Thursday, June 29, 2006

No Place in the Church of Barna for Me

George Barna is basically an industry unto himself when it comes to research on behalf of the evangelical church. He keeps us up to date on all the depressing statistics about church attendance, unorthodox beliefs in "born again" believers, etc., etc. One of his recent books was called Revolution, in which Barna proclaims a new and revolutionary (imagine that) move in the American church. It is the sacred "church" of the individual. According to Barna, there are approximately 20 million people who claim to be born again that purposefully do not associate with any local church. They give reasons like "the church is not serious about producing disciples" and other such arguments. So, they simply choose concerts, Bible studies at work, personal devotion, and other parachurch gatherings to be their supply of spiritual food. This revolutionary crew consider themselves members of the Universal Church but not the local church.

Now, I have to confess...this idea brings more questions than it does answers. It does frustrate me to the core of who I am, but I think there are no answers in the "church of me" for questions like these: (1) What about the Bible's clear teaching on the necessity and responsibilities of elders and deacons? (2) How do you handle Matthew 18's teaching on church discipline apart from a gathered body? (3) Why would Paul write to the church at Corinth or Ephesus or any other place if the gathered church was not only normative in practice but in belief? (4) Who is to administer baptism and the Lord's Supper if it's not the local church? (5) What about the book of Hebrews warning believers to not forsake gathering together?

I'm sure we could all think of more questions like these, which leads me to my conclusion. It seems that this revolution is nothing more than a justification of not being involved in the lives of other people. Why? Because it gets messy at times...people let you down...leaders let you down...sin messes up our fellowship. However, these are not reasons for a mature believer to escape the church...actually, a mature believer would not seek to escape from the church. Mature believers understand that they need the church, and the church needs them. This is the danger of radical homeschooling. You come to believe you have to protect your children from everything, including those other people at the church who may mess them up. What a dangerous thing to teach our children...that you can remove yourself from God's ordained pattern of spiritual life and believe yourself to be right with God!

The sad, but true statement about this "revolution" of Christianity is this: As a pastor, gifted and called to shepherd God's people and preach the Gospel, there is no place for me in Barna's revolutionary church. There is no need for preaching, there is no need for teaching, and so I may as well pack my books into my boxes, and start selling knives door to door. I am thankful that this revolution is not of God, and therefore, I don't have to live the rest of my life without fulfilling God's plan for me.

What does this mean for me at this moment? I need to get back to studying for this Sunday...there's still a pulpit to fill.