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The Church of Sam's Club

And every one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting.    (Matthew 19:29, Douay-Rheims)

And all they that believed were together and had all things common.   Their possessions and goods they sold and divided them to all, according as every one had need.  And continuing daily with one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house to house, they took their meat with gladness and simplicity of heart (Acts 2:44-46, Douay-Rheims)

The New Testament Church was above all a family.  When they called each other “brother” and “sister”, it really meant something.

How about the modern American Church?  Our churches run classes, promote activities, dinners, outings, and focus groups.   They are clubs, theaters, community centers, support groups.  But are they families?

We treat our churches like Sam’s Club.  We go there as long as it’s a good deal.  But if a better deal comes along (like Costco, for instance), then we have few qualms about switching.

Why?  This is the fault of leadership, not the members.  When churches are set up like Sam’s Clubs, it only stands to reason that  people will treat them as such.

The American Church is based on a flawed organizational premise.  American churches strive to be “communities” – yet they reach out to individuals, and not to communities.  Even when churches  have “neighborhood” outreaches,  each church is only one of several present in the community, and they end up stepping on each others’ toes.

Churches today are imperialistic, just like the colonial empires of Britain, France, and Spain.  Each church (and churches are typically  located OUTSIDE the neighborhood) tries to assimilate individuals from various neighborhoods into itself.  They do not try to build together the believers in the neighborhood into a single, integrated spiritual family.

It is true that currently many churches have  "cell groups", “home groups” or “home fellowships”.  Unfortunately, these are almost always manifestations of “spiritual imperialism”, and function as  “colonies”  for the church “empires” which spawned them.  The leaders, and most of the attenders, all belong to the same church.  Almost invariably, the majority are not neighbors at all, but have to drive to the meeting.

The American Church’s social structure must be torn down and rebuilt.  The Church’s role must be redefined.  The Church’s priorities must be reordered.  The Church’s interests must be refocused.

The Church’s purpose should NOT be to create  separate, new communities in separate, new facilities.  The Church should be asset lite in physical capital, but asset heavy in spiritual capital.  As much as possible, the homes and equipment of individuals should be utilized and not duplicated by “church property”.

Church assemblies should remain within existing communities, and comprise the believers in those communities.  Here “community” is meant in a broad sense, as a group of people brought together by some common bond, whether it be common interest, common responsibility, or common location.  A “community” can be office or office building, school, or sports league as well as common living area.

Prayer: Father, please bring us back to the point where brothers and sisters in Christ who live and work together will also pray and worship together.

Cross Pollen
e-mail: thornroot@juno.com
Copyright © 2003 CrossPollen
Last Revised: February 16, 2003

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