I do a lot of reading of folks involved in the simple church movement. As I travel along the path leads between institutionalism and isolationism I'm noticing some pitfalls on both sides of the road. In this post I want to deal with two of them.
On the institutionalism side there are several dangers I have noticed. First and foremost is the danger of using the New Testament as a blueprint to construct a "biblical" church. This is the same thing that institutions do. We see principles and patterns in the scripture and we use them like a set of codes to build our gathering around. Then we fight, argue and divide from others who interpret the code differently than we do. The NT is not a code book up for interpretation. It is a historical record of the life of Christ both leading up to and following his death and resurrection. The epistles were written to those who were feeding off this life in Christ and were intended to bring them back to Christ as their central focus. If we are to use the NT as a codebook it has but one code and that is Christ. Jesus is the beginning, middle, and end of the rules, principles and patterns. He is all that comes into and all that proceeds from the Church. He is not a list of commands or prohibitions. He is a person. He is living and He lives in and through his bride.
The danger I see on the other side is division. Since the gathering of the believers looks different and each tribe thinks they are right and the other is wrong there is no unity between them. Each thinks the other is in error. May I be so bold as to say both are in error if unity in Christ is not desired. Brothers, these things are contrary to Christ. Christ breaks down these barriers and brings together. Once together He holds together because nothing, NOTHING is more important than Him. Not systems or opinions or doctrines or practices or any such thing. Christ is all and in all and the more we take our minds off of whether we are right or wrong and turn them to feeding off the vine we will become one with the vine and we will be ambassadors for reconciliation.
I'm certain this is so. It has taken me some time to figure things out a little. I'm still learning and growing. I remember why I left the institutional system, it was because I wanted to be among believers whose desire is to build one another up in Christ. I didn't want the systems to be a replacement for my relationship with Jesus. For me this is precisely what had happened and it was getting deeper. I cared more about right doctrine and attendance than I did about love and justice for God and others. So I had to be free from the structures that I thought were keeping me immature. I'm finding that the same things that kept me from those important matters inside the four walls are outside them as well. Those things are my flesh, my sin, and the enemy. Let's not be confused, the problem in the institution is the same problem we face if we leave...the problem is us. More precisely it is the uncrucified part of us that thinks it can do things by our own strength, power and understanding. We cannot go on that way into deeper relationships with Christ and with one another.
What do you think? Are these the biggest problem facing the Church or do you see something greater?
What is the biggest problem facing the Church?