Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Don't divorce Christianity from the Body of Christ

Trevin Wax has posted a very helpful review of the late Michael Spencer's recently released "Mere Churchianity." While Trevin finds some very helpful moments in the book he takes issue with what seems to be the recurring problem: "pitting a Jesus-shaped spirituality against a church-shaped spirituality."

Spencer not only does not blame Christians for abandoning the church, he seems to encourage it. On page 57 he writes, "For many of you, leaving the church may have been the most spiritually healthy thing you ever did." Spencer also seems to have had a deficient view of the very nature of the church. On page 6 he refers to the church disparagingly as a "religious institution." On the one hand, I suppose you could call the church a religious institution. But the Scriptures call the church the Body and Bride of Christ.

What is more Spencer states that, "Life as a Jesus-follower grows out of Jesus and the gospel, not out of the church." I challenge anyone to find anywhere in the Bible where being one of God's people under the Old or New Covenants is divorced from being a member of His covenant people. The fact is, the New Testament teaches that Jesus-followers are indeed made by the church. Disciples are made and grown in the church.

Does the church always do this well? Of course not. Is the church always loving and affirming? No. But the reason for this is not because the church is an idea whose time has come. The church is often a mess because Christians are often a mess.

Trevin writes:

Michael rightly teaches that the gospel is for people who recognize they are messed up, rebellious, sinful, broken and dysfunctional. Christianity is for the losers, for the people who recognize their need for salvation outside of themselves. So far so good.

But let’s engage in a bit of logic. If churches are organized groups of these messed up, broken, dysfunctional people, why in the world would we expect the church to always live up to some unattainably high ideal? I’m not saying we shouldn’t shoot high. I’m not saying we should be satisfied with Christless churches. But surely Michael should give groups of broken people (churches) the same patience he gives individual broken people.

So in the end, I want to say, “Michael, you’re right about individual Christians. We’re broken, wounded, sinful and selfish. So why can’t you see that churches are going to be that way too? Please don’t encourage broken people to leave churches that are broken! Just as we need Jesus in us as individuals to slowly remake us into his image, we need Jesus-filled people in churches if there is any hope for the church to reflect the glory of Christ to the world.”

If Christ remains committed to us – as broken and messed up as we are – why would we not remain committed to his followers? Why would we bolt out the door when our church experience becomes a hassle? What looks more like Jesus – to hit the road? Or to stay with a congregation through thick and thin, through good and bad?

Michael thinks the church’s problems are an obstacle to Jesus-shaped spirituality. I think the opposite: commitment to bear with the church’s problems is the method by which we become more Jesus-shaped.

Read the entire review HERE.

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