A cursory glance back at the book of Acts or the writings of the early church fathers and you’ll notice that many things have changed, not only in the way we “do church” but, in the way we view it. It’s critical that we don’t place the criterion of perfection on what church looks like since it is made up of imperfect people. (I Cor. 12:12-13) Perhaps some of the modern issues cropping up with how church works comes from a misunderstanding of what scripture depicts “the church” to be or even what the word “church” means. So, let’s take a look at 5 problems with the modern church.
1 – We don’t even know what the word “church” means.
If you take a look at the origin and meaning of the Greek word “ekklesia” you’ll find the definition to be; assembly or congregation commonly in the political arena. It could more literally be translated “congregation” or “assembly” in it’s 115 usages in the New Testament. In Acts 2 the context of the “ekklesia” refers to those who were saved during Pentecost. The “ekklesia” in Acts chapter 2 has to do with believers gathering together as the early Christians did. But, elsewhere in Acts 19:24-25 records the story of Demetrius, an idol maker, who gathered a mob together in an “ekklesia” to address the problem of Christians whose preaching was hindering the business of selling idols. Instead of being translated “church” here the work “ekklesia” is translated to the word “gathering”.
My goal now is not to dispute the word choices of translations but to use this as an example of how often Christendom throws the word “church” around perhaps out of context and how it can confuse people. We hold our congregational gatherings in a building we call “church”, we invite people to “go to church” and we hold services we call “doing church”. At some point I think this has confused people on what the word “church” really means. It seems as though the more important doctrines of the gospel have taken a back seat to the topic of “doing church”.
There is much more to be studied and discussed on this one but it is enough for now to lead into the following 4 issues which I believe are intrinsically connected to number one.
2 – We view church like a class.
A study into the Mishnah, which is the historical system of education of Jewish boys, will open your eyes into a very different way of viewing bible study. From ages 6-14 Jewish boys spent their weeks studying in the synagogue under a Rabbi in an effort to read, write, and memorize the entire Old Testament writings. Then for secondary education the best of the best boys would seek out a well respected Rabbi, who knew the scriptures and traditions of God’s people and lived it out, and ask to be his disciple. Being the student of a Rabbi at this age meant leaving home and your way of life in order to follow your Rabbi wherever he lived, traveled, and taught. The goal was to be just like your Rabbi, to be so immersed in his world and his teachings that you could be just like him.
In our modern education system the goal is to get enough information from the teaching in order to pass a test, get a grade, and get a job. Students don’t live with their teachers, they don’t follow them around, and they hardly ever want to be exactly like them. I’ve noticed how easily this western way of education has affected the way we “do church”. Too many Christians attend Church for information that will beef up their lingo, give them a to do list, and help them with a passing spiritual grade. We have lost what it means to be a disciple. We must get back to the daily immersion with our Rabbi, Jesus Christ, and his teachings. I believe the modern church has to get away from the academia of theology and move into the practical doctrine of daily living. Church has become a 1-2 day a week class for people who think knowing about God is enough.
The modern church has become more known for it’s high profile speakers, it’s large buildings, it’s failures, and it’s political platforms than it has for it’s way of transformational living.
How do you think you can bring change to these two issues?
(For problems 3-5 check back tomorrow for Part 2)