–Daniel S. Ferguson
I get about 19 billion daily requests (those are rough figures) to join some group or align myself with some community that advocates Christianity without organized church.
My first response is always, “Isn’t that organized church?”
I mean, you can’t call yourself a community without some level of organization, no matter how inclusive, and you can’t call the people in that community Christians without that community being termed a church. That’s pretty much the definition of church, no matter how you slice it.
So there’s that. But there’s also the bigger problem. I’m greatly interested in the fact that people are generally leaving the church and leaving the faith, but I’m completely fascinated by the fact that so many are leaving the church WITHOUT leaving the faith.
Or, at least, they think they are. How many times has this happened now? Orthodox Christians left the church. Protestants left the church. Anglicans left the church. Puritans left the church. Anabaptists left the church. Baptists left the church. The Church of Christ left the church. Pretty much every non-denominational church left the church. And so on and so on and so on.
My point is this: you can’t get Christians together for Christian purposes without it being a church. You can call it whatever you want, but it fits every definition of church there is. And thanks to the internet, “getting Christians together” is no longer an issue of geography or chronology. It’s just an issue of clicks.
So, yes, that online community of people who have left “organized religion” but still believe in Christ is still a church. It fits the definition.
This is important to both groups.
First, to the established churches that people are leaving. It should be important to you that people are leaving you and forming communities independently of you. They aren’t crazy, and they aren’t small. They’re often hurt by you and spurned by you and pushed out by you. You may not think you did anything wrong, but the results pretty much speak for themselves. You can’t write off this group anymore. They’re growing by the day, and they largely did so because you dismissed them.
Pay attention to them. Get outside your bubble. Listen hard and love harder. Don’t just invite them to church; invite them to coffee. Don’t disparage their choice. What they’re doing is still church. It just doesn’t look like your church.
Second, to the ‘unchurching’ community, stop with the nonsense of saying that you’re not a part of organized religion anymore. You are. You’re intentionally gathering together (largely online) in a community of people to discuss how to live life with Jesus. That’s organized religion.
Also, realize that established churches aren’t so bad, and they are making good changes. It’s slow and painful, but so is anything worth doing. Don’t dismiss the traditional church; without it you wouldn’t exist. The church gets a lot of (well-earned) crap for doing harm to the world and to individuals, but I hold that it has done more good than harm.
Far more. Just look throughout history and the world today and watch the church step in. It’s really amazing what Christ has done through his body, the church.
And now to both groups, realize this: you’re both the body of Christ. You’re both necessary. You’re both part of the capital ‘C’ Church. Now please stop hitting each other.