This is a very interesting point in chapter 4 of Pastor Steve Murrell‘s book 100 Years From Now. He was writing about Joseph and Mary’s trip to to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast and losing Jesus on their way back home to Nazareth. The story begs the question: Is it really possible to do all things religious and still miss the point of it all?
The answer is apparently yes. Church history is littered with stories of people, churches and movements that have gone a little bit sidetracked with something else other than Jesus. Not that they drove Jesus completely out of their churches but that, for some reasons, Jesus is no longer front and center of the life of their congregations. Yes they start out great. Like the Galatians, they had, first and foremost, the gospel of Jesus. Then somewhere down the road, they evolve into something that is not gospel-centered anymore. Pastor Steve enumerated some of them in broad strokes:
1. The preacher-centered church, where everything in the church revolves around the celebrity pastor. It is so easy to think this is a mega-church problem. Not really.
2. The experience-centered church, where everything is all about getting a hair-raising, spine-tingling, religious experience. If nothing weird is happening, the people feel like the Holy Spirit hasn’t shown up in the Sunday service.
3. The worship-centered church, where everything is all about the “presence” of God as felt by the individuals. This is actually a version of the experience-centered church but is more focused on the worship experience.
4. The doctrine-centered church, where everything is all about the precision of doctrinal statements and positions and suppositions. It doesn’t matter that people are unloving and harsh, as long as they are very precise in their carefully worded doctrines.
5. The cause-centered church, where the church is overly passionate about the social effects of the gospel. Instead of preaching the gospel of Jesus, they talk more about saving Mother Earth, Conservation of Flora and Fauna, Jesus and Politics and the likes.
6. The meeting-centered church, where everything revolves around the sights and sounds experience of the Sunday morning service. I haven’t even heard of this until lately but I realized many big churches kind of major on this one.
7. The fellowship-centered church, where fellowship with one another trumps up real fellowship with Jesus.
The one thing you will notice in this list is that they are all good things that are blown up unnecessarily. We need good preachers, we need good religious experience, we need passionate worship, sound doctrine, authentic fellowship and social responsibility and we need to have excellent Sunday morning experience as a corporate body of Christ. What we don’t need and what we don’t want to happen is for these things to replace Jesus as the center of our doing church.