When talking about the present state of the church, the old saying “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” comes to mind. Certainly there are definite and (often) inexcusable faults with the “system,” but to scrap the whole thing is incredibly unwise, quite rebellious, historically ignorant, horrendously bad theology, and logically fatalistic. The Vision which God is pouring out onto humanity (as a whole, and not just “the church”) is not one that “reinvents the wheel,” but one which transforms what is already present; yet broken, lost, and confused.
When humanity was hopelessly broken, helplessly lost, and ridiculously confused (can I say that in the past tense, only?) God did not (does not) throw us out and “invent” something else through which to express Himself. God transformed that which was (is) already present – humanity – by the redeeming and reconciling work of His Son. That work finds its expression through the Church. Though humanity, frail as it is, continues to stink up the place, the transformation of God is still found at work in it. The “system” that is at work is the humanness of the church; the transforming work, however, is solely the divinity.
Personally (and psychologically), “doing church” was never of interest to me. I do enjoy arguing politics (if only for the sake of argument), but I still have never found the “politics of church” necessary. Yet God, with that sense of humor that He has, found it necessary to place me all-up-in the middle of it! Thus, I had to make it interesting; i.e., I had to focus not on the politics (the humanness) but the transforming act (the divinity). Likewise, I find the term “Bible Study” cultish and churchy; though, I find the act effectual and detrimental. Language and terminology are very important. The humanness corrupts, but the divinity transforms. So, I changed “Bible Study” to “Class,” and the inference changed to reflect the transformational action. In the same way, we must allow the transformation of our idea of “churching the un-churched” through our “youth groups,” “outreach programs,” and various other “ministries.”
If we change the language we change the (human) imagination, not the (divine) message. If we take what the church “has always done” and, rather than completely raze it and start over, change the way it looks, sounds, acts, smells, tastes, feels; if we change the logic of it from human centered to Christ centered, then transformation occurs by necessity. The Vision does not deny history, it does not destroy, it does not replace; it is not about good and bad, better or worse, right or wrong. The Vision builds on the firm foundation of “how we’ve always done it” and transforms it into the risky proposition of “how God is doing it.”
The Church that Christ builds is not an invention from replacement parts; it is an expression of the transformational work of the divinity in humanity. God knows not of any “do over.” God is not about “starting over.” God says: Look again! “I make all things new.”