that has changed some of those things myself. If I waved a magic wand, I’d probably change a few more; fine. But chucking the whole enterprise? A dangerous mistake, I believe. Talk amongst yourselves…