The largest single and fastest growing demographic among Christian believers as concerns church is the un-churched – those who are not members of and do not regularly attend the services of a church. If this writer has been successful in pointing out the distinctions between the church and the ecclesia, that need not cause readers to regard decreasing church membership necessarily as evidence of fewer numbers in the Body of Christ - the ecclesia – itself, for the two are distinctly different. And, in fact, as the church is not the ecclesia but often serves rather to distract believers from the ecclesia, it is better that the church should decrease. (“He must increase but I must decrease.”)
But what must always increase, even as religion decreases? Our relationship with the One True Living God and His Son, Jesus Christ. And, quite honestly, that relationship can grow in church or out.
Now, ideally, if a church is focused on leading people to a better knowledge of and relationship with God, it will serve to encourage the ecclesia within and without to so grow. But church is not necessary to that relationship – it is not even part of that relationship – unless one elects to make the church a necessary component of one’s relationship with God … and therein lies the curse (or, in many cases, perhaps, a blessing).
It is not through religion that one has a relationship with God. It was religion that crucified Jesus. When He called down the Pharisees, it was religion that He condemned. When a church makes a list of rules, it is religion speaking. A “confession of faith,” church by-laws, denominational affiliation, etc., are all religious tokens. And guess what, Folks? Those things don’t work anymore.
Oh, sure, there are some old-timers in some churches that still want to do things the way that they have been done for generations, but culture is changing, and along with it is adherence to that “old time religion” that is just that – religious – and not based solely on the Word of God. What is there in the church that is purely religion and not God (or even in the Word of God)? Just about everything that – for example – denominations would differ on … everything that involves works, things to do, places to go, words to say, people to follow, etc., or anything that derives more from following culture than from following Christ.
Is wearing a suit and tie scriptural? Are the piano and organ biblical while, say, drums and guitars are not? These are all matters of cultural preference, strict adherence to which has made “un-churching” attractive, if not mandatory, for many. But what is not negotiable for the ecclesia? A relationship with the King of kings and His Son, Jesus.
Do not be discouraged by these writings if you take spiritual sustenance from church membership and activities. But do not stop there. Men and institutions will fail you. God never will. Are you willing to go deeper?