There are many people unhappy with institutional church. You might be one of them. Perhaps you have been burned or burnt-out by the system. Or you want to be part of something more purposeful, more intentionally missional. Maybe you are drawn to the concept of “organic church”, even though you’ve never seen it in action. Or perhaps you’re simply bored and don’t see the point of passively attending a weekly performance.
I’ve come across many people online who deeply desire something more than they’ve found in the “sit+sing+sermon” model of church. They long for transformational community. They want to be empowered to discover and use their gifts to minister to one another. They would love to live life alongside each other as a true spiritual family. They yearn for an experience of church where everyone has a voice, a value and an impact.
Unfortunately, many of these people are in limbo. They can’t find an organic church in their local area. They struggle to find other Christ-followers who understand the journey they are going through, the questions they are asking. They meet with resistance and hostility from their church leaders and well-intentioned Christian friends, who fear they might be “losing their faith” or “turning their back on God”. Their dreams of “something better” are elusive and frustrating. They just can’t find what they’re looking for.
If you’re one of these people, I’d like to set a challenge for you;
Be the change you want to see.
Don’t give up on your dream for the church to be more than it is – dream bigger. Read everything you can about organic church/simple church/missional church. Search the Scriptures for images of what it looks like to live as God’s people. Write down a list of dot points of the things you would love to see in your church and in your life. Find words to describe what you want to see – the quality of relationships, the types of interactions, the ways you would love to worship, the practices you believe are pivotal in the lives of God’s people. Define what it is you long for – this dream, this holy discontent, this vision God has placed in your heart.
Then, go ahead and start putting it into practice. Don’t wait to find the perfect “community” to be part of – you are already part of a community. Start by living these values within your own family, in your friendships, in your relationships with neighbours and colleagues and the people you meet in daily life. If you want to see honesty, be honest. If you want people to be treated with respect and acceptance, treat them that way. If you want authenticity, strive to be authentic – especially within your closest relationships. Create a Christ-centred community right where you are – with your church friends, with your non-churched friends, with your children, with your spouse.
Don’t criticise the people and pastors you know in institutional church. Most of them are God’s people choosing to worship and seek him in the only way they know how. Their hearts are in the right place. They are earnestly seeking to serve God and follow him in the ways they have been taught. Speak gently to them. Paint visions for them of your dreams for what church could be. Speak your heart’s desires to God and to others – maybe your discontent and pain will stir inspiration in others. If God calls you to, stay in your local church and be the change you want to see. If you leave, don’t give up meeting together with other Christ-followers in creative ways – encouraging one another and spurring one another on towards love and good deeds.
I pray God will give you desires of your heart. May he will lead you to the right people to fellowship with – maybe people in your church, maybe those who have never set foot in church. I pray God uses your frustration and disappointment to birth something new, and healthy, and transformational, which not only meets your needs, but impacts the lives of those around you.