Church Isn’t Something You Do On Sundays (Lies Killing The Church)

Church Isn’t Something You Do On Sundays (Lies Killing The Church) April 27, 2017

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I think the Christian church in America is in trouble.

While statistics always have variants, many show that some denominations are in dramatic decline while others, at best, are stagnant.

The reality is we may never know exactly why this is the case. If we don’t make any changes, however, I fear that in another generation or two Christianity in America could become a cultural relic of the past that holds very little significance in the present.

One of the problems I believe we are dealing with is that over the course of time, some lies have crept into our faith. Slowly, subtly, we grow to accept and believe them as if they are Gospel-truth. Give it enough time, and the entire group treats them as if they are Gospel-truth.

I believe these lies are part of what is killing the church.

While there are probably far more lies than I could ever imagine or identify, I’m going to be blogging my way through lies that I think are killing the church today. Here is the first, and perhaps one of the most deadly lies so much of the church believes:

LIE: Church is something you do on Sundays.

That thing you attend on Sundays? That’s not church– that’s a corporate worship service, and they are not the same thing. It is part of the thing, but not the thing itself.

Church wasn’t originally about corporate worship as much as it was about doing life together. It’s about community. Helping one another. Walking together through all of life’s ups and downs. In fact, the early church was so dedicated to this that they practically met daily– they needed each other.

They shared meals together. They prayed together. They talked about their days, celebrated in the beautiful moments, and uplifted one another during the hard moments. They were inseparable friends, because Church was designed to be a committed community.

In this way, “church” has nothing to do with a building, very little to do with a worship service on Sundays, but is actually more about having a circle of committed friends who are dedicated to walking through life, together. It’s about having a group of people in your life who you know will never leave you stranded and alone, no matter how hard life gets, or how badly you screw up.

But that’s not what we see in American culture today– at least, that is not the typical expression of church in America.

America today is an individualistic culture. We pride ourselves on individualism and self-reliance. We live lives that are very isolated from one another.

That is the opposite of church. Many Christians, dare I say most Christians in America, have bought into the cultural value of individualism and thus have no perceived need to be church or to do church, beyond something we do on Sundays.

For those of us who actually do crave church, we often struggle to find a circle of committed friends who are willing to commit to walking through life together and never leaving us stranded when life gets hard.

Occasionally we get a taste of this– we find groups that at least seem like they want to be community and do life together– but then find ourselves pushed out, left behind, emotionally abandoned, or sometimes outright shunned.

And truthfully? That’s more traumatic than never finding community in the first place.

In my case, it’s usually been because of Guns n’ Gays (shunning one but welcoming the other), but the reality is, many communities are formed around a commitment to shared belief and ideological purity, instead of a commitment to relationship. When the beliefs begin to shift or come into doubt, the commitment to actually being church ends and the relationships are severed.

If the church in America is to survive, we must repent of the lie that church is something that you do on Sundays.

That’s not church at all.

Church is having a group of committed friends who do life with you and won’t walk out on you when the going gets tough, or when you begin to ask questions about what you believe and why.

I pray, from the deepest parts of my heart, that true Church will come to America.

I desire this for so many reasons, form the theological to the practical.

But mostly, I pray for the Church to come to America because I ache for it and would really like to experience it.


unafraid 300Dr. Benjamin L. Corey is a public theologian and cultural anthropologist who is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with graduate degrees in the fields of Theology and International Culture, and holds a doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of the new book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, which is available wherever good books are sold. www.Unafraid-book.com. 

Be sure to check out his new blog, right here, and follow on Facebook:

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Tim

    Two thumbs up.

  • Matthew

    We need to focus on learning how to live with those who are different from us in the “church” rather than focusing on the differences themselves. For real “church” to happen not only do we need more genuine community, but we also need more unity beyond propositional truth claims that only, ultimately, make us more and more tribal — more sectarian.

  • gimpi1

    Question; can you have a community of people – family and friends – that give you that sort of support, that share your life, that help you with life’s bumps and that you help when they are down, but not share belief? Can we agree to disagree on some things and still be a close community? Can we accept in community people who believe differently?

    I’m working on this. I don’t know yet. I imagine sharing belief helps, but it seems to be a two-edged sword. Belief draws people closer, but if someone changes their beliefs, it shatters the bond. Likewise, groups focused on belief seem to narrow, demanding more and more conformity over time.

    I guess I really hope people can form what Dr. Corey calls church without uniformity of belief – since I very much doubt I’ll ever find a group that shares my beliefs totally. I’m sort of a sect of one….

  • Al Cruise

    The answers to your questions is Yes. Love and caring is always love and caring and will produce the same result regardless the community. No doctrine or theology can change that fact. If anything, doctrine and theology are often impediments to the practice of love and caring in a community.

  • gimpi1

    Thanks. It’s worth a shot…

  • RollieB

    Our Sunday morning worship group (no building, no budget, no paid staff) came up with this, adapted from Michael Morwood:

    We open our minds and hearts to the present-ness of God-in-us,
    the Source and Sustainer of all that exists.

    We value each other and seek to be an inclusive community
    in which every member is given full justice, dignity, and respect.

    We give thanks for the insights we gain from people of
    various times, places, cultures and religions whose lives have been characterized by gratitude, compassion, generosity and forgiveness.

    We seek to be sensitive to the lure of God in all aspects of our personal life, and open to discovering new hopes and dreams for our lives together.

    We will do this in solidarity with one another, through our communal worship,
    through our spiritual journey, through faithful action in our community
    and in honest fellowship with each other.

    Thus we commit ourselves to deepen our experience of God’s
    present-ness within and around us.

    Therefore we commit ourselves to the Gathering House,
    for we believe it is with and through each other
    that we have been called to serve.

    May God-in-us find generous and courageous expression
    in our words and actions as we undertake to make
    the reign of God evident in our world.

  • dave

    I like the idea, but when a core belief is that only your core beliefs are correct and relevant, the answer is unfortunately that we cannot we accept in community people who believe differently. I do not mean to say that you believe this way, but in general that is what isolated the church (and of course denominations of the church)

  • chemical

    Church is having a group of committed friends who do life with you and
    won’t walk out on you when the going gets tough, or when you begin to
    ask questions about what you believe and why.

    As an atheist this strikes me on how broad and inclusive this statement is. I attend an atheist meetup group that kind of acts like this — so, I attend church now? The last time I’ve actually been to a church was to attend my grandfather’s funeral.

    Not that I’m claiming creating this community is a bad idea (quite the opposite, actually), but I’d object to calling it a church.

  • John

    But you can’t really kill the church, can you? Your really talking about the reduction of the weekly church attendance or those who identify as Christian. There are many issues contributing to this, which sounds like what you are addressing. But overall for the life of the Church, this may be a good thing. Perhaps a refining is taking place, though the process is difficult and ugly. I would rather have a smaller, more pure church than a large hypocritical one.

  • chemical

    I imagine sharing belief helps, but it seems to be a two-edged sword.
    Belief draws people closer, but if someone changes their beliefs, it
    shatters the bond.

    I’m curious to why you think that is?

  • RollieB

    Absolutely you can, our group does it every week. There are a wide variety of beliefs and backgrounds amongst us.

  • olbab

    Yes, but: if we insist that the result be “Christian” we -I think- cannot get there. To be inclusive enough must be inclusive enough to embrace ANY viewpoint about the godly life that is not insane or sociopathic.

    I might have said the goodly life instead. I would embrace any atheists as well who can see that our present way of living is not going in a good direction, that the interaction of our evolution-determined thinking patterns and the very new (10,000 years?) high density cultures we are now in is forcing us to collective behaviors that perhaps can only be avoided by actively pursuing real community.

    (Wow. Never wrote a sentence that long before.)

    When I’m not believing in God, I am just such an atheist. When I am believing, I am more and more a not-Christian, looking for something to salvage from the wreckage of bible idolatry.

  • gimpi1

    That’s one of the walls I’ve hit. Also, when someone’s core belief is that someone else is not their equal, and must be restricted – how do you deal with that? Gay rights are one example, but there are many more – complimentarian believers who limit people by gender; people who believe race is a reason to limit people; people who think ‘unbelievers’ must be limited to preserve their doctrines… the list goes on and on.

    That’s one of the reasons I’m not sure about this.

  • gimpi1

    I’m basing it on the way churches and organizations schism when one sub-group within the larger group changes. Think of the many splits over minor things – what language to pray in; whether clergy should marry; whether women can be clergy; who can hold authority; heck, some Amish sects have had schisms over the size of lamp you can have on your buggy.

    Really, some groups demand almost total conformity in their communities and use various disciplinary actions to enforce it. Think ‘church discipline’ among some conservative denominations. People have been “disfellowshiped” over a female family-member wearing pants or a bumper-sticker for a candidate the pastor didn’t like, I saw this from the outside here in Seattle, with the Mars Hill mess.

  • RollieB

    Why would someone who limits others belong to a group whose core belief being open and accepting? Doesn’t the premise deter the “limiters” from coming on board?

  • RollieB

    Ah, Mars Hill, now I understand your perspective.

  • gimpi1

    Well, that assumes a choice of “membership.” Families are examples of groups that form without choice. Now, if you are an open and affirming person, and you’re very close to your sister, who you want to bring in, but she’s not, do we keep her out? How do you feel about the group that makes that call? Do you bail?

    What about a convert? Someone who’s been in your group becomes a member of a belief-system that sincerely believes in the desperate need to limit some other group. Do you show them the door? If so, how does the rest of their family feel about this? Do you lose the whole family?

    Long story short; people are complicated. So are any groups they form. Or, at least that’s how it seems to me.

  • chemical

    It seems to me that the sharing beliefs isn’t the problem with those groups, but rather it’s the total conformity aspects of them.

    And conformity isn’t even a bad thing. It’s helped us humans survive over the millennia. But here’s the secret about conformity: You sacrifice some of your freedom whenever you decide to conform with a particular group’s doctrines. But like I said, conformity isn’t a bad thing. You wouldn’t want to live in a society where anyone is free to murder anyone else, right?

    My advice on this issue is to let people be free, as long as it doesn’t interfere with other people’s freedom.

  • gimpi1

    Yes. I wasn’t involved in it, but I saw it. Not pretty.

  • RollieB

    Our experience has been that when a limiting person shows up at our open group and finds out how open and accepting the group is they either adjust or eventually drift away. Thus a self-limiting culture.

    I agree that institutional ‘church’ doesn’t work very well.

  • gimpi1

    Well, I agree. But many don’t. For instance, look at the churches that are firmly convinced that the only ‘loving’ thing to do is harass gay people into not ‘acting gay’ because of their beliefs regarding sin. You’re never going to get them to understand that they’re interfering with the freedom of others.

    In general, I don’t trust conformity. But that’s just me. I’m a fairly creative person, and have always felt pulled to break away from the crowd. I don’t regard it as conformity to not hurt others, I regard it as a basic function of empathy. I don’t need an example to understand why hurting other folks is a bad idea. But, perhaps that’s just me.

  • gimpi1

    I’ve seen that work well. I’ve also (more rarely) seen it tear groups apart. Here’s hoping your group stays strong.

  • gimpi1

    I’m genuinely glad that works for you. I hope it continues to do so.

  • gimpi1

    I think you’re right. If a group is open, it’s darn hard ot have an overreaching “truth claim.” That’s just one of the things that can be so tricky. I’m mostly agnostic, and yet I see many good things in faith. I also see the wreckage of Bible-worship, and the harm it causes.

    (Oh, and you’re a piker on run-on sentences. I managed one that went on for 400+ words. It even made sense! Well, sort of…Everyone needs an editor occasionally;-)

  • RollieB

    “When I am believing, I am more and more a not-Christian, looking for something to salvage from the wreckage of bible idolatry.”

    I think one of the keys is opening up to what we believe in. God, certainly!
    There are a lot of names for God in our group. Beyond that it’s a discussion.

  • chemical

    I feel much the same way.

  • John

    The church, Biblically, is the body of Christ. It’s the whole group of believers on earth. It is also referred to as the specific groups of believers in certain areas (like the church at Philippi).

  • John

    I agree, the church is much more the community of believers than it is the building or meeting on Sunday.

    I would clarify that, though, that what you call “ideological purity” has been part of the real church since the times of the apostles. There are multiple passages about putting out false teachers and being careful to stick to the teachings given to the church.

    The churches shrinking the most are those which have tried to adapt to the culture around us, the progressive mainline churches.

  • Matthew

    The right has to examine their thought process of a “literal” reading of the Bible while the left needs to examine their practice of sometimes adapting too much to the surrounding culture (although I would also argue that the right often looks like the culture too, albeit in a different way).

    There are problems on both sides, yet they both need each other I think in order to get a better picture of the overall truth.

  • Bones

    Of course we have ideological purity…..

    That’s why we have 5734589034785095813683419068534950 denominations……

    Those churches which are growing have nothing to do with theology but everything to do with a rock concert.

  • Scifigal777

    Okay, but a Christian community is still Christian… what happens if someone becomes an atheist or converts to another religion? Now they’re in trouble because either (1) they have to leave this close-knit community they’ve been a part of or (2) the community has to be open to letting non-Christians be a part which is difficult if the main gatherings are centered around the Bible and singing songs that non-Christians no longer believe or (3) the non-Christian has to hide or downplay their change in beliefs.

    This is why I don’t think Christianity can work in the long term. Because in spite of trying to be inclusive, they’re still exclusive by definition.

    But trying to find a close knit community (of any sort) is difficult in an individualistic America. In theory, a group that was committed to shared values is much more stable. But even values can change. So I’m not really sure what the answer is.

    Perhaps a basic commitment of some sort to try to live according to reality (what is) and try to minimize harm and increase flourishing in the world (what ought to be). I don’t know if that’s enough.

  • Robert

    Could not’ve said it any better!! Bravo!

  • RollieB

    “what happens if someone becomes an atheist or converts to another religion?” 1. 2. 3…

    I’m not sure 1, 2, 3, are in play if the beginning premise is openness to start with. Our group has Christians, Buddhists, Druids, Native American Spirituality, agnostics, anyone and everyone is welcomed ,loved, and supported. We find amazing commonality through the Creator/God/YHWH/Ground of Being/etc. Twelve to 20 people in a circle on Sunday morning. Led by a retired pastor, seminary professor, and writer. It is a wonderful experience.

  • Herm

    Rollie, so, you do know the presence of the Spirit of truth after all?

  • If doctrine and theology are impediments to love and caring then those doctrines and those theologies are false ideologies.

  • Samuel Dickey

    Yes! Yes!! Yes!!! This is why I am part of my church.

  • Herm

    Christ spoke with a seeming pride of belonging as the Son of Man. How many Christians today speak with a seeming pride of belonging as the child of Man, before claiming to be a child of God, as Jesus did?

    If we do because we value our self, our family, our “church”, and/or our nation more than our whole specie, which we believe was made in the image of God, how can we insist that we are congregating together in the image of Jesus?

    Jesus historically went to many different communities to sit, eat, play and sleep with any who, in obvious respect for His presentation of Man, were not Jewish; His church of membership. Jesus was, by all available records, more disagreeable to His church family than His family of Man.

    We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

    1 John 4:19-21 (NIV2011)

    We must be able to love all our sisters and brothers of the family of Man (all born of the water from their mother’s womb) who we can see as us, one mankind, before we can love all our sisters and brothers of God (all born of the Spirit) who we can see only in the Spirit as us, one God.

    I have read through the previous comments to know that there are those of us here who are in the Spirit, like was Christ. Some here I have argued with as did Jesus and His disciples on the path to realizing their love of Man and God as one a finite family body united and the other an infinite body united. We cannot permanently unite as one body by the bond of logical contract but we can unite by the bond of emotional love so strong that we would die for each body to live.

    Scribes have changed the wording, intentionally or unintentionally, of the Bible throughout its history from its very beginning. Jesus was a functionally illiterate Jewish carpenter. Jesus is the Rabbi of the truth that exceeds all languages dependent upon words. The word of God can always be recognized be each member of Man by the sharing in the value of love for an other. The word of God can never acceptable to all if left to the interpretation of a nation’s language of words. Each differing Christian sect (corporate church) throughout the world today will die on the words defining their religious beliefs. Jesus’ church will survive and prosper for all of Man who value all of Man more than self.

    For those who claim Christianity as their special church this can be summed up today in:

    Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

    Matthew 10:39 (NIV2011)

    I found my life in the Spirit of Christ before I lost my physical life. The life I lost was the life which had valued any of Man as more important to God than all of Man. We who only know earth while in the Spirit have only two distinct families to love with our all as does Jesus in heaven; our finite family of Man with our infinite family of God.

    Go out to meet, bound in love and faith in our Father, with all of Man who invites us to share in work, study, play, meals, and rest; then we can consider that we are growing more Christlike. If bound by any written charter of doctrine that considers ourselves a family separate from our sisters and brothers of mankind then we are bound to wither on our separate vine from the Spirit of Christ Jesus.

  • Al Cruise

    Agreed, literal interpretation of scripture is the false doctrine/theology that is the greatest impediment to love and caring.

  • RollieB

    I don’t recall denying it.

  • It is more sinister than that. Man made religions, starting with the Catholic Church who took the appearance of the first Christian Church from the Apostles, pretend that only they can interpret the Scriptures correctly. But in fact the bible disagrees with that contention.

  • Herm

    Rollie, you did when you set yourself up to judge, usurping the authority of the Spirit of truth, by telling another, “There is soooo much to wrong with this post, it would take me a week to unpack it.

    You say, supporting difference of perspectives, now, “We give thanks for the insights we gain from people of various times, places, cultures and religions whose lives have been characterized by gratitude, compassion, generosity and forgiveness.

    I would have added “empathy” to that list of relational love that is possible between all children of Man beginning with those of us who understand the value of bonding in love with each of mankind. That’s what keeps me most from striking with a demeaning and belittling judgment dismissing how wrong someone else is by my standards. That’s what allows me the opportunity to first look to see why I disagree rather than react disagreeably. No, I didn’t react to you in disagreement without first looking and sharing what I disagreed with while taking the valuable time to, even if it took a week, share why.

    I am relieved that your strong nature is supported by different perspectives after all and tempered by your awareness of God’s (by any name) omnipotent reign.

    Thank you!

  • Al Cruise

    Yes, and groups like The Gospel Coalition of today are even more sinister and dangerous.

  • RollieB

    That quote is from a different topic, different thread, and wasn’t addressed to you. I apologized for the harshness of that quote and the apology was accepted. I’m not the author of the second quote.

    You seem to be worried about my wellbeing, don’t be. I am fine.

  • I don’t know anything about Calvinism. I found a few of their main points this online:

    1. Limited Atonement: Jesus died only for the elect.
    This is a typical man made assertion that attempts to tell God who His Son died for. It stems from the fact that they do not understand the Plan of God for Man.

    2. Perseverance of the Saints: You cannot lose your salvation. Tell that to Judas.

    Think of it this way. Luther found fault with Catholicism and rightly so. “The Reformation, like all revolutions, inevitably witnessed its own internal divisions. John Calvin (1509-1564), a Frenchman (born Jean Cauvin), was trained as both a priest and a lawyer. At age 24 he became very sympathetic to Luther and other religious “revolutionaries.” Calvin generally agreed with Luther’s criticisms of the Roman Catholic Church, although some significant doctrinal differences existed between the two men.”

    Now it’s 500 years later and their are untold Christian churches each one feeling a form of “I’m right and You are wrong.” I contend they are all wrong.

  • So true. So many of us think of church as a building we meet in once a week. Thanks for pointing out that it is so much more. Church is a community of people living daily through the Spirit and caring for one another. It is so sad that true community is so hard to find, especially here in the USA.

  • Ron McPherson

    “You cannot lose your salvation. Tell that to Judas”

    So you believe Judas was once born of the spirit but somehow became spiritually ‘unbirthed?’ And if God knows one’s ultimate destiny tomorrow, (i.e. lost, forever separated from God), then how could they have ever had salvation today? I’m not arguing for Calvinism, but instead how salvation on God’s terms would be somehow constrained and dependent upon time as we know it.

  • Yes. I suspect that Judas committed the unpardonable sin; blasphemy against the Spirit. If he did he will die the second death.

  • Bones

    Judas was a pawn in the ‘Divine Plan’. If he hadn’t betrayed jesus, he might have just died of old age in a cave somewhere.

    I actually think Judas is a metaphor for Judah.

  • apoxbeonyou

    And sometimes I object to calling the meetup of my mystic friends on Sunday ‘church’.

  • Guthrum

    First of all there is the “holy catholic church” (Apostles Creed) made up of all the Christian people throughout the denominations. There are many churches that are growing. At least one can be found in each Christian denomination, including denominations that are in steep decline themselves. And many of the growing churches are led by the Holy Spirit. Some of the growing churches are indeed nothing more than country clubs that sing hymns and entertain. They try to avoid offending people. Some have become apostate. One church model that seems to be growing is the church that emphasizes the Gospel and outreach to help people. See “Radical” . So the ” true ” church is already here.
    Many people have left the heavy bureaucratized, politicized top down management of the mainline denominations. Most all of the growing churches around here are the independent churches. They are energetic and passionate about spreading the Gospel.
    See the Acts 29 group: not a denomination but made up of churches with a mission.

  • RollieB

    Creedal churches are frightening to many. Acts 29 churches are fundamentalists, even more frightening to me.

  • Bones

    Lol….

    The Holy Spirit is a synonym for having a rock band….been there, done that….Holy Spirit comes on the third song.

    You want to see top down management, start asking difficult questions of your senior pastor.

    As for Acts 29 – that’s what we need – more denominations and churches.

    Growth proves nothing – look at Islam.

  • Herm

    First of all there is the “holy catholic church” (Apostles Creed) …”

    “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

    And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

    This, then, is how you should pray:

    “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

    Matthew 6:5-15 (NIV2011)

    In worship led by the High Priest there is no “creed”. Even the “Lord’s prayer” should not be repeated rote in worship in any worship service claimed to be in the name of Christ. Jesus says clearly, “This, then, is how you should pray” not, “This, then, is what you should pray”. Were you, or any child you know of, trained to repeat by rote their allegiance to their parents?

    You don’t know the Holy Spirit when you don’t know you are in Christ and Christ is in you. If you do not know our heavenly Father in you and you in Him if you are separate from the Spirit of truth. Look it up!

    There is no denominations within the family of God worshiping only in the Spirit.

    Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.

    John 4:23-24 (NIV2011)

  • Guthrum

    The Protestant Reformation was an effort to get the Christian church back on track as far as its mission and teachings of the Bible. The Roman Catholic church had over the centuries became a heavy laden, bureaucratic, cruel organization that was far from the original church of Acts. Martin Luther (“Sola Scriptura“), John Calvin, and King Henry the VIII (“Defender of the Faith”) were the giants of Protestantism and worked to restore the church to the right path. They were committed to the church when it came to God’s word and Biblical authority.
    In each church are the members, the priesthood of believers, “little priests” as Luther called them.
    Today’s mainline denominations have similarly fallen away from the church’s mission. They have embraced cultural popularity and modern psychology. Most of the denominations today are in a total state of collapse. Look at the web pages of the NCC (National Council of Churches in Christ). Most of it is politics instead of the Gospel. Now the NCC is involved in some worthy Christian causes. But the main focus and task of the NCC, Christian denominations, bishops, pastors elders, deacons, and all church members is the spread of the Gospel: bringing people to Jesus.

  • John

    I agree completely. The modern progressive mainline churches are indistinguishable from the secular, or even anti-Christian, progressive activists.

  • RollieB

    John, could you provide some examples of actions that are indistinguishable from progressive activists, please?

  • John

    They are on the secular society’s side of every social issue (gay marriage, abortion, any sort of gender roles, etc.) They also are falling further and further from any traditionally recognizable theology (many don’t believe in Hell, don’t believe in original sin, etc.)

    You take a progressive Christian and a progressive atheist and they’ll agree more than a progressive Christian and traditional Christian. Take a look at the number of non-Christians who love progressive Christian blogs like this one. They agree with essentially everything said on here.

  • Obscurely

    You lost me there?

  • Obscurely

    But I think Scifi’s question was — could your diverse group be called a church? (which I define as a gathering or fellowship of disciples of Jesus)

  • Obscurely

    “Indistinguishable” even on Sunday mornings?

  • Obscurely

    So why are most of the big ‘megachurches’ conservative? (or at least very few are progressive/liberal) — honest question!!

  • Obscurely

    Dr. Ben — with respect, I couldn’t help but notice your definition of ‘church’ neglected to use the word ‘Jesus’ (and even ‘God’)? not baiting you it just seemed significant to your argument …

  • Obscurely

    That was a BIG part of Jesus’ message!

  • John

    I should clarify, indistinguishable in their effect on society.

  • RollieB

    Perhaps progressives, both religious and secular, are correct and you are ill informed. Perhaps progressive Christians arrived at their positions based on their interpretations of Jesus’ message of loving everyone. I agree with Ben on this post, and I’m a Jesus follower… so now where do we go?

  • John

    Perhaps, but it doesn’t seem likely. The world is said to be in darkness, to be in opposition to God, etc. How is it that the church agrees with the world on the large majority of social issues, but disagrees with the vast majority, if not all, of the historical church? Doesn’t that strike you as a little odd?

    It isn’t so much that I may be ill informed, but that the entire Christian church throughout the millennia have been ill informed.

  • RollieB

    “…the entire Christian church throughout the millennia have been ill informed.” On this point we may have agreement. A huge amount of church tradition is based on maintaining its power and control over the people in the pews – often at the expense of our covenant/relationship with Our Creator. The nones and dones are fleeing that power control in droves.

  • John

    You would also have to include the early persecuted church, not just the church when it had power.

    Also, note that the “nones and dones” are seemingly fleeing the progressive church more than anything else. They are shrinking the fastest, by far. Many of the more conservative denominations have had pretty constant numbers or are even slowly growing.

  • Sorry. What was a big part of the message?

  • Obscurely

    Jesus vigorously condemned those who (like the Pharisees) used God’s law (Torah) to oppress others in judgment and condemnation instead of liberating them in love …

  • Obscurely

    Thanks for the clarification! — in its emphasis on social justice, perhaps the progressive church is closer to “original Christianity”? One of the ‘pole stars’ in my preaching and teaching as a progressive pastor myself is expressed in a quote from N.T. Wright — “In Christ Jesus the new and true way of being human has been launched upon the world.”

  • Thanks. First the message was not Jesus’ message; it was God’s message spoken by Jesus. Jesus said that He only said what the Father gave Him to say.

    Second, God has said many more things than what is recorded from the Gospels. They are contained in the bible; old and new testament.

    Jesus lived among us and showed us how to live by following everything that is in the bible. However, there are some punishments in the bible that will be enforced and not forgiven in love or otherwise. The second death is an example.

  • Herm

    Bob, did you grow up in a loving and caring family subject to doctrines and theologies?

    If, as a little child of Man, you were not dependent upon such studies and determinations of your family relationship why do you seem to believe it would be any different in your divine familial relationship as a child of God?

  • Obscurely

    Jesus, that sounds like some serious judicial ‘inside baseball’ brother! — can the holy Gospel of God in Jesus really be that complicated?

  • Nixon is Lord

    “Church” isn’t coming-because there’s no god.

  • Bones

    If you’ve ever been to Hillsong and heard a Brian Houston sermon you would know it has nothing to do with theology.

    Everything about mood and creating a vibe through entertainment.

    And if numbers are a sign of anything Islam takes the cake.

  • Thanks. I agree with you that the gospel is not that complicated just that men like to complicate it.

  • Herm, love does not negate the words you don’t agree with.
    Love covers many sins but not every sin. Ask The Rich Man and Lazarus.

  • Herm

    Bob, you don’t understand. Why do you need any doctrines or theologies if you are conversational with your Father and Brother in heaven? Where is Jesus quoted regarding theologies (studies of God) or doctrines (rules of the church)? All who need theologies and doctrines to know the will of their father are not in the family of God.

  • As i have told you before:

    Galatians 1:6-8
    (6) I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: (7) Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. (8) But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

  • Herm

    I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

    I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

    Galatians 1:6-12 (NIV2011)

    Bob, read about the King James version of the Bible from a valid, non-biased and researched source at:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_James_Version

    In that history of the KJV you will read; “James gave the translators instructions intended to ensure that the new version would conform to the ecclesiology and reflect the episcopal structure of the Church of England and its belief in an ordained clergy.” The New International version of the Bible was taken from as close to original manuscripts as possible without any instructions to conform to any ecclesliology or church structure.

    Bob, I ask you, again, “Where is Jesus quoted regarding theologies (studies of God) or doctrines (rules of the church)?”

    I am not asking what was in letters to the Galatians.

    You do know that it is written that you too can have revelations directly from Jesus Christ, don’t you?

    You do know that the gospel of Christ is the same as saying the good news of Christ, don’t you? The good news of Christ, that you can learn as the Messiah’s pupil when immersed in the Spirit of truth, has nothing to do with theologies (studies of God) or doctrines (rules of the church).

    You are the convicted student (disciple) of Pharisaical like authorities and scribes that pervert even the sincere historical documents, telling of the good news of Jesus Christ, to conform to their ecclesliology or church structure. You are not a disciple of the Messiah. You do not receive any revelations from Jesus Christ directly.

    You have not told me before where Jesus is quoted regarding theologies (studies of God) or doctrines (rules of the church)?!?! All who need theologies and doctrines to know the will of their father are not in the family of God. They are not children of the Father nor siblings of the only begotten Son of Man.

    I’m telling you this not to belittle you but to tell you the good news, the gospel, for all who are immersed (baptized) with and in the Spirit of God:

    “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

    John 16:12-15 (NIV2011)

    I do not wish to win you into my church as your church has done to you. I am pointing you to the High Priest forever more … that you may knock on His temple door seeking to be a member of His church … so you can ask Him directly what He knows you can bear today … of which I can testify that you will bountifully receive no less than the apostle Paul.

  • First, most bible students use many bibles not just one. I prefer the NIV myself. I disagree with your statement that NIV was taken from closer sources than the KJV and of course the NIV conforms to church structure as in Sunday worship vs the Sabbath, the Trinity versus God and the Word, and Heaven vs the three resurrections, et. al.

    Most bible students know that the word Gospel means good news. What is the good news? Where do I find it/ Why it’s in the bible of course! The most published book in the history of the world.

    Paul was personally taught to be an Apostle in the early church. His ministry belittled the Pharisees who had trained him.

  • Herm

    Oh, Bob, for over three hundred years the vast majority of Christ’s disciples found the good news without the Bible. In fact, until very recently in all of chronicled human history, over 85% of Christians were illiterate.

    The Good News is the Holy Spirit (appearing as a dove) who unites the children of God, born of the Spirit, as one with and in God.

    “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

    John 17:20-26 (NIV2011)

    The Bible tells of the Spirit of truth but is not where you find the Advocate with and in all of God as one, including all of us who are little children of God the Father. The really good news for all of us is that the Holy Spirit did not die to mankind when Jesus ascended to heaven 1,984 years ago.

    The Bible tells of the word of God when immersed in (baptized) by the Holy Spirit but is not any where near claiming to be the word of God.

    There is not just three of God as all, who are born of God out of the image they were given of God, are of God. Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth today while our Father’s will remains foremost in all our hearts and minds.

    All children of God today, right this moment here on earth, are personally taught to be apostles, missionaries offering God’s love and nurture, to those who seek the empowerment of our Father’s eternal love. Why do you insist on going back nearly 2,000 years when God is in your midst?

    Bob, I have told you before but I will repeat in hope that you are beginning to understand; I do not need the Bible, at all, except to show you where within it has always pointed to the Holy Spirit as the one Teacher we all need on earth.

    There just is no studies of families with written rules of family relationship that any little child is held to obey or forever burn in hell. Little children of God are just beginning to learn the language of their Father written only in their heart and mind as it is in our Father’s and Brother’s heart and mind. ALL we need to know in our hearts and minds, as children of God, is explained in the Bible very clearly when in the Spirit within Luke 10:27, Matthew 7:12 and 22:37-40. ALL children of God, born of the Spirit, are judged solely by attitude and not by any written rules of engagement. When I was immersed in the Spirit ALL I needed to be to inherit eternal life, as a child of my Father, became possible without any historical documents of mankind’s writing to guide me.

    Moses was born less than 1,400 years before Jesus was born. No documentation telling of Judeo/Christian relationships with God, as in the Bible, were penned before Moses could write. It has been 1,984 years since Jesus ascension. Has the Good News been inactive all that time for all who Jesus accepted his cross for?

    This is what Jesus was recorded to have said to his disciples then:

    The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

    Matthew 23:11-12 (NIV2011)

    The greatest among Jesus’ direct disciples (students) today is Jesus who serves us perfectly.

    You show all signs that you are led and taught by those exalting themselves over you. You can only serve one school master. The good news is that the one Teacher is available to you today without biblical interpretations, without creeds, without theologies, without doctrines and without any other Teacher than the Spirit of truth who is instructed word for word by He who has all authority in heaven and on earth today; and has without pause for over 1,984 years (earth time).

    Accept to be immersed in Him!

    Oh, and historically Paul, as well as all the disciples, worshiped on the seventh day like Jesus. The “Lord’s day” of Sunday was not instituted until after Constantine became Christian. No Bible translation or interpretation says differently. Truth!

  • 1. The Apostles converted the first Christians. The seven churches are mentioned. They had the scrolls of the Gospels and Epistles to read and they did – ask the Bereans.

    2. Of course the Paul and his disiples and the seven churches worshiped on the 7th Day – the Sabbath – established from the foundation of the earth. The church at Rome that emerges from the mist of history as the Catholic Church and worships on Sunday is not and never has been the true church. It is a counterfeit as are all the churches that have proceeded from it. That is another reason why the NT was canonized before the end of the first century.

  • I do not belong to a church. I did belong to the Catholic Church until I realized that I had been deceived. I have studied with many groups since then and found them all a bit off.

  • Herm

    Bob, you are as egocentric as Irenaeus, the first to write insisting that there be a canon of just four gospels (circa 185), who was convinced that the bishops from varied cities from the time of the Apostles on to him provided the only secure guide to interpretation of the Scripture. There is in truth only one Guide we each can be secure in eternally. That Guide knows the truth without interpretation. I really don’t know how either you or Irenaeus can so boldly deny these scripture excerpts found within the four gospels (that are today canonized by most Christian communities):

    Matthew 23:8-12, John 16:12-15, John 14:15-21, John 4:23-24, John 1:12-13, Matthew 12:49-50, and … .

    Why do you try so hard to play us all for fools? No one knows for certain who wrote the book of Luke and Acts but most know for certain that those books were written around 80 – 90 AD. What is guaranteed is that the Berean Jews examined the Jewish scriptures and did not have the books of Luke, Acts, the Epistles and/or the remaining three Gospels on parchment, scrolls or any other hard copy because they hadn’t been written, much less copied by scribes, yet. They were validating what Paul and Silas were speaking to them, not had written to them or brought a library for them to peruse.

    You really have no concept how long it took for scribes to make copies or how copies were never 100% as first written. You have no concept that of even the Berean Jews 85% were illiterate and dependent upon those who could read to them.

    Bob, you do not speak as though the Spirit of truth is with and in you at all. You speak as though you exalt yourself to be more studied than any other scholar on Christianity alive today. If you wish to share with authority you really need a much more knowledgeable Advocate counseling you before you type or open your mouth.

    You do not know what in the hell you are telling others, who some really are immersed in the Holy Spirit, is the honest to God truth only you know. You know diddly without the one and only Teacher guiding you into all truth.

    Quit trying to teach others the good news founded on only your personal research without the guidance of the Holy Spirit with and in you without pause or end. Paul screwed up if he thought he had disciples (pupils). There is only one Teacher, one Father and one Instructor; the Messiah. If the Teacher, the Father and the Instructor are not available to be with and in you today then all the scriptures you hold as truth for you to interpret have lied, canonized or not. There is no good news, Gospel, if we have been left orphans separated from the nurture of God since the ascension of Christ.

    Wake up! You obviously don’t worship only in spirit nor in the Spirit. Until you do you cannot bear even close to what the Teacher has led me to. The more I become aware the more I realize how little to nothing I actually know of what there is yet to know throughout eternity. I am at peace, secure and with great joy in all my ignorance because I know for certain that I am immersed for all time with and in the Holy Spirit. I so wish you could say the same or greater.

  • Herm, when you say, “Why do you try so hard to play us all for fools? No one knows for certain who wrote the book of Luke and Acts but most know for certain that those books were written around 80 – 90 AD.” You show yourself to be foolish. You don’t know who wrote the books but you know when they were written?

    Herm you said, “Bob, you do not speak as though the Spirit of truth is with and in you at all. You speak as though you exalt yourself to be more studied than any other scholar on Christianity alive today. If you wish to share with authority you really need a much more knowledgeable Advocate counseling you before you type or open your mouth.” As I have said several times you preach another gospel. Perhaps I should clear my comments with you prior to making them?

    Herm, you said, “Paul screwed up if he thought he had disciples (pupils)” This is typical of you and rather emabarrasing don’t you think?

  • Herm

    Bob, do you know who wrote the book of Luke and Acts and when? If you do please share how you know.

    I preach the gospel that the Holy Spirit is available for all who seek the truth to be immersed in. This was not true until the curtain was torn top to bottom. I preach that only from the Spirit of truth can we boldly speak the word of God today, for today, not the words we interpret from inspired witnesses 1,800 to 3,200 years ago. I preach that by complete immersion in the Spirit we can now, today, become children of, with and in God and God in us; eternally without pause.

    I preach the gospel of the disciples of Christ, from then to today, who all hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters (yes, even their own life), carry their cross and only follow Him, the one Instructor, the Messiah.

    What gospel do you preach?

    Paul did not reach the perfection of a mature child of God in his lifetime on earth. Paul made mistakes. All children err for there is no instant gratification to become a master of anything of Man and of God.

    Bob, perhaps you should clear your comments with the Spirit of truth prior to making them. You embarrass yourself before those who do. Ignorance shared as a clear picture to others who know is no longer bliss when reality strikes.

  • Nimblewill

    I read somewhere, years ago, that we need the kind of community we had with our dope smoking friends. I get it. I look forward to this series. I’ve struggled with being church and going to church. We need a hybrid.

  • SamHamilton

    Great points. Going to worship on Sundays is something a church congregation does, but it can’t be the only time that members of that community come together (and adding a mid-week Bible study isn’t enough).

  • SamHamilton

    I’m not sure why you think that Christianity can’t work in the long term, though I guess it depends on what you mean by “work.” Obviously, any group organized around specific tenets or shared interests is going to feel exclusive to people who don’t share those tenets or interests. I wouldn’t feel comfortable joining a NY Yankees fan club as I’m not a fan of the Yankees (or feel comfortable remaining in the group if I realized I just don’t care that much about the Yankees). That doesn’t mean the fan club isn’t working though, or won’t work long-term.

  • SamHamilton

    I’m pretty sure Mr. Corey is referring to a group of committed Christian friends. I think he’s assuming his readers know he’s talking about Christians, because he’s a Christian and writes about Christianity.

  • Judgeforyourself37

    John, I disagree. Jesus was a man, a man who cared about people and he stood against the politics of His day, which, much like the politics of our day, disenfranchised those who were different. He was crucified due to the fact that he was a dissident, as back then that is how the “powers that be” dispensed with dissenters.
    He did not “arise from death on the third day,” but his made such a powerful impact on the people whom he loved, protected and served, that his spiritual and even, at times, visual impact was “seen.”
    Thus, our churches, today, must, absolutely must, be relevant and speak up against the political issues of today that disenfranchise those who are different. Perhaps they are immigrants fleeing oppression but here without documentation. Perhaps they are of color in a, supposedly white, society. Perhaps they are LBGT. Perhaps they are women who wish to have dominion over their bodies, in this present day, when the rights of women are being eroded.

  • John

    In the words of the apostle Paul:

    “12 Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 15 Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:12-16)

  • Kyllein MacKellerann “

    Church on Sundays? Look at the person; what they do, who they support, how they live and their relationships with others. That is their Church. It is what they believe and what they give their focus to, not the get-together on Sunday. That’s just a social event.

  • Ivlia Blackburn

    You want a community then go and stay at a monastery or convent for a while, anything from a few days to several months. I worship daily at a monastery and have seen how many come here (Ireland) to spend the summer, go home, sell everything up and return for good. My local monastery is growing faster than they can house the novices. This year they even have a 17 year old (with parental permission) who has promised to do at least a year at university before returning. He will return, there are 2 more here for summer this year that I suspect will stay on when autumn arrives, both from overseas. Ages range from 17 to 68 years amongst the possible postulants. Many of the novices (now numbering 10) are in their late 20s and early 30s and they all say the same thing. They have found the missing part of their lives. No matter if you are catholic or not (and I wasn’t) visit a convent or monastery (there are quite a few in the US) for a stay, usually you pay what you can afford and expect to help out around the grounds or building to help pay your way. You will discover the sense of community you are seeking. This is how the church started, groups of like-minded people living together. That is how St. Benedict started out, read his rule. You may be surprised at what you find, equally you might hate it and return to your daily Sunday ‘worship’ with relief.

  • Matthew

    Interesting. Can Protestants stay for good in monasteries in Ireland? I´m in Germany and have thought a lot about a possible future in Ireland. What about couples?

  • Bones

    Have you been to Taize in France?

    It’s an ecumenical order. It’s focus is living peacefully and in reconciliation.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmxXwAgkhWQ

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngA8BFbjrE0

  • Matthew

    I have never been there Bones, but I am very familiar with their work. Some churches here have Taize services. I have been to a few.

    We do a very small house service on most Sundays and sometimes we do Taize songs as part of the worship time.

  • Bones

    Yeah i used to lead them here too.

  • Linda Coleman Allen

    Thank you so much for this column. It is exactly how I feel. I have experienced the things that you write about.