Last week, our hero said,
In the church of tomorrow, the pastorate is going to collapse under the strain of its own inefficiency.
After that happens, everything is going to go to pot. There are going to be a hundred different alternatives to the old pastorate, and some of them are going to fail spectacularly. A lot of them are going to look at lot like the current pastorate, but the differences are going to be crucial. I mean, it's not like 400 year old denominations are going to just fade away. Remember, though, that none of those denominations are more than 500 years old - except one.
In the end, one general pattern is going to succeed. The doctrinally agnostic fellowship group is going to rise. It is going to be characterized by high standards for entrance, and lots of opportunity to be busy for the Lord.
In part one, I asserted that the pastorate as it is currently exercised will fail to keep up with GenY Christians. I'll grant you that this may be wishful thinking on my part, and that a betting man might be wise to put his money elsewhere. So, for the sake of argument (only ;-) let's assume that the pastorate is doomed to survive.
My second assertion is that the doctrinally agnostic fellowship group is going to prevail.
Ya'll know that my dream is for saints to quit driving across town to love the Lord with their doctrinal allies. You know I want people to start fellowshipping with their believing neighbors - nearly daily, and in ways that might change the world.
Today, let me do what I meant to do the other day.
A friend of my son's was grilling me a little on my wierd set of beliefs. It was a joy to talk to someone genuinely interested in why I would want something so odd as a neighborhood church.
He brought up the usual assortment of counterpoints, but he did it pretty well.
What if someone starts teaching error?
I contend that serious error is the domain of theologians and denominations. More specifically, serious error begins when money enters the picture. If I am your brother in Christ, why do I need to split the hair's breadth of difference between whether you are saved by grace through faith, or by faith that comes through grace? Why do I need to discern whether you believe in inerrancy or infallibility to call you a brother?
If you believe Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God and if you take His Word for your guide for life, then we can start the business of loving Him together. One of us may make a mistake somewhere, and the other will make a mistake somewhere else, but we can proceed down the Way.
Ah, but if I am a pastor of denomination A, then I have to distinguish myself from denominations B through Z. Now we have a marketing battle on our horizon, and don't think it doesn't happen. Suddenly, the church is about product differentiation. Our church is more friendly, more accurate, more worshipful, more missional, more doctrinal, more, more more.
They say that to err is human, but to really mess up it takes a computer. Even so with Christians. We all err from time to time, but it takes a denomination to lift those talking points up from the earth, and draw all like men unto them.
The right answers that separate Methodists from Baptists are worse the errors that they might have made together.
But nobody ever did anything like that before.
I am not an archaeologist, but I am given to understand that early Christianity tended to gravitate to a given quarter of the city. There was a known "Christian quarter" in Antioch, for example, and in Rome. Whether it has been done since then is immaterial to me. If it was good enough for Antioch, it's good enough for me.
I drool to think that all of the Christians in Columbus might buy up every available house in the most depressed part of inner Columbus. It would give us something to do that could make a difference. It would give us good cause to materially help each other with some home repair at the very least! It would send a clear message to Columbus that the church is a real thing, and really cares. And we would be close enough to real people to love them. Mostly, though, we would be close enough to each other to really love one another. That is worth its weight in diamonds.
But what about our witness to our neighbors?
Seriously? What witness to our neighbors?
No individual can really be a witness to his neighbors. Even if his witness is perfect, the neighbors cannot help but ascribe his loving deeds to his nature. But when a church steps out, that is a witness!
I know each and every one of my neighbors, and they think well of me. It took me a while to do that, because it's hard for me to walk up and be friendly to people. But, I got it done.
They all know I'm a believer.
What is it about the fact that I am a nice guy that will teach anyone that Jesus Christ is Lord over a people who really know how to love? What is it about a half-million Christians spread liberally across Columbus that will give the slightest light to any of them? Can we inspire them when they know that we hardly talk to each other? What about when my neighbor knows that his neighbor two doors down is another type of Christian, and that we don't talk to each other? How does that fulfill Jesus command/prophecy that they will know we are Christians by our love?
Nah. That won't fly.
We need something different.
Denominations are killing the church. If you don't believe it, just look at Pepsi-Cola company and your nearest mega-church. The only difference is the budget. It's not about product any more for either of them. It's all about "customer experience."
I'm 42. I'm past the age of idealistic declarations, and yet I would endure anything to see our denominations stripped of their majesty. The majesty is not His. The blood that keeps them running is green. Dollars flow through the smallest of denominations (in the largest of denominations) in a way neither Peter nor Paul could ever have imagined, much less robbed from each other.
I know I'm a fool to hope that anything can take the denominations down, but hope I must. What I won't do is ever believe that it is Christ that preserves them. They rest on dollars. They move on dollars. They even pray on dollars. And obviously, they pray for them.
I'd better stop. I try only to get this wound up in person.
But, remember me talking about football and advertising? Yeah, I wasn't thinking about football and advertising. I was thinking about the denominations. 33,000 of them, and growing every day in division, cunning and wealth.
Lord save Your church.
+ The church that is a member of a denomination is not the object of my ire. They need to be rescued, not rejected.
+ The saints who service these denominations are not the object of my ire. They may be making bricks without straw, but they are doing it unto the Lord.
+ Money is not the object of my ire. Money has never loved me, nor Christ's church, but it's never hated us either.
+ It is the act of denominating that kills us.
I don't believe the church of tomorrow will foreswear denominations due to spiritual insight, but because of greatest diress. And when the trial comes, I will hate it as badly as the next guy. But when the church emerges from the ashes like the gold of 1 Cor 3, I will weep with joy.