A reminder that I am exploring the shift that took place in the church which moved it from movement to institution, and the implications of that shift. Today I will focus on what drives the church. As best I can tell what Jesus was leading the early followers to do, and what the early church was doing, was all about building the Kingdom of God. More specifically, the primary focus was to live in such a way that others could experience the Kingdom by how you lived. In one of my favorite movies, The Last Samurai, in the last scene Tom Cruise's character is asked to tell the account of how someone died. His response is, not about death but about how the person lived. Jesus death was crucial and without it we are all still in great trouble. However, if all that is examined and celebrated is the death of Jesus, something is missing. The way Jesus lives and called others to live was equally important.
As the church journeyed further from the movement of Jesus to the institution, two primary thoughts drove the church. One was all about salvation through the cross of Jesus, and the other was all about the re-order of society. These are both solid drives for the church. Often, however, they were mutually exclusive. Classically this has been outlined as the evangelical church and the social Gospel church. Pardon the oversimplification. These two drives caused the church to change focus. The evangelical church was and is convinced all that needs to happen is the world simply needs to be saved by the blood of Jesus. Truth. The social gospel church says that we bring people to Jesus by re-ordering society to look more like the Kingdom of God. Truth. The result is a church that is irrelevant to most, and impotent to really transform the world. So, we simply go through the motions to keep the institution alive because that provides one with a sense of doing something worthwhile.
It is time once again to have a drive change. The time has come to recapture the original movement. The work of the cross transforming lives in order that society would be transformed. It is very difficult to motivate people outside of the institution to sacrifice for the sake of the institution, it has lost its meaning. I do think that people will sacrifice for the sake of transforming the world. If the church's drive is to simply exist it has already died. the good news is God does some of his best work with dead people, but they must be willing to admit they are dead. Church for the sake of church is foolish, church for the sake of transformation of the world for the sake of Christ, that is worth dieing for.