Excerpt from “Life After Church: God’s Call to Disillusioned Christians”
By Brian Sanders
From pages 70-73
Generally, if you break down why leavers have left or should leave churches, it can come down to one of these areas:
(1.) God is not honored
(2.) People aren’t in community with each other
(3.) They aren’t reaching anyone
Leavers rarely recognize their reasons in these terms… But more reasons originate in a church’s deficiency in one of these areas…
While these three things individually are good, when they’re isolated from the others or when our spiritual experience is limited to just one of them, we face particular pitfalls. God has configured the church to be a refuge for us. He has called us into the church because it helps us to live as Jesus lived. Jesus was committed to these three things and little else. He did not have committees or music or buildings or offerings. He wasn’t married; He didn’t have children; He didn’t have a big house or a nice car (or a donkey, for that matter). So none of these things can be a requirement for being a follower or being the church.
Without all three aspects, we can fall into error:
· Just worship: Hypocrisy. If our spiritual life is confined to a privatized worship that’s sincere but doesn’t lead us into mission or into deep relationships with others, we face the threat of hypocrisy. We offer ourselves to God but don’t put into practice what His presence and His Word require.
· Just community: Idolatry. If we pursue deep relationships but fail to live those relationships in light of the mission of God or to submit those relationships to the headship of Jesus, we risk idolatry. Deep relationships unmediated by a concern for the kingdom and mission of God will take over our hearts, taking a place that should belong only to God. These unbalanced relationships will quickly become unhealthy and detrimental to our spiritual life.
· Just mission: Pride. If our spiritual life is confined to independently pursuing mission but not open, accountable friendships or dependence on God, we risk becoming our own God. Taking the mission on ourselves without realizing our need for God or the people of God will certainly lead to error and egomania.
Combining two or three gets us closer to being church, but because each of these three is a minimum, our life together is not is not church unless it embodies all three…
Churches that are not missional can become trivial, self-focused and hypercritical. Churches that lack engagement in mission emphasize programs for believers, and growth is possible only as Christians transfer in from other churches.
Brian Sanders founded and directs Tampa Underground (tampaunderground.com), a missional network of microchurches in urban Tampa, Florida. He has served as a teaching pastorat a local church and has helped to launch more than fifteen different home churches.