My attention was drawn recently to the video below. Give it view, then continue on for a few thoughts on the matter.
I suspect many church people would feel irritated and upset in some ways after watching this. Some perhaps might even be feeling pity, thinking these folks poor, godless fools for seeking such things.
You might even expect that this is the part where I offer some rebuttal to such efforts and offer reasons why this effort is misinformed, immoral, etc, etc.
But I don't have those things to say. This video reveals some very good things about the human heart, mainly that we're all looking to connect and relate, and we'll do so. Also that doing those things is not distinctly or uniquely spiritual and definitely not religious.
If there's anyone whom should be made to think deeply about this video, it's the Christian - particularly the Christian involved in the Institutional church.
Here's what I get from this video.... though very appealing, there's nothing especially super-natural to most of what we do in Institutional Church meetings. The weekly assembling, the talks (messages), the singing and music, food and even the fellowship aren't "Church". What is it that most believers participate in over the weekend that is distinctly different from what's in this video?
I've heard more than a few people say that church is comprised of 1) teaching 2) singing/worship 3) fellowship. This above shows these things - at least in part, though admittedly the content is not about God.
One must conclude then that these things themselves are not Church, nor must they hold the significant place they hold in the lives of The Church. Why? Because none of these things requires Christ to be present in order to accomplish them! Even the unbeliever can meet together in a similar assembly with similar results of fellowship, encouragement, happiness, perhaps even feeling loved!
The folks in the above video are living proof that people can and do all those very same things without Christ. Yet, scripture describes The Church though as entirely unique on the planet. If it's possible to do the exact same stuff without Christ, what are the distinctive marks of being The Church then?
Without Jesus being present, and without his spirit leading an assembly, there's little more going on in many meetings than there is in the video above.
Jesus is the only thing necessary for the Church. If he lives in us, then we have all that is essential. The meetings, the buildings, the songs, the sermons... those can all be used for good, but they themselves are not Church and do not make being The Church possible.
I'm not saying all these unessential things are bad, or even to be avoided. I am saying however that we've placed a higher value on these peripherals of the assembling together rather than on the substance - and that substance is a person. And core to how the Person is made visible and present is in the participation of every one whom possesses a portion of Him.
That person is Jesus. He is the head of The Church, the first and the last. With Jesus, we can not have anything else and still have everything.
It's interesting to note that with nearly an identical format to "church", this group is experiencing a 3,000% growth rate. The institutional church would being doing a jig to even experience 30% and is experiencing negative growth numbers and has been for some time.
So then... it seems fair to surmise that the problem must not be in the programs, building, format, etc. Pastors and leaders, please take note of this. Most of those people that are disinterested and/or losing interest are because of the substance, or lack of it rather.
People abandon what they no longer value. People don't value what has little substance or is often the machinations of people with little or no vision and purpose.
Many would like to respond that Jesus is just unpopular, and so our churches are experiencing "persecution" for being identified with Jesus. No, that's not it!
Shame on us for insulting those who have endured real persecution, the loss of liberty, limb, and life for their faith by saying that people leaving the institution is such. That's hogwash! Jesus himself said "If I be lifted up, I will draw ALL men to myself". Jesus is the substance of what people desire. Where Jesus is, so there will the people long to be.
Hopefully, by some act of grace, we'll come to understand how Jesus views Church, and discard every hope, idea, and ambition to the contrary.