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So what would happen if all institutional churches closed their doors?

November 20, 2007

Yeah, I can hear some snickering out there and some of you are probably thinking…

That won’t happen until pigs fly!

I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you!

So hell finally froze over, huh?

Never in a month of Sundays!

Close URLOne guy posed a challenge to Wayne Jacobsen, saying that the closure of institutional churches would have an irreversible and detrimental effect, causing the church to lose its presence in the earth and replacing all the good works done by Christian institutions with a bunch of disgruntled, uncommitted Christians. I’ve gotten to know Wayne over the last two years, so I couldn’t wait to read his response. Here’s an excerpt:

Let’s say today everyone stops attending our Sunday (or Saturday) morning institutions. Would the Church lose its presence in the world? I don’t think so, and in fact I think you could argue that it would have both a greater and more effective impact. Admittedly there would be some chaos with so many support staff out of work, and dealing with buildings that would be difficult to sell, but once we got through all of that, I am convinced the church would take on a GREATER presence in the world. Our world wouldn’t have a daily reminder driving down their streets how fragmented Christianity is into its various institutions because people simply wouldn’t learn how to love each other they way they are loved by God.

Those who really love Jesus would find themselves liberated from all the machinery that consumes a huge amount of time, energy and resource and find their lives in more spacious places where they would have time to get to know and love their neighbor, their colleagues at work and people they pass on the street. Admittedly that wouldn’t be everyone’s response, but the reason I don’t fear people not being ‘committed anywhere’ is that they will get to find out just how committed to Jesus they really are. And that’s good for them and good for the world. Many Sunday-attenders have no idea they are missing out on what it means to be truly committed to Jesus. They think that attending a service and dropping some coins in the offering basket validate the depth of their faith. Yes, some would end up disgruntled and fragmented, but they wouldn’t be mistaken for those who really ‘get’ this journey and live in the increasing reality of being transformed by Jesus.

To survive, people would have to become more active in their faith, seeking out opportunities for growth, for relationship and for sharing God’s life in the world. They would lose the passivity that allows people to sit through a meeting on Sunday and live unchanged the rest of the week. New believers would be taught to know the Lord in small groups who share the life of the family together, rather than as cogs in a big machine. And we would have so many more resources to do whatever God might ask us to do, like reach out to AIDs patients, build hospitals in third world countries, feed the poor or host an outreach in a local park where others might come to know him. Leaders would emerge not by their education, vocation, or ability to draw a crowd, but because they have a gift to help people grow and live hospitably so that they actually come in contact with real people.

In summary, the Church would take on a greater presence in the world just because of the number of active believers scattered throughout it every day to make him known. And it would be more authentic as well, since it would be Jesus demonstrating himself through transformed lives, which I think is far more powerful than ornate buildings, spurious TV preachers, or the excesses and failures of our institutional leaders today.

So what do you think? If you’re interested, you can read the original blog post here.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Todd permalink
    May 6, 2008 7:24 pm

    Does anyone go to a church with major ministry to the poor and those in bondage? I don’t know about you, but some of us do attend churches that reach out, and closing their doors would result in:

    1. Stoppage of an effective ministry that helps prisoners transition into the workplace

    2. Stoppage of a ministry that provides homework help to muslim immigrants

    3. Immediately remove 25% of support for hundreds of missionaries who attended this church, felt the call to serve in the world, and took the churches committment of 25% to all members feeling the call.

    There is benefit in structure and leadership. We are all employed because of it. Yes, there are over reaches, but it isn’t just automatically bad! If churches closed their doors, the unifying effects of christians serving and giving together would be lost, and in many cases these ministries that result from church membership and attendance (above) would be gone without someone overseeing them.

    I am convinced. This movement is self absorbed.


  1. From the “what would happen?” department at Thin Edge of the Wedge

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