Monday, April 09, 2012
I'VE LEFT THE CHURCH
A second myth pointed out was that it is typically believed that if Mom and Dad were church goers their children would grow up to be also. The research found to the contrary that the influence of church going parents grew very weak eventually and that the effects church-going parents had on their children apparently disappeared under later influences such as marriage and peer groups which became more important to them as the years past by. I'm reporting what I read remember.
A third myth shown in the research is that the leavers are NOT people who lacked commitment to the group left. Ninety-four percent [94%] of those interviewed had been involved in significant leadership positions within their churches and 40% of them had a year or more of a position on church staff, with a para-church group, overseas missions assignment or had studied in a Theological Seminary somewhere.
I can't vouch for the accuracy of the research or even the conclusions drawn from it. Someone reading this post may be able to find other researchers with differing opinions. But what no one can doubt is that people are leaving the Church in bunches according to many reports today. George Barna says the same thing and he's the god of statistics with regards to church-life. Right!!
My problem with all this is not that people differ on numbers or categories. I don't even have a problem admitting that people are leaving. I read tons of blogs that have been established to help and assist those who are leaving to better cope with their disappointment with the group left behind. I appreciate those blog sites and concur with trying to assist in helping remove as much of the pain involved with situations that cause people to leave. I've got issues with some of our local church-life as well.
My problem is with what is it that people really think and say they are leaving?
Would it not be more correctly stated to say that they are leaving an INSTITUTION rather than the Church when leaving behind a particular denomination? Presbyterians, Anglicans, Southern Baptists, Pentecostals, and a host of others may have people leaving those bodies to be sure, but to equate that with leaving the "Church" is a theological mis-step from my perspective.
I think it wise to see and understand this fact as one is leaving any denomination. It could even be a major step in true healing of the wounds and pain caused by such groups were we to challenge our thinking along these lines.
Would it not be more correctly stated to say that they are leaving an ORGANIZATION rather than the Church when leaving behind a particular local body. A local Baptist church, a local Sovereign Grace Fellowship, a local Bible, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Fundamentalist fellowship or any other designated group can be left behind to be sure, but to equate that with leaving the "Church" is ALSO a theological mis-step from my perspective. I'm not denigrating small bodies of believers in saying either IMHO.
Far better for healing and health to admit that 'institutions" and "organizations" doth not the Church make. And the Church is certainly not the brick and wood that make up the building that is typically called "The Church."
So, regarding the "True Ekklesia," [Church] we must always remember that by virtue of being a Christian we ARE THE CHURCH and that identity will never and can never be left, changed or abrogated in any fashion whatsoever. We are His Church whoever we are as believers and wherever we are on any day of the week. You can't leave your identity as the Church any more than you could change your own fallen nature. Christian...YOU ARE THE CHURCH!
But as the Church, we need each other, because the Ekklesia is, as Frank Viola says in his book, "Re-imagining the Church," corporate by her very nature. A Christian is not thinking biblically when he or she thinks like a "Lone Ranger" as a believer. Viola points out in his book in a biblically correct fashion that "Christ and His body are distinct but not separate and the Ekklesia is the native habitat of every believer."
This means I am to recognize that while an organization may be left or even an institution, the Church HAS NOT BEEN LEFT by any Christian. I'm also to recognize that my connection with other individual believers will need to continue through other and various means, online or otherwise, as it is important to connect with the true body at all times. Connectedness is not a biblical option though the methods involved in that connectedness can be creative for the true Ekklesia.
[Small groups meeting in homes for personal connectedness say on a Thursday or Friday night for a wine and bible night as one group I know of in Tulsa Oklahoma is doing it, is an example. The Wartburg E-Church online is another creative method.]
All believers are commissioned and anointed to go and as they're going to minister, making disciples and baptize. [Matt 28]
Do I believe in local churches? By all means. I've pastored them for forty years. I just don't think they always look the way we think they do in our American culture. Then there is the Church as the whole of the Body of Christ as well.
Can we find another local organization with which to connect? Perhaps! I hope so. I think it is even good to do that. Eventually. Maybe. Are people leaving institutions and organizations that have the word "church" attached to them? Yes, by the droves if research is correct.
But my point is simply that if you do that you haven't left the "Church." That's who you are.