Church is Badly Broken

Glenn HagerThis is a guest post from Glenn Hager.

Glenn writes at GlennHager.com and sees himself as an advocate for those who on the fringes of society and those challenge the way things are done. You may also connect with Glenn on Facebook or Twitter.

If you would like to write a Guest Post for the Till He Comes Blog, begin by reading the Guest Blogger Guidelines.

I have tried to distill my observations about the church over the last few years into a few bullet points, both to help myself understand what I have been through and to see if any of these conclusions resonate with anyone else.

Church is badly broken

church is brokenFollowing Christ has wrongly become equated with supporting an organization that has to be feed with increased attendance, volunteers, and funding.

We have misrepresented Christ with our eagerness to call out sin in society while ignoring the sin of our unloving ways.

We are an insider organization that focuses on ourselves, except (or especially) when we try to get outsiders to come to our building and become like us.

We have been talkers and not doers who have had minimal impact on the lives and communities around us.

The Church is bleeding people like crazy.

Because they have been disappointed so many times, people distrust organizations and leaders.

When honest questions are unwelcomed or glibly rebutted, people become dissatisfied.

When so-called ministry is reduced to a performance and packaged programs, people feel like a consumer or cog in a machine.

Religious service attendance has slipped from 32% (1975) to 24% (2008). America’s third largest group now is “none,” somewhere between 16 and 20 percent of our population. In 1960, this group didn’t even register on the polls. It is projected that “nones” and adherents of other religions will outnumber Christians in the United States by 2042.

A lot of people who embrace Jesus are trying to “be the church” without any affiliation with an actual organization.

All local churches are organizations with the need for authority structures, finances, volunteers, and programming.

Alternative churches that are “successful” will confront these same issues, characteristics that its participants were probably turning from.

Starting something new will eventually cause you to wind up at the same place with the same “organizational issues.”

Trying to “be the church” or simply living life loving Jesus is a legitimate alternative that a lot of people have turned to.

I wonder, is there something more?

The “being the church” approach gives us the opportunity to live a more integrated life in which faith and life are more completely blended and that feels very real and refreshing.

However, at times it feels to me like it is a little incomplete. Maybe, I am still “detoxing” from all of those years I was a pastor or maybe there will be some exciting new ways to be the church that have yet to be revealed.

So, what do you think? Let me know in the comment section below.




Comments

  1. Vince Latorre says

    Glenn, you make some good points about today’s churches. I think there is too much of a feeling sometimes like you are in a corporation, not a church, and are just considered a consumer, as you said. A point of concern I especially share in my ministry is that churchgoers, especially young people, are not getting their toughest questions answered. This is the main reason they give for leaving the churches in droves. The sad part is that there are good answers to many of those questions and doubts they may have about their faith.

    • Glenn says

      Vince – I couldn’t agree more! The church should be the safest place in the world where questions and doubts can be openly expressed.

  2. says

    I am just usually bored in church. Bored out of my brains. I came to Jesus out of the drugs scene, the rave culture, and I walk into most churches it’s full of people sitting still for 2 hours, singing passionless songs and singing with weak voices with their hands in their pockets. I come from a place of joyful dancing, excitement and people having fun and a good time. WE HAVE to offer fun, excitement and real friendship in church. Jesus didn’t say ‘Come to me and I will bore you out of your face for 2 hours every Sunday’. He said ‘Come to me and I will give you life to the full’ – meaning joy, fun, and excitement as well as suffering for the gospel’s sake. I just don’t believe suffering for the gospel means sitting through a boring church service.

    In fairness, SOME churches ARE exciting, but they are few and far between. Unfortunately, the only exciting church in my area caused my grief when I was betrayed by a senior pastor on a confidentiality issue, so I refuse to go back.

    Now I live Jesus. Incarnational living. And I believe in this. I live in Phnom Penh, and my outreach is to girls in the nightclubs working the sex trade. The clubs have become my church. I worship on the dancefloor. It is taking church TO the people. Now in the red light area we have an outreach cafe and a new hair dressing salon which will train girls who want to escape the sex trade. This is the NEW emerging church. Living amongst them.

    IN the New Testament the ‘church’ was never a place, or a building – it meant ‘the people called out’. Out darkness into His wonderful light. When Paul said ‘the church who meets at Pricilla’s house’ he meant ‘the people’ who meet at Pricilla’s house. WE ARE the church! How can we go to something WE ARE ?!

    Iit’s great if we can find a place we can all worship together and feel excited about God – but if there is no such a place – we build our own places.

    There is only 1 church: every believer in Jesus: the living, breathing, organic Body of Christ.

    • Glenn says

      Steve – I love what you doing and you have the theology to back it up. I believe that faith and life have to be totally intertwined to have meaning. Thanks for shinning some light into a dark corner of the world. Funny how you find God in “unlikely” places!

    • Edwin Pastor FedEx Aldrich says

      Steve,

      You have an amazing story. I have added your blog to my bookmarks and will follow you as I am able. I think you are right on with the idea of “being” church. I have spent the last several years trying to be incarnation to the inner city areas here in Colorado and have often found that God and in many ways his church is here. I have had church with a prostitute on a corner, and with a drunk under a bridge, and found the presence of God more real there than in many buildings with church in their name.

      Blessing on you and what you are doing in Phnom Penh. The sex trade is a place of so much darkness and bondage.

      Edwin “Pastor FedEx” Aldrich

      Men of Praise Motorcycle Ministry

      Set Free Ministries

      PS, I sent you a friend request on facebook. would love to be able to follow what you are doing.

  3. Jim Strickland says

    This is “right on”. Jesus told us to make disciples, not sit in rows watching the “entertainment”. My wife and I opted out of the conventional “church” and now focus on the command Jesus gave us. After 50 years in the “conventional church” we have changed our focus to making disciples. It only takes two or more for the church to meet together. In any case the church comprises people and not buildings. It is a 24/7 way of life. No pressure, no heavy expenses. Money to sow into others instead of into a building. Wish we had done this 50 years ago! This glorifies God and not us.

    Jim Strickland

  4. Edwin Pastor FedEx Aldrich says

    Glen,

    I think you are right on with this. I grew up in a very church-first faith community. We were told to give our time and money to the church(building) first. Para-Church was the enemy of God’s real church, the “local church”. If you gave your tithe to a poor family, you were robbing that money from God himself.

    I am so glad I have left that tradition. I still attend a faith community, although we are working on being less and less church-like all the time. I pretty much agree with everything you said above. I spend nearly all my time ministering outside of “church” now and I cannot ever imagine going back to the old way of doing church.

    I also love your heart and ministry to those on the “fringes” of society. This is where I spend my life now, having coffee in a homeless camp, working with addicts at some of our local parks and hanging out with 1% bikers. From the ministry of Jesus, I would guess that God likes to spend his time around those “fringe” people as well.

    God bless you and your work,

    Edwin “Pastor FedEx” Aldrich

    Men of Praise Motorcycle Ministry

    Set Free Ministries

  5. Greg says

    That missing exciting element you’re waiting for came and went with the despising of small things that we were warned not to do. The home, the family and the community life are the church ‘building’ and we lively stones are her elements. The Spirit of Christ is the mortar of love and truth that we all are bound with together, and God himself dwells in us, reconciling the world to himself.

    All the props and stage craft that we’ve added, in order to tweak, fix, polish or re-invent has become the defacto reason for being the church while we’ve cleverly plagiarized the rhetoric of spiritual language from the bible. We’re not the first, as scripture itself and history expose others before us who forgot we are stewards and try to take the masters seat.

    One day, probably not in the near future judging by how much unspent energy there still is to tap, we will simply give up trying to fix what our ancestors broke, and just admit that our good intentions are just as naive and interfering as theirs were.

    God’s a father, and he loves home life, but that’s too simple.

    Church cant be just family and a family of families can it?

    No overarching agenda, no elected or un-elected boards, no bible colleges, degrees or titles, no elites or classes of men or women, no generational or gender divides, no creeds or ????

    Imagine if church was no more complicated than a family, which exists for no other reason than love.
    That excites me, and because I lived it, I can say with certainty that its achievable. But not by doing anything more or different, but rather by undoing, by being quiet, listening and surrendering in trust to God and one another, daily, for years, until we detox from the kool aid of churchianity.
    blessings
    Greg

    • Glenn says

      Greg – I love that! Let’s just live life, see God wherever he reveals himself, and work at loving those around us. I know for me that is an ongoing attitude adjustment and a call to action, to be real about loving.

  6. scott says

    I hear a lot of complaints but no ideas on an alternative. What is your solution? I agree the institution of the church needs help to be relevant today so how do we fix it? I have no idea how.

    • Glenn says

      Scott – I have been asking that question for years. I was a pastor for over 20 years. My conclusion for now is to cling tightly to the love, joy, and peace that is mine as a child of God and share it in meaningful ways to those around me, period. It’ not fancy. I’s not organizational. It is life!

      • Jim Strickland says

        Hi,

        I thought you may be interested in my musings this morning along the lines of the church as we know it being broken. It was sent to about 150 people in South Africa (my home), USA, UK and other places in the world.

        There is a way to fix it. It’s radical. But cures often .are radical. Gene Edwards has written fairly extensively on this very topic. His books are excellent and his solutions are revolutionary. Have a look at his book, “How to Meet in Homes”. The books by Dr A W Tozer are also excellent in this regard. As far back as the 1950′s he was speaking about “the great god entertainment” which was sweeping through USA and Canada.

        If you would like to hear a bit more along these lines, contact me directly. I’ll send you my email if you want it. Anyway, my musings are here-under: -

        —oooOOOooo—

        What is the difference between “service” and “service”? Apparently, nothing; they
        are both the same word spelled the same way. So when we speak of a church
        service and Christian service, are they the same? Of course they aren’t. A
        church service takes place within the confines of a building at predetermined time
        and days. Say at 11H00 each and every Sunday! Christian service, we are
        supposed to do willingly for others as we work out the Christian life
        practically. For example, visiting prisoners, feeding the poor, or coming to
        the aid of struggling neighbours. In some respects we could say that the church
        service focuses on our worshipping and loving God. The other is focussed
        primarily on other people.

        Should there be this perceived difference? Not if we understand Jesus correctly. In
        Matthew’s gospel Jesus is recorded as speaking about those who had and had not
        loved Him. Read Matthew 25:31-46 to get to grips with the entire parable. It reveals that which the Lord expects from His followers. Essentially it boils down to what we do or don’t do for His brothers and sisters. For convenience; 40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these My brothers and sisters, you were doing it to Me!’ Mat 25:40 NLT

        What is fascinating here is that there is no reference whatsoever to what we think
        of as church services. His approval or disapproval focuses entirely on what His
        servants do for others. No sermons; no bands; no worship teams; no rows; no
        lecture mode at all. There are not even pastors and elders in His discourse.
        Love for Him is expressed exclusively in and through service to others.

        Now I’m not suggesting there should be no leadership. Paul makes this very clear.
        He even spells out the requirements for those in leadership in a locality. The
        mistake we make is to transplant this directly into a “church hierarchy”. Not
        in those days. Paul had in mind the entire Christian community in a locality.
        For example, he wrote to the Church in Ephesus. Leaders were needed in Ephesus
        to ensure that Christians behaved and lived as Christians should. Those who had
        been Gentiles needed to know the difference between normal Gentile behaviour
        and Christian behaviour. To go from the one to the other was a major paradigm
        shift; from the formalised worship of idols to the worship of the true God. He
        was not writing to those who met in the building, owned by a particular denomination.
        He was not writing to the Anglicans who met in the “Anglican Church” in Ermelo
        or to the Methodists who met in the “Methodist Church” in Worcester. His
        letters were sent to all the Christians in that town.

        What appears to have happened down through the centuries is the incorporation of Old Testament practices into New Testament worship. Jesus’ relaxed and simple
        example, gave way to all the liturgy, paraphernalia and ritual of what we now
        have throughout Europe and the English speaking world. Even the Charismatic
        churches have gone down this road of turgid repetition, albeit at a faster,
        bouncier pace. Thus, the emphasis changed from loving and caring for the people
        in the neighbourhood, to going through religious routines mostly within the
        confines of buildings built for that purpose. This has been called a “worship
        service” directed to the Lord. But it is not service to our fellow man. This
        latter sort of “service”, for our fellow man is conveniently put on one side where
        possible.

        How can we put this right? There is no easy answer. It’s hard and difficult and will seriously affect our comfort zones. People do what they like doing.
        Getting into a rut happens very quickly. Attend a weekend conference and you
        will find that by the end, everyone is sitting more or less in the same place
        as they have throughout the weekend. That’s people! I’m told that the only
        difference between a rut and a grave is the depth. I think it’s true.21st century Christianity is in that rut now. For most, it is already a grave.

        Shalom,

        Jim & Phyllida Strickland

  7. Greg says

    Glenn: Yes, yes, yes!! The writer to the Hebrews termed it ‘having entered into His rest, ceasing from our own works”‘. Only when we receive a revelation from God Himself that even our obedience and integrity is filthy rags, will we give up and rest in not only His finished work on the cross, but also His finished work in us, to transform us into His Son’s likeness. That’s finished too, and the WAY is also finished. The WAY (methods,forms etc) is the life pattern Jesus lived on earth and His never ending life now, ongoing. We must allow God to lead us (because He WILL NOT force us) to brokeness and trust.

    Scott:May I suggest that why is a better question than how?

    How suggests that we made a mistake and/ or were duped into creating this huge system of usurping God that we call church. We disobeyed, black and white,and have codified that systematic and long standing disobedience(s) into beloved traditions and excuses.

    Why is the more fitting question for bad stewards like us.

    Like all bad stewards who were given a trust, we are jealous.

    We, just like the Pharisees, want the whole house, and not just to be caretakers.

    We love the upper seats, being called Rabbi in the marketplace etc.

    And those who don’t, are afraid. Afraid to lose family, wealth, respect.

    How to get the church back on track is frankly none of our business, when we know full well that unless our hearts are humbled and our minds radically changed, we will usurp God again in a few generations. That’s just our nature.

    I’m copying and pasting something I posted on Zack Hoags blog, that addresses how to deal with why we are in the rut we are all in. It’s not my revelation. I got this content from a booklet entitled ‘Last Call to the Godly Remnant’, written by Phillip Mauro, and read it when I was first converted.

    it burned a hole in my conscience at the time and hasn’t stopped burning since. It’s the timely message of Haggai. Read it at your peril, because once you do, you will no longer be able to say you haven’t heard the message from heaven that God doesn’t play fiddle at our concerts.

    We dance for Him.

    here it is:

    There comes a time in the trajectory of a people, a nation, a civilization, to admit that a critical mass of ideas, sin, tradition et al has been reached and is fading into history. Prophets thru the ages, in all eras have pointed out their respective devolution’s, and usually been killed for it.

    Israel is the one history the church is supposed to understand, especially when we find ourselves at the same crossroads, and for the same reasons.

    So, upholding precious traditions that once were allowed by God, and defending the status quo that now no longer stands up to those tensions you spoke of, is the same as going shopping or hanging pictures on the wall, which is acceptable under normal circumstances, but if your’e broke or if the house is on fire, then its just plain crazy.

    We are collectively bankrupt as a church and our house is on fire, and way too many folks are hanging up pictures, because that’s what they’ve always done.

    Haggai told his generation that God was the one who was blowing apart their offerings, that He likened to putting money in bags with holes. The reason He no longer was going to tolerate their offers to help was because they were building their own houses while His house laid waste. He told them to abandon their own building and go up the mountain, get wood and come back down and complete His house.

    That message is for us today. Not twenty yrs ago and not 10 yrs from now. Today.

    There is usually only a small remnant that are willing to break tradition and follow God as He leads the way into uncharted territory. He doesn’t condemn those who stay back, because He’s a kind and loving father who will always care for all His kids, but ….they don’t get to share in the new wine because they are content with the old stuff, and that’s their reward.

    Im saying Ive heard God say for us ALL, (because He always calls ALL of his children to stay together and be one family) to move out of our traditions and wrestle with how to build His house together, when we hav no precedent, plan or leaders who know what that looks like.

    There comes a time when He doesn’t wait for everybody any more because its the appointed time to build, or go , or stay or whatever His will is. He works with whomever is willing to leave all and follow Him.

    That’s what I was saying in my first post. Sure, I’m very discontent, especially having tasted 20 sweet years of my 30 yrs in fellowship. That discontent isn’t bitterness but its longing, and crying and loneliness, and after 10 more years of wandering in the wilderness, meeting many other wanderers in the same place, with the same longing, I cant shut up any more.

    I’ve tasted what we all want and need, and I suspect the only way we are going to arrive at a place of contentment, unity, one-another-ness that truly satisfies and meets real needs in real daily lives, is to completely cut our moorings with traditions (that are frankly boring, repetitive and spirit numbing to many).

    All those wonderful Sunday School lessons about stepping out in faith, walking into the water, facing the giants etc…. well its time to put our money where our mouth is and do it. I cant tell anyone how, but I can tell everyone why. Its simply to not lose a small tiny window of opportunity that God has given us in this generation, to stay connected to Him, and not fool ourselves that continuing to revel in the blessings He previously allowed to comfort and satisfy us, will continue to be there in the future.

    That’s a bogus assumption, because His gifts and blessings are connected to His person and presence, and when He moves the camp, we had better get off our duffs and move with Him.

    I’m afraid my 40 yr journey, much of it in a wilderness, has soured me on staying in any comfort zone of the past, (because they always end up being temporary) and conversely, has put in me a deep hunger to live in a land (church family fellowship) flowing with the milk of His Word and the honey of His presence.

    I suggest we all encourage one another to get up and follow Him, and not make it easy to leave any one behind just because they are afraid, lame or invested where they are. The US Marines have a motto that I think they must have got from God. They never leave a man behind, dead or alive,and if there’s any more beautiful sentiment than that from our loving heavenly Father, I don’t know it.

    Please hear Gods loving, dove like coo-ing, calling those who have an ear to hear what He’s saying to the church in our time, that its time to move on.

  8. says

    Really great post here, Glenn. Thank you so much for being willing to write it for this blog and for doing such a fantastic job interacting with the comments.

  9. David says

    Pastor credo dollar inspired me to preach he has muti mansions drive million dollar cars and planes he only wears $2000 suits. Many people are inspired by him and his prosperity gospel

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