I have pretty positive disposition for a bald guy & I certainly don't want to be a "confused, spiritually self-righteous blogger critic of Christianity" as Mark Driscoll puts it in the Jan/Feb issue of Relevant; but I’ve been discovering that times really do exist when problems need to be identified & named. For example, I just spent an hour talking with a friend about incarnational / missional living & the viability of living it out from within an institutional church context. After going on & on about how the institution’s not the problem - only the attitudes frequently behind it - I finally just had to admit it... The contemporary method of centralized, institutional, local church life is problematic in itself.
1) It fosters consumerism.
2) It’s passive (seekers coming to us for the Gospel vs. us going to them with the Gospel).
3) It’s usually an artificial community (not like real community is described in Scripture).
... & less importantly, but still important ...
4) It grows by addition, not multiplication, which quickly results in a monster of an infrastructure that’s costly to maintain.
5) Its internal functional structure is slow, bulky, & excludes some demographics in ways extra-religious relationships (i.e. normal friendships) do not.
6) It’s based on & continues to foster the professional vs. laity ministry divide.
7) It generally has long lists of rules (to maintain / control its functional integrity).
Certainly it’s possible to live the incarnational / missional lifestyle out while still immersing oneself in an institutional church structure; but there are obstacles. My friend asked, “What if I simply decided I wasn’t going to be consumeristic anymore & began living this way through my institutional church?” I suggested that it would be like a 20 year old single guy deciding he wasn’t going to lust anymore but still tend bar at a strip club. Yeah, possible, but not easy.