Seven Movements Necessary to Re-Claim the Church

by Stephen W. Smith

Could this be Church?


I received so many emails from my last Potter’s Inn Journal and I’m very grateful for your thinking, comments and encouragement. In this issue, I want to explore with you, “Seven Necessary Movements to Re-Claim the Church”. I really want to encourage you to use the “Comment” section on the blog. This way, we can all participate in a lively and much needed discussion.

To reclaim Jesus’ intent for the church, we will need to experience at least seven different movements which will require change, transformation and reformation in how we are doing church today. A “movement” is defined as a group of people united on similar values which initiate change. When John Calvin and Martin Luther, the two most well-known reformers of the Catholic Church wrote, spoke and led people into change, the movement of the reformation resulted. Today, I believe we are in dire need of new movements which will focus on these seven aspects:

1. The movement from being an institution to becoming an organism. It’s clear from the New Testament that the leaders had in mind an “alive” organism which was alive, moving and dynamic. When an organism morphs into becoming an institution, we may be sacrificing the original intent. Institutions die. But organisms live and change, adapting to culture and forces. Being Spirit led is far different from being program driven. An organism which is restricted by programs and structure will diminish in life and morph into being a dormant institution.
2. The movement away from being led by an ordained clergy to being served by ordinary people who are gifted. You don’t find the word “ordination” in the Bible but you do find gifted men and women leading people into the mysteries of the faith. Ordinary people doing the extra-ordinary things of God is what it means to live out of faith in authentic ways.
3. The movement from the “me” to the “we.” Becoming a follower of Jesus means that we renounce the “me” and move to the “we.” We were made for community and were formed to live connected in vibrant, reciprocal relationships. Saying, ‘It’s just Jesus and me” is not a confession of faith you will find in a faith that is alive, contagious and vibrant.
4. The movement from being a “place that we come to” to being a platform that we send people out from. One of the major challenges for a church is when a church settles into a place—a building and an institution rather than becoming a platform from which to launch new, creative and relative initiatives which push the darkness back rather than congregate all the light in one place—perhaps under a basket even. We model and mimic God when we send rather than hoard.
5. The movement from the complex to the simple. Pastor’s roles changed from being shepherds to CEO’s because the church adopted so many programs that we needed first directors, then executive directors to run the programs and hold the reins of the church. Leadership replaced servanthood and a “professional clergy” evolved rather than releasing people to do the work of the ministry. Jesus, without any trappings! Can we return to the concept of being a simple church rather than a multi-layered organization which requires efficiency and excellence at the expense of washing the feet of people and giving a cup of water in Jesus name?
6. Being consumer driven to becoming real followers of Jesus. Yielding to the temptation to be all things for all people, the church can become a quasi-Wal-Mart which offers many things at discounted costs. Changing the question from “What do you like in a church?” to “What do we need to be and do to become church?” is the starting point from moving away from consumer Christianity to being followers of Jesus Christ.
7. Replace church talk with Jesus speak. When we talk more about “the church” than we speak about Jesus, we should note the clue that we are off course and change our conversation as well as our direction. “You should come to my church” is often code for “Come to my institution because we are offering a new program which we are trying to enlist as many people as possible to join or attend. ” This is different from a conversation which might go, “Let me tell you what God is up to in my life and my community. You won’t believe it, but it’s true. People are changing their lives and lifestyles and encountering Jesus.

Try this:
1)Write the two major words down on piece of paper with a line in-between them. Like this: organism————–institution. Place an “x” on the line which indicates how you feel your church is leaning.
2)Discuss how your church can become a movement rather than a static building.
3)Make a list of five adjectives you most want in the church you attend and share these with your “we.”

Let’s all do this: In the “reply” section write the five adjectives you most want in a church and let’s compare our lists and see what we agree upon! Go ahead. Pause for a moment and dig out the five things you most want and need in a church.

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9 Responses

  1. I would say the eighth thing the Church needs to experience for true change is to encounter the Glory of God. One cannot see God without being transformed.

    • Kirk, I’m sure there are many more movements needed to turn the church around and perhaps upside down. but the Glory…..there’s no substitute for that one. Thanks!

  2. Perfect photograph to accompany these thoughts. Small group…BIG love. Two or more…

  3. I agree with what you have written, Steve. It’s not all original with you, I understand, but put in a compelling manner. You’ve asked, “How can you change your church?” Some churches may be too unwieldy to change; hence the house church and church planting movements. The tough question for me is, “How do we do this?”
    You asked for 5 words we want in church. My list: worship, community, service, formation, mission. Obviously, each could be unpacked.
    Thanks for starting the discussion.

    • Thanks, Rick. I doubt much is originia with me. I am glad to simply be a part of the discussion and hopefully the reformation in my lifetime. I know you are too! Thanks for joining the conversation.

  4. Biblical, simple, intentional, relational, service-oriented.

  5. Hi Steve & Gwen,

    Without a lot of reflection and thought (i.e. checking to see if it’s “right”) what comes out of my heart for the meaning of church is:

    1. A family to belong to…with bros & sisters to worship and serve God 2. A cause to live for…the incomparable Kingdom of God!
    3. A time to hear and learn from the Word of God
    4. A place to gather strength from Christ & the Holy Spirit
    5. A training ground to learn and use spiritual gifts in mission

    Praying for you guys and thankful for your insights!
    Dennis Kirkley

    • Dennis, I LOVE your list of “five”. I’m sure there are several more for each of us. In my blog today, I try to speak to your #1. Let me know what you think and how this hits you and what stirs in you after reading it. Blessings to you!

  6. Just now seeing this so my thoughts are a little late! Your points from your blog–#5, 6, 7 were so right now! Having worked in a church for so many years and feeling the longing to just be there for people in more simplistic ways the Lord could speak through vs “developing people” and always having to manage the many programatic areas was always a tension.

    Boy, what five powerful words can paint the picture?
    *Real
    *Spirit directed–which might mean messy and potentially “unproductive”
    *Jesus centered–not pastor or ‘rockstar’ centric
    *Joy-filled–genuine, unhendered worship that pours from broken, grateful, ‘desperate for more’ people
    *Warm–can only flow from people who know they have nothing to give but what God pours through them. It wouldn’t be about strategic assimilation, but rather a sense of ‘welcome to our home’ kind of warmth. Having been part of many strategy sessions myself I know change in the church is only going to come as well-oiled and strategic systems fail in a noticable way–the Emperer must lose his clothes!

    All things are possible with God. I wish I felt more hopeful right now for the church….

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