OK, that’s a loaded blog title. Anyone who has browsed the quotes and pics and videos on this site will recognize that there are many problems with the church. For instance, the church is “attractional” — trying to do whatever it can to attract people to it. Or, we could say the problem with the church is a lack of discipleship. And, still more, we could say that the church’s problem is its emphasis on buildings as opposed to people. The list goes on.
Ben Sternke, in a powerful post, clearly places the main problem of the church with ecclesiology — at least in the evangelical church. And while the churches I serve would be placed in the more “Mainline” camp, no matter how hard us Methodists stress our evangelical cred, a lot of what he says applies to us.
Dallas Willard states, “The primary function of the church is not evangelism, but to be a place for the dwelling of God on the earth.”
This “place” for God’s dwelling is not a building, but a community. Think about the New Testament images for the church:
–the people of God
–the body of Christ
–the temple of the Holy Spirit
They all evoke the truth that the church is the location of God’s covenantal relationship with humankind (his goal from the beginning). Simon Chan says it this way:
God created the world in order that he might enter into a covenant relationship with humankind…. Even if humans had not sinned, Jesus Christ would still have needed to come in the fullness of time, because only through that revelation is covenantal relationship realized in the fullest measure—as communion with the triune God….
That communion is realized in the church. That’s the telos of creation. The church wasn’t invented to fix a problem. It’s not a pragmatic solution to a problem. It’s not convenient arrangement to secure practical results.
God created the world in order to enter into covenant with humankind, and the realization of that goal is the church. The church is God’s endgame, the reason he created everything in the first place!
As pastor, it is hard to keep congregations from falling back into an understanding of church that’s more “if you build it they will come” than “this gathered body is the dwelling place of God on earth.” It’s a much bigger purpose than filling the pews with new believers.