Saturday, August 8, 2015

Where Are All the Simple Church Folks?

Where are they?

Where are all the simple church people? I know they are out there; many are seeking fellowship with other believers. And yet, they are difficult to find.

More and more Christians are done with the institutional model of church. I'm one of those Dones. If you are reading this blog, chances are fairly good that you are a Done, too (or are at least considering it). For your sake I hope you have close fellowship with other believers because it can be very difficult to find. If the institution does one thing well, it's that it makes it obvious both when and where meetings are taking place.

Why is it difficult to come in contact with other believers who are seeking authentic relationships in a simple model? One reason, as I alluded to above, is that it's not obvious during the normal comings and goings of life who simple church Christians are. Frankly, it's usually difficult to even spot the Christians, much less those looking for something different from the institutional norm. We don't wear patches that say "Seeking Simple Church" or anything like that.

Additionally, most folks who have departed the institution are wary of getting involved too quickly with other Christians. This is because of scarring from what they've left behind. Nobody wants to get into another bad situation.

A third factor is that Christians in general are increasingly looking for true relationships. Even those within the institutional walls want to really know people. As for simple church, those seeking it do not want anything forced; they want it to be natural. This takes time. Because we don't want to rush into making a mistake, sometimes very little ends up happening.

A final hurdle that we have to deal with is living in the Bible Belt. In the southern USA most folks still trust institutional Christianity. This is much more the case here than in other locales. It's weird. I'll be thrilled when these last remnants of Christendom pass away (which will occur I'm convinced within the next 25 years). For now, not that many Christians here are looking outside the institution because they still see it as a really good thing.

I apologize for the rambling nature of this post. My hope is that you can sense my struggles. It is difficult to want something real, something authentic, something wonderful but not be able to find it. I'm not seeking heaven on this side of death. However, I'm looking for something that I read about in the book of Acts. So far no success.

10 comments:

Peter Horvatin said...

Yes, Eric, it is difficult for sure. Obviously, all of us simple church folk long to have relationships that are natural. Sadly, most of the time, even here up north, overcoming traditions of men in the institutional church is next to impossible. They have been so ingrained from childhood or from many years just being in the Institutional setting. Many times, from my vantage point, the people in the institutional church have come to believe that these traditions are part of the doctrine of the church. They never really take the time to examine New Testament church history.

Pete

Eric said...

Peter,

Your last two sentences are spot-on! Many believers do think they are being faithful to Christ by holding on firmly to those traditions. When we call those things into question, they see it as an attack on their faith. They also think there is something wrong with us. It is a difficult situation indeed.

Aussie John said...

Eric,

You and Peter are absolutely spot on! Many, who are convinced Dones, are kept in bondage by relationships/friendships made whilst they were part of the traditional scene. It's all about loyalty to the an institution which has become nothing more than a formal association of people, such as a lodge, club,etc. Such loyalty, which is camouflaged and presented as loyalty to Christ, is reinforced from pulpits everywhere, subtly and not so subtly.

Arthur Sido said...

"Frankly, it's usually difficult to even spot the Christians, much less those looking for something different from the institutional norm."

That is true and it should trouble us a great deal. If Christians are largely indistinguishable from non-Christians as individuals and families, we ought to be deeply troubled by this. Instead of being a bunch of lights of the world, we are just faces in the crowd.

In addition I am right where you and a lot of others are. We know what the Bible teaches and what it does not but finding like-minded Christians (who are also orthodox on other issues) is a huge problem. For many of us, and this includes me, our options are to not have much in the way of fellowship or going to a traditional church.

Eric said...

John,

The pulpit issue is indeed a big one. People believe what the hear from the pulpit - like sheep following unquestioningly. It's as if the priesthood of all believers doesn't really exist. How sad.

Eric said...

Arthur,

I agree about the fellowship issue. We currently just meet as a family for bible study, prayer, and a meal. I'm not happy with this, but other options seem extremely limited right now. I think we're all hoping for the same thing: true community in Christ following the model we see in the NT. How difficult that is to find!

David Rogers said...

Eric (and others),

I appreciate your honesty on this post. I am probably in the category of people you describe here of those who have seen some of the truth of the simple church approach and yet choose to remain in what many simple church people would regard as a generally traditional church setting. I am firmly convinced of the value of small groups, one-another relationships, mutual edification, etc. I also see the pitfalls of the pastor-search committee model and the professionalization of Christian ministry. But I prefer to work from within the system to change it rather than jump ship altogether.

I also see the defects of a lot of "house churches" and don't think that ultimately the answer lies there. I could one day happily fellowship regularly with a "house church." But until I find one that is a right fit for my family and situation, I don't think giving up the type of fellowship I share with other brothers and sisters in a more traditional church setting is worth the exchange. And while I don't put traditional "preaching" on the pedestal many people do, and value more highly interactive smaller meetings, I do still benefit from listening to other people preach, and from preaching the occasional sermon myself, when asked to do so. From my understanding of Scripture, as long as mutual edification is indeed taking place in other settings, I fail to see how this is such a bad thing.

I suppose we each need to follow our own conscience, in accord with our understanding of Scripture, on these issues. But that is where my conscience and understanding have led me thus far.

Eric said...

David,

Thank you for commenting. I fully agree that believers who are finding mutual edification within the institutional framework should, if led by the Spirit, remain where they are. There's absolutely no reason I can see for someone to bail out unless convicted to do so.

The struggle many of us outside the institution face is even locating those who have the same convictions about church life. This sometimes leads to loneliness and frustration. As you can see from the post, I don't have the answers for it.

Kevin said...

I wish I had answers, too. We are part of a fairly simple church - we meet in homes, eat a meal together, and have a simple structure for our meetings. Another big piece is that we try to intentionally reach out to those in need near us. In our case, that means helping teachers and families at a poor public school nearby.

Like you and others said, though, the tendency to recreate church traditions is very strong among those who've been in that setting all their lives.

Eric said...

Thanks Kevin. I'm glad that you are part of an authentic fellowship. I hope that can be our situation in the not too distant future. As for man's traditions, they sure are easy to create and/or fall into. I suppose that is a symptom of our fallen nature.