I am loving Tim Keller's new book called "Center Church". Buying it for my iPad was a delight as we sat on the Dallas runway, delayed by several hours for a maintenance matter. The reading, especially on movements, was very helpful.
"Church" is such a rich word with such a remarkable history. Has there ever been such a brutal assault against any other system, movement or organization in human history? She has held herself in the everlasting arms and found the courage to continue. It is a remarkable story, where she has had to deal from enemies from without and from within - and she lives to shine so bright.
Many years ago I read from one commentator that there were 93 pictures of the church in the scriptures. Now I have tried to find them and have failed. I have found some beautiful pictures however - great kodak moments that include the church being called a bride, an army, a building, a temple, a family, a household. Amazingly, the one picture that I have never found her to be called is a business. Of course that does not mean that business is bad. Quite the opposite, the bible inspires the entrepreneurial ideas of the marketplace. It is just that of all these metaphors, the Holy Spirit just does not see business as a great metaphor that describes the church.
The corporate world is simply not an acceptable frame to architect the church around. This does far more harm than good. Now we do understand that the church must abide by the law of the land in her financial practices and systems. However, many churches in this remarkable nation have defaulted to business being the primary model that shapes the church. Let us look at a few:
* elders are chosen who are successful businessmen but may not be shepherds, pastors and bible lovers, chosen to be decision makers but do not have to be in the trenches of the community,
* boards are established as pillars in the modus operandi, yet there is no board ever mentioned in the text,
* scripted meetings hold a higher value than being Spirit-led - this requires spontaneous obedience,
* church leadership has moved from pastor / shepherds to CEO's who run the church like one does a business,
* annual reviews have replaced the value of personal accountability and discipleship,
* 'hiring in' has been a surrogate for effective intentional recognizing of, raising up and releasing "sons to become fathers, daughters to become mothers,
* Coaches, mentors and consultants have replaced apostles and prophets,
* If the church is to be a family, then surely the community is to be led by 'fathers and mothers' in relational authority and not by the positional authority that a role or title gives the man,
* And then of course the family do things around the dining room table more than on glossy campuses.
Of course we need some organization - the larger the church the more complex the administration. However, the prevailing culture must not be the systems and programs but the people as I am sure Jesus did to the 1000's who followed him. The lenses must surely be the biblical matrix for church and not the self-imposed images that do not aid the God life.
In the last of the last days when all nations will hate us, the church that will stand strong then will not be the raging corporation captivated by their facilities and charismatic celebrities, but the humble one's who are known by the love they have for each other, living in kingdom accountability, intentional discipleship and missional engagement - whether the communities are large or small.
Simply put, the corporate must go and the community loving, Spirit-led leadership return. We have no option.