I just finished reading a book that utilizes a “trendy” font, talks about Jesus, kingdom, The Shack, missions, Starbucks, and even Lunesta. The authors are younger guys with goatees. It is true, these guys should be Emergent, but they are not. Instead, they got together to write a book telling why and how the institutional, organized church is a great thing, a blessing from God (blemishes and all). If you’re paying any attention to the broader church scene in America, you know that many want religion and Jesus without the church. Here are a few responses to that attitude from Why We Love the Church.
“I’m… glad that my church is ‘organized.’ I’m glad I know where to put my toddler on Sunday morning. I’m glad somebody was institutional enough to think through topics for a Sunday school class or two. I’m glad my pastor, rather than just freewheeling it, cares enough to study Scripture and a bookshelf full of dead authors to give me real spiritual food each Sunday. I’m glad somebody leads a social outreach ministry to those less fortunate in our area. I’m glad somebody…makes sure the kids are learning something biblical in their classes. It is, at its most basic, organized religion. And I love it” (p. 24).
“My observation is that as people grow tired of hearing about the atonement, salvation, the cross, and the afterlife, they grow tired of church. Because the more that sin and redemption and heaven and hell recede into the background, the more the church becomes just one thing among several options for making a difference in the world… There’s a danger that when people get disinterested in the gospel, they get disinterested in the church. And once they leave the church, they’ve left the only institution whose mission aims for eternity and whose gospel is truly good news” (p. 51).
“The church-is-lame crowd hates Constantine and notions of Christendom, but they want the church to be a patron of the arts, and run after school programs, and bring the world together in peace and love. They bemoan the overprogrammed church, but then think of a hundred complex, resource-hungry things the church should be doing. They wish the church could be more diverse, but then leave to meet in a coffee shop with other well-educated thirtysomethings who are into film festivals, NPR, and carbon offsets. They want more of a family spirit, but too much family and they’ll complain that the church is ‘inbred.’ They chide the church for not doing more to address social problems, but then complain when the church gets too political. They want church unity and decry all our denominations, but fail to see the irony in the fact that they have left to do their own thing because they can’t find a single church that can satisfy them. They want leaders with vision, but don’t want anyone to tell them what to do or how to do it” (p. 88).
As a pastor, I’ve heard the “church-is-lame” excuses before, and to be honest, I’ve thought of a few myself. Why We Love the Church was helpful for me; even pastors need to be reminded about the necessity of the institutional church. Go get this book: it is easy to read, theologically sound, and very much worth giving to others for Christmas. Thanks, guys, for not being Emergent. I’ll forever look differently upon goatees!