The traditional view of the church is that it is distinct from the world as standing over against it and is intended to transform it. And by traditional I mean biblical.
I have been tossing this idea around in my brain for a few weeks, and I wanted to begin the conversation on it. This will be of special interest to those of you in ministry (or training to be in ministry), but is certainly applicable to all Christians. The issue is this: what is the church? what should the church look like? what should it do? This is not going to be a deep theological discussion (maybe later), but rather a treatment of the modern tendency to view the church from a pragmatic standpoint.
There is a growing trend, rooted in praxis theology, that is changing the traditional view of church as mentioned above. In the Scriptures, the church is to be a “city set on a hill” (Matt 5:14) and the pillar and ground of truth (I Tim 3:15). The church is supposed to be a light source – a lighthouse. It is to stand in the darkness as a representative to the world of righteousness, justice, peace, and love.
Andy Stanley (one of my favorites) started Northpoint as a “church for unchurched” ( http://insidenorthpoint.org/). A brilliant idea, no less. Every church should have a special emphasis on bringing lost friends to church. But it is when this idea gets taken too far that there is a problem. Here is my fear: our churches have become so focused on attracting seekers, that we have lost the realization of who we are supposed to be, traditionally. Evangelist Junior Hill said he saw a sign for a “church for people who don’t like church”. A what? It is this mentality that leads to, in essence, an integration of anything (and everything) of pragmatic appeal. To use the illustration, we have turned off our city hill light so as not to alarm anyone passing by down below….
But the strength of the church is not it’s ability to appeal to the world. It appears that many churches want their visitors (and members) to have the attitude – “hey this is just like out there, but they do it better in here”. Whatever “it” happens to be at the moment, we try to emulate that. The strength of the church, however, is that we hold the truth – the light of the gospel. And it is this light that attracts those whom the Father is calling….
More to come in Part 2….