Sarah wrote the following insights on our Simple Church course forum as a partial explanation of her journey from institutional church to something more organic.
She was writing in response to a quote from Jake Jacbosen (So You Don't Want to Go To Church Anymore): “By providing services to keep people coming, [institutions can] unwittingly becomes a distraction to real spiritual life. It offers an illusion of spirituality in highly orchestrated experiences, but it cannot show people how to live each day in him through the real struggles of life.”
I could not agree more with this! The saddest thing I have seen at our [previous institutional] church is people who have come (through some relationship, or however) with a genuine hunger for God—to draw near to God—and instead of them being drawn into a family, walked along side of, and discipled into the ways of Jesus, learning what it looks like to live out the ways of Jesus in real life, studying the Bible on their own, they end up becoming great church-goers. This is a tragedy!
I believe there is something in those services that sparks their hearts (hearing the word of God preached, singing songs that praise Jesus), and yet they are told (or its modeled) that by signing up for a 'ministry' of the church (i.e. children's ministry, coffee ministry, greeting etc.) they are fulfilling the duties of a good Christian and therefore should be experiencing all that there is to a life with Jesus. They become so busy with the operational duties of the institutional church, they either are guilted into prioritizing these meetings and putting committees above family or they stop altogether because they want to protect their family free time. Either way, (at least in my experience) I've seen so many of them leave disillusioned with 'church'…
Even last night as we all did share our 'life stories/testimonies' Jeremiah and I were heartbroken to hear most of them all just share how they've become a part of church… Nearly none of them actually shared the person they were before Christ changed them—a crisis, brokenness, or vulnerable place where they saw their need –and then any fruit or change of the new person they have become in Christ.
I believe there has been such an emphasis on learning/knowledge in our churches... and not enough emphasis on daily repentance and obedience (in dependence on the Spirit). Because so many people 'add Jesus' to their life in the form of church activities, they are missing out on the adventure of following Jesus practically and radically. (Do any of you see this trick of the enemy in your churches? People being converted to 'churchianity' ??)
Our prayer for our group of people is that they would begin to discover the wonder, excitement and simplicity of walking with Jesus. I desire that as we gather we would each share what the Lord has been doing in our own lives as we take steps of faith and boldness to love others radically, share as the Spirit prompts us, and learn how to OBEY rather than just gain KNOWLEDGE.