Church of the world and not of the church

I’ve begun to wonder what church would look like if Sunday morning worship stopped being the central focus of the church’s ministry.

– What if Sunday morning were a celebration of community and a rallying together of community groups?

– What if we came together purely for communion, prayers, and a simple message pushing us back to community groups for discussion and implentation?

– What if instead of investing the time it takes to put on a worship service the church staff served the community and offered leftovers on Sunday morning?

– What if the program of the church were just serving the community?

– What if discipleship were of “while going” activity as Matthew 28 suggests?

– What is going to the church were seen as a negative in light of being the church?

– What if churches intentionally sold their properties and chose to meet in the public arena?

– What if each community gathering became a place to serve the poor a meal?

– What if community groups pooled their resources and invested in their own projects?

Why not these things? Probably because in America we don’t do this things. In America we do much the opposite. A successful church in the eyes of the American evangelical church has a big building with a big worship service attended by thousands of people. It flashes wealth on its stage. People come to be seen. People come to be awed. People take pictures. The Sunday morning worship service takes the most talented people in the community and locks their time into serving the worship service… a one hour event!

The common church lives to serve itself with nominal efforts to reach the community where the building happens to be. In essense, a “successful congregation” lives as a barnacle on its community. It pays no taxes but receives millions of dollars in income. It says it exists for the community where it resides while importing most of its staff and spending most of its resources on things that don’t actually benefit the community. Traditionally, the successful evangelical church demands access to the communities resources when they desire, but the opposite courtesy is not offered back. It often houses the best facilities in town… but acts like a country club by limiting their access to members only. The chamber of commerce can’t meet there. Local charities cannot have their events there. The school cannot use their gym or have a tutoring program there. How about housing a community development organization? Yeah, right… not in our church… we have worship team practice. Simply put, the public is not welcome at most churches.

I don’t really think Jesus intended for the church to become a barnacle on its community. I believe he desired for his church to be the bedrock of the community. I long to see my own church give more and more to the community it serves. More importantly, I long to see churches everywhere lean into practically meeting the needs of their community.

Success for each congregation should be defined in context. Enough with the copycat compromise.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

19 comments

  1. YES! Seriously…. what is up with the Sunday morning “celebration”?

    I wish that the place (church) wouldn’t be the central and/or ONLY thing our budgets and people go to.

    haahhhaha.. Simply put, the public is not welcome at most churches.
    Amen. Most church want people to believe before they belong.

    Thanks Adam for speaking truth to my soul.

  2. Quite accurate. I am an atheist who would LOVE to serve in such a community-focused church setting. No such thing exists, I fear. When I finally stopped attending church out of internal combustion frustration, a Christian friend pointed out the reason why, saying, “The American Church has diluted itself to the lowest common emotional denominator.” It provides just enough socialization for qualified participants to perpetuate its existence.

  3. “I’ve begun to wonder” what a Po-Mo blogger church solution post would look like if he actually considered concepts such as Bible, Gospel, and preaching. “What if” the Church just changed it’s name to Anytown Homeless Shelter/Pantry/Grafitti Removal/Free Shoe Shine Community Group? Then we could welcome Drive-By Toga with open arms because we have provided a venue for him to selflessly serve and criticize God’s children, Jesus Christ’s joint heirs, the redeemed, the royal priesthood, the elect, etc. while he chooses to live in his sin, rejecting the truth that has been made plain to him.

  4. In regards to “Johnny’s” post, I think its worth pointing out that the comment came from an IP address at a government institution dedicated to protecting our nation. You’d think that gov’t officials would know how to protect their IPs.

  5. In regard to the content of your post… I don’t think you have a clue what you’re talking about. Did you just through out as many labels as you could come up with? You forgot to call me a poo poo head.

  6. Bwahahahaha….seriously, Johnny Carson…the moniker is appropriate. Tell me—if you do not want churches to welcome us heathens with open arms—what do you propose? Pitch forks and burning torches?

    As to my “criticizing God’s Children”—I can assure you I have watched “God’s Children” at work. They do an abominable job of criticizing each other; they do not need my help, thank you very much. Nor do could I ever approach the sadistic pleasure many obtain from doing so.

    And, “living in my sin” and “rejecting the truth that has been made plain to me”—I attended church regularly for 39 years. I know the membership. I would be amongst peers and equal comrades.

  7. Adam- I hope you understand that labels such as God’s children, joint heirs, redeemed, etc. are, in every respect, highly desirable. I would have thrown out more but I got lazy. Did you know that a person can wear those labels with absolute certainty?
    Also, what IP address did you come up with? Just curious since I’ve never looked myself and I’m not much of a technical guy. Along those lines, why must one protect his IP address? Seriously, I don’t know these things.

    Drive-By, I’m very sorry that your pastor and elders failed you and your “peers and equal comrades”. But 39 years in almost any church doesn’t just make you accountable before the Lord on judgment day, it makes you very accountable. I pray that you will turn from your sin and humbly to the Lord. Furthermore, I pray that your new life in Christ will be full of fruit and be a witness of God’s grace and mercy to your former churchmates. And then it’s imperative that the whole gang of you, just like every believer, find a church in your local area and sit under the leadership of a faithful pastor. Oh yeah, and you will receive spiritual gifts upon your new birth…make sure you use them because they are for the benefit of those around you and bring glory to the Lord.

  8. Whoops! Fearful of past Pastors, elders, deacons, Sunday School teachers, etc. haunting me for being unfairly disparaged, let me clarify what I was trying to say. No pastor, elder or any Christian “failed me.”

    Churches are made up of people. Having attended for so long, I am well-aware that these people, being human, are equally choosing to live in sin, and reject the truth made plain to them. Nothing surprising about it—a human characteristic. It is what any observer would notice after a short period of time.

    Adding one more heathen (me) into the mix wouldn’t make a bit of difference.

    Thank you for the sentimental hope I would become saved and enter a life “full of fruit and be a witness to God’s grace.” A bit ironic, don’t you think, in light of your disagreement with Adam McLane’s perception of a church? What type of “fruit” or “witness” does your Bible propose? Things like:
    Feeding the poor. Matt. 25:34-40
    Freely giving. Matt. 10:8
    Give to anyone who asks. Luke 6:30
    Lend without expecting anything in return. Luke 6:34
    Don’t bother storing earthly treasure. Luke 12:17-20
    Selling possessions to provide to the needy. Acts 2:44-46
    Avoid contentions. Gal. 5:20
    The very things Adam McLane proposes!

    Do you see the irony? You hope I become saved and start exhibiting fruit…like Adam’s proposal…but then critique the very method of exhibiting the fruit! Once I did become saved, I would have less opportunity; Adam’s proposal provides MORE opportunity!

    There is a second irony (unlikely to be understood) that I am already doing these things, and the reason I liked Adam’s idea is that it would give me MORE opportunity. Since I am already exhibiting the fruit, the step of becoming saved first is irrelevant and unnecessary.

  9. @toga- I know you don’t live in my area… but I really wish you did. You would totally fit into my community group. Most of us are either pretty new believers or burnt out on church. This little community group actually brings me hope that “church” can work. It has brought tons of healing to my soul.

  10. Toges, hearing even more of your background makes me very sorry that you were entrapped in such a horrible church to begin with. It sounds like your pastor and elders didn’t meet the basic qualifications that their positions require. You said “unfairly disparaged”, but if what you say is true, then the disparaging seems pretty fair. As for you and them living in your sin, you can choose for yourself what type of slave you will be…a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness. My recommendation: Hey if you’re going to be a slave either way, choose the one with the sweet benes in eternity.
    As for my unavoidable contention with Adam, I am bringing attention to his desire for a 501(c)(3) that makes no mention of the preaching of the Gospel or the establishment of elders as the Apostle Paul commanded. I have nothing against 501(c)(3)’s but they aren’t exactly churches if they fail to meet a couple of the above-mentioned criteria. The Gospel deals with the heart of every man and every heart is dead until the Holy Spirit brings it to life through the ministry of God’s word. No dead heart can produce fruit. Sure you can serve in some church as an atheist and actually do some good. Paint some walls, clean up after the bingo game…or if you don’t have an actual building…memorize some verses and then teach them to the children, pull some weeds in the neighborhood, whatever you want. But will that satisfy God’s wrath on your sin on judgment day? When you stand before Him, what will satisfy His wrath?

  11. To coin a phrase, “Don’t cry for me, Johnny Carson!” *grin*. My background is what it is. I have no time machine to change it, and I am extremely grateful for it. It made me who I am—and I like who I am.

    You mentioned a “criteria” for being a Church. I surmise I hold very different views than your own (for example, as Paul did not write the Pastorals, I would not state he established the offices of elder or bishop); but for a moment I will slip back into familiar Christian orthodoxy sandals.

    I am curious as to how you would answer three questions:
    1. What are the minimal criteria for a “church”?
    2. Where can we verify that is the criteria and ONLY that is the criteria?
    3. Which came first—the church or the criteria?

  12. To coin a phrase right back at cha “Smoke gets in my eyes”. The smoke from your smokescreen, that is. It’s like when Jesus was trying to tell the woman at the well about the living water and she’s saying “Doy…uhh…but our fathers worshiped here and yours worshiped there”. Nice dodge lady…know what I mean? So I sincerely appreciate your thought-provoking questions, but I can’t take the bait. Seriously, you turn your back on a blameless man who became the risen Savior, you reject the authority of God’s Word, and you want to debate ecclesiology? In the words of a wise man “Grow up Peter Pan, Count Chocula!”.
    As for your past making you who you are…I am grateful that you have a sense of God’s sovereignty over your life. God can redeem the sin you committed and that committed against you for His unfolding and perfect purposes. Perhaps He allowed you to see so much error that when the truth was finally spoken to you, you would drink it deeply like, say, living water! The living water is the only quencher for a parched, thirsty soul. You have a soul, an eternal one, and the hour is coming when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. Would you like a drink?

  13. I think it’s a good time to point out the obvious.

    Toga- you know that according the Scripture any Bible believing church should absolutely welcome you into their fellowship. This concept that the people get to define who is worthy of fellowshiping with isn’t a Biblical one, it is an invention of man just like many churches use half of a verse to “prove” women can’t be ordained as ministers. Please don’t allow the bigotry of man prevent you from connecting with the person of Jesus Christ. I wish you lived in San Diego.

    Johnny- I respect your opinion, I understand it. But I think you’re incorrect. I’m not sure why you think you are one ounce better than Toga. Your sins stink just as bad as mine and Johnny’s. You are no better than either of us. According to your own view of Scripture, one to which I hold as well, we are all equally unworthy of Christ. Stop trying to make yourself feel better by pointing out the flaws of others. We all fall short of God’s glory each and every day. Re-read your comment and you’ll see that you are taking a positional of “I’m better” than Toga. It simply isn’t helpful.

    Sorry for sounding so harsh, perhaps I shouldn’t comment before I’ve had coffee.

  14. Johnny Carson—calling something a “smokescreen” doesn’t make it so. Quite the contrary.

    A brief re-cap:

    1. Adam McLane proposes an alternative to a problem he sees in the practice of “Church.”
    2. You question the Biblical correctness of Adam McLane’s proposal, saying it does not fit “criteria.”

    Nothing wrong with this, of course. Typical internet discussion. But note you used the word “criteria.” Not me. If your main objection is this deviation from a criteria—one would naturally question WHAT that criteria was.

    3. I question what “criteria” you used (and gave indication of where I was heading.)
    4. You run away from it.

    Amusingly, this is precisely what my previous pastors, elders, deacons, Sunday School teachers, etc. did. I asked questions they couldn’t answer. (Nor could I find the answers on my own research.) You called that “failure.” Yet engage in the same activity…Again, your words. Not mine. “Failure.”

    Like you, they could only revert back to Christian coin-phrases. (Honestly, Johnny Carson, I attended Church for a long, long time. I taught Sunday School, small groups, and preached on the rare occasion. I know the background of the Samaritan Torah, the reasons it is claimed what the woman said, and why the difference was highlighted. Repeating it to a guy like me is only…tiring.)

    This is why Adam’s proposal is interesting. Different. Engaging. And the traditional model is failing. We ask questions and get preaching. We look for differences in Christians and get rationalizations. We look for action and see full parking lots on Sundays but unwilling hands on Monday through Saturday.

    A church that is far more interested in my participation in helping others than whether I meet the explicit Membership requirement? Fascinating! A church that boringly repeats useless platitudes sufficient only to convince those already convinced? Well…sufficient as a social club, I surmise and giving one a sense of community…but nothing I (or the rest of us heathen secularists *grin*) would be remotely interested in attending. Perhaps that is more effective than the pitch-forks and torches to keeping us away. Be stagnant.

    Anyway…thanks for the discussion.

  15. Hang in there Matt…more to come. I’m packing for a trip to Bosnia tomorrow and will get back to this on thurs or fri.

Leave a Reply