At the risk of really getting myself in trouble (even with myself) let me post a paper that I wrote for one of our professors. He is a history guy, and sees the history of the Church as a series of reforms since Constantine's ruining of the church in the 4th century (I like this approach). He asked a few people to write their thoughts on the next needed reform. So here you go. Critique away!
The Next Reform?
The church’s next needed reform (at least in the Western communities that I am familiar with) can be summed up with the words deconstruction and desystemization. The church should be a community of believers living together in close proximity to others and to their neighbors, but instead we have become large organizations formed around accomplishing certain purposes. Many of these purposes are good and godly things, like worship, evangelism, Bible study, etc. However, these things are not ends unto themselves, but actions that a community of Christians should practice in the normal flows and contexts of life, not in engineered events in private facilities. What does this deconstruction and desystemization look like?
- The church should begin divesting itself of owning property and move the center of activity back into homes and neighborhoods. In our isolation-of-the-individual culture where people build McMansion castles that protect them from the bad elements in society but also insulate them from real relationships, churches need to become mobile communities that meet in close proximity to all kinds of people so that we can focus on building relationships of love with each other and our neighbors. Our busy programs fill our church buildings with activity but do not accomplish the building of very many real communities of love and faith in our society.
- Totally eliminate the dichotomy between so-called clergy and laity, restoring the true principle of the priesthood of every believer. Some have called the Reformation a 2/3 reform, because it restored sola scriptura and salvation by grace, but did not complete the necessary reform of returning the church to a community of equal followers of the Way. Every believer has a role to play in the church community, and they must not be allowed to not fulfill that role. Small neighborhood communities allow for everyone to participate in worship, evangelism, Bible study, etc.
- Create (re-create, really) a new theological education model for educating not just potential leaders but all followers of the Way. If all believers are responsible in the new communities, then all believers are required to enter into a process of apprenticeship to learn both theology and practice of the Way.
The true New Testament local church needs to deconstruct the buildings and unsystematize the programs that have become the focus of the past few centuries since the Protestant Reformation and return to communities living and functioning as the body of Christ in the midst of neighborhoods around the world.