Organized religion or institutional church has been getting a bad rap lately.
Most blogs, posts on FB and Twitter, most emergent authors, and most missional writers rail against both organized religion and institutional church.
I get why people have issues with the church as an organized religious institution. There are legitimate issues and concerns that there are unhealthy and destructive elements of organized religious institutions.
- When churches focus more on institutional survival than their missional calling to engage the world with the good news of Jesus Christ,
- When churches and denominations are more interested in protecting their way of doing church rather than being open to discovering new ways of relating to a post-Christian world,
- When survival is more important than accomplishing mission,
- Such churches and denominations are well deserving of criticism.
I was sitting at Starbucks enjoying my coffee when I had a very frightening thought.
What if the best way for people to experience God is still in…gasp…organized institutional churches?
After all, Jesus does say that the church is the body of Christ. We all know that the church Jesus is referring to is not a building or a location but the gathered and sent people of God.
But that’s the thing…it’s the gathered people. And whenever you have two or more gathered, you have to have some mutual agreements about why the community has gathered and what that community is all about. Such communities need shared values and shared expectations to avoid anarchy.
Without such shared understandings and agreements, a community would be impossible.
Such shared beliefs, values, and behaviors are necessary for the health of the community.
As much as I am uncomfortable admitting it, I am convinced that the only way a Christian can fully experience the body of Christ is in context of community.