Over the last week i have been reading a favorite book of mine The Forgotten Ways- Alan Hirsch, this book was the final axe swing that brought the lingering affection for an institutional system of church. over the past few months God has taken me through a time of illumination as to the subtle evils that exist in the attractional/ institutional system of church, and just how much the enemy has infiltrated our ranks and deceived hundreds of believers to thinking that we are doing ok and that the church is a place of sanctuary that we never have to leave, people surely will come to us. but this is faulty thinking, no where in the biblical narrative do we see Jesus sitting in a building waiting for people to come to him, in fact there is a resounding opposite action. Jesus went to where people were.
In Mark’s account of the narrative jesus goes to a man named Levi and said follow me. it is not clear if Jesus specifically went for Levi or not, but what we do know is that Jesus went to where the people were. it was as people saw what he was doing that they began to follow him. it was not an issue of attraction but an issue of inserting himself into “secular space” so that it could be changed. the epicenter of the movement was not in the common place where you think that it would be, rather it was in the fringe where the tax collectors, drunks, unsavory people of the culture were.
so what does this have to do with “the institution?” when we look at the life of Jesus and how he engaged people, and we look at the manifestation of the church in Acts we see something radically different then what has been manifested in the west. Most commonly we understand the church manifesting itself in houses through out the Mediterranean world, but model is not the emphasis here, the emphasis of what we see take place in Acts is the system which they worked from.
they system is that of an organic structure which multiplies itself and focused on connecting with people wherever they maybe found. through out the narrative we see people coming to faith while in jail, guarding the jail, walking on the road, and sitting in council. because of this churches begin to spring up all over the Mediterranean world and that being so they were not bound to buildings or a list of structured rules of do’s and dont’s for church. what we see in acts is that they followed what is outlined in chapters 2 & 3 all things were in common, broke bread with one another, devoted themselves to the apostles teaching (which was Jesus’ teachings) and came together to worship with one another.
so where does that put us? where do we go from here? I think the answer is to allow ourselves to see the systemic issues, to look at those to those who have journeyed out of it, and journeyed in spite of it. allow church to be whatever it manifests itself as without all of the manmade preferences as to how church”should look”. dont be afraid to stand up and be heard, dont be afraid to be seen as different from the mold, because when the mold is evil we should actively choose to be different.
dont look to the institution, dont look to the things that the church in the west has concocted over the last 150 years. look to the biblical narrative, and move with it. look to the early church, and the manifestations of church today that are exploding. thank you for reading and enjoy the journey.