What is the Alternative to Institutional Church?

By | September 29, 2008

A question was recently posed as a comment on my review of Pagan Christianity?. I decided to answer the question here as a separate blog post.

Shawn asks, “I’ve added [“Pagan Christianity?”] and “Reimagining Church” to my reading list. What are your thoughts on what we should do? Since clearly church isn’t done this way, how do we change things?”

This is an excellent question. Pagan Christianity? alludes to the alternative a bit, and that’s really the whole topic of Reimagining Church, which I haven’t finished reading yet.

Basically what is put forth is that the church is and should be organic—a living organism. A typical meeting of Christians should allow everyone to share and be lead by the Holy Spirit. In order for this to be practical, the number of people in a gathering needs to be relatively small. While some people in the group may be recognized as leaders due to having more experience, they don’t lead a meeting or church in a command style or hierarchical way. Rather, they do so in a more mentoring kind of way. Meetings probably take place in someone’s house or possibly a clubhouse or something similar. Essentially it just needs to be some place available which doesn’t cost much if anything. In a meeting, people may share how God is working in their lives, struggles they are having, they will encourage and pray for one another, share in communion, and possibly sing about Jesus.

A couple of friends and I sort of accidentally started something along these lines this past year. It was very natural and organic. We happened to realize that we were routinely meeting at about the same time each week, and when we did so, we were sharing our spiritual struggles and encouraging one another. After a while, we started intentionally making a point to continue meeting. We decided to begin sharing communion, and start praying. When we meet, we have no set agenda, no one specifically leading, no standard order. We know that we plan to take communion and pray, and will likely share, but the way that is done is quite open and flexible. I believe that it has been quite encouraging for all of us, with a few more friends starting to join us recently (we’ve had six people the past few weeks).

My suggestion, if you want to go in this direction, is to try and find a friend or two (possibly 3-5) who are open and interested in trying this too. Just start meeting, start talking about church, Christ and spiritual matters and see where it leads. I also recommend sharing in communion and prayer, though if that doesn’t feel natural at first, perhaps wait a few weeks to start working it in. Hopefully these ideas are helpful.

photo credit: BurgTender via photopin cc

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