The State of the church…
Okay, so all week there has been buzz in my circles of friends and acquaintances about the state of the church. I decided to write this article because in just one week, I was asked three times what I would change in the church, if I could change anything. Additionally, over the past few days, I’ve heard countless church leaders assert that instead of “giving up” on the church, those who have issues with the church should do something about it. Do something about it…

Okay, but wait…

Before I go any further, let me note that I differentiate between “the church” and “The Church.” For clarity, the church is what we mostly see today: an organized body of believers who come together, usually under the leadership of a pastor or several pastors, to receive the Word of God and do ministry within four walls – or sometimes four locations. The Church (note the title case) is what is referenced in the New Testament, demonstrated in the book of Acts and addressed frequently throughout the epistles and other NT books. The Church is the body of Christ (although many people often refer to the church as the body of Christ); The Church is the bride of Christ. The Church is the brainchild and heart of Jesus, made by His hands, for His purpose, an institution that can never be destroyed by people, principalities, or powers (Matthew 16:18).

Much of what we call The Church, is actually the church (note no caps), and doesn’t even slightly resemble what Jesus established over 2000 years ago.

So, back to doing something about it… before we can talk about what to do, I want to quickly discuss how I think we got to this place anyway. This will help you to understand where I’m coming from next week when I list the 10 Things I think the church needs to change…

How did The Church become the church?
I believe we simply shifted our focus so much that we lost focus altogether. As I stated recently, today’s church has become a marketable, profitable enterprise, which has unfortunately resulted in us allowing a lot of stuff to junk up our services for the sake of becoming MORE marketable and profitable.

If the New Testament churches had a mission statement, I believe it would read something like this: our mission is to go out into all the nations, teaching them, making disciples of them, and baptizing them. We endeavor to go into the highways and hedges, compelling men and women to join the body of Christ by taking up His cross and all it represents, so that the kingdom of God will be advanced and strengthened. We endeavor to show the love of Christ – the genuine, patient, longsuffering, mature love of Christ – to all people, regardless of color, creed, age, denomination, gender, habits, lifestyle, or personality. Simply put, our mission is to glorify God by growing the body of Christ.

I may have missed a point or two, but I think that’s pretty close since the ultimate goal of the New Testament Church was just to share the love of Christ, which would grow the body of Christ. We, on the other hand, tend to focus more on growing the local church (and yes, I know that the more members we have, the more money we’ll take in; the more money we take in, the more ministry we can do; the more ministry we can do, the more lives we touch, etc.). But the fact is, we’ve gotten so creative and thought so far out of the box, strayed so far from the original blueprint that what we have now doesn’t even slightly resemble the New Testament church. I mean, I’m not suggesting that believers should be selling everything they own and bringing the proceeds to the church so that it can be distributed to those who have need. But somehow, we’ve got to find a way to trim the fat and get back to the basics.

How can we as a body be reconciled to Christ, and once again become His Church?
I don’t have the answer. Maybe one of you do. Over the last few weeks, I have heard so many believers express discontent with the church, and in response, the disgruntled are advised to “do something about it.”  Those of us who love the church and love the people of God tend to hope that no one falls away from the body, and urge the fed-up believers to stay put and be a part of the solution instead of jumping ship when the waters get rough. But as of this moment, I have yet to hear anyone offer any practical solutions for lay people. I believe significant change has to come from the heads of the local churches. I mean, other than serious prayer and fasting, what practical steps could a lay member take in order to fix what’s broken in the church? What do we expect lay members to do?

In addition to the 10 Things I’m going to share next week, I really think the body of Christ, especially the pastors, bishops and apostles, need to go back to the book of Acts and the epistles, not in search of a sermon, but in search of insight and revelation (and perhaps correction) from the Holy Ghost. We need to study it, pray about it, and then carry it out under His direction.

In case you got it twisted…
Just to be clear, I love The Church. I even love the church. I was raised in it, so it’s as much a part of my culture as soul food, online shopping, gospel music, designer blue jeans, and Fourth of July fireworks. I think church is part of my DNA. I dress churchy. I speak church lingo. Laugh at churchy jokes. All my closest friends and acquaintances are church people. When we get together, we talk church stuff. It’s hard to imagine my life without that hand-clapping, foot-stomping, tongue-talking, sanctified church, the preacher tuning up, the saints shouting and dancing, running and falling out, crying, the announcements, Sunday School, anniversary, pre-anniversary, this conference and that conference. Church is in me and I don’t intend to ever be estranged from it. I’m not anti-church, anti-leadership, or anti-authority. But I am anti foolishness in the name of Christ. And I just refuse to be a believer who goes through the motions week after week, and pretends everything is okay. I also refuse to be the one who knows something is wrong but is afraid to speak on it. And I refuse to be one who will be so content with what appears to be normal that I don’t even realize how far off we really are.

I have a lot of friends and acquaintances who are pastors; I know that most of them will disagree strongly. I know what most other believers will think of me for writing this, and I’m okay with that. As always, I welcome your feedback.

Read the 10 Things here.