I was thinking about how little the Bible says about Church meetings. I was hard pressed to come up with an actual passage that describes a New Testament Church meeting. There are lots of passages that give us a glimpse into what it meant to be a part of the Church in New Testament times, but most of the Bible actually describes what the Church was doing in the world instead of the details of the Church meetings.
Then I thought about how opposite this is of what we focus on here in America. We spend most of our time and efforts on the ninety minutes or so on Sunday morning, and then it is over for another week. I’m not suggesting that the Church meeting isn’t important, but I am suggesting that we prioritize the meeting at the expense of the doing and living out of the mission that Christ intended for His followers.
Consider that as recently as 2018, collectively, Church income was over 124 Billion dollars. On average how that money is spent breaks down like this—49% on personnel, 23% on facilities, 11% on missions, 10% on programs, 6% on dues. Evangelicals, on average, spend more on personnel (51% of budget) and less on facilities (21%). I don’t have a problem with people giving to support their churches, and I think that it is a wonderful way to support the organizations that give us spiritual guidance. But spending a majority of this money on paid professionals that do the work of ministry seems to miss the point that in the New Testament it seems like everyone was preaching the gospel and serving others.
The word “Church” is Latin ecclesia, from Greek ekklesia, where the word is a compound of two segments: “ek”, a preposition meaning “out of”, and a verb, “kaleo”, signifying “to call” – together, literally, “to call out” Within the word it itself is the idea of “calling out” not necessarily “calling in.” But here in America we have reduced Church to a meeting on Sunday morning, essentially making the Church something that is done behind closed doors and benefiting only those who choose to attend. If we examine what it means to actually be the Church that Jesus intended, we would focus less on meeting attendance and more on transforming our surroundings with His gospel.
What does this look like practically? Again I’m not suggesting that we stop attending church meetings, but rather that we focus more on viewing these meetings as less important. I’m suggesting that we spend less money on attracting people to attend with huge productions and calling that worship, and focus more on simply singing together, sharing encouragement and instruction from the Bible, and providing encouragement for one another as we go about doing good in the world. How we live through the week is far more important than where we go on Sunday. This should be the emphasis of the Church. I believe in coming years we will see this shift. As Churches become smaller, the “big box” megachurches may remain as models of a bygone era that are able to perpetuate themselves based upon consumer driven economics and entertainment value, but they will increasingly be less influential and more symbolic. The substance of Christianity will be propagated by individuals rallying around causes that are important to them. Look for less over the top charismatic leaders, and more collectives of networking social entrepreneurs who are able to organize communities to leverage change.
Individual Christians must come together to change the perception that has been created by well intentioned albeit misguided attempts to change the Country by recasting Christianity as a voting bloc and special interest group. This model created political systems that serve simplistic binary solutions that end up making things worse and not better. Never again must Christianity be cast as just another “ends justifies the means” philosophy. Rather, Christianity, as it was intended by Christ is a seed that is planted that eventually grows to displace the power structures of the past in favor of a new creation. Christianity is a “little leaven” that ends up expanding into the entire lump. It is more subversive than powerful as measured by conventional methods. In fact, Christianity when done right turns the power structures of this world on their head, dismantling their influence and ushering in a new era of blessing for all.
You know, like the book of Acts.