People have left the church and are not returning – and others who are looking for spiritual life are not flocking to the church because we don’t appear, any longer, to be the church. Instead we have become:
1> The police department
2> The political and social action committee 3> The theater
4> The mortuary – the funeral home
And, of course, many churches today look and function like a classroom or a seminary.
Seminaries serve a vital role as keepers of the facts. They are bastions for the transfer of knowledge. Academic rigour. Professor lectures. Tests. Debates. Research and in-depth study. Theological scholarship and doctrinal exactitude. Denominational seminaries guard the distinctive and advantages of their particular group. These institutes of divinity strive to ensure the accuracy of every jot and tittle of Scripture, teaching and drilling the intricate details of doctrine. But, this is not the Church.
Is the church’s primary role to transfer knowledge? Of course there is a role and a purpose for teaching. Of course we need to learn. But for the last few decades, the church has taken this priority to unhealthy extremes. Teaching the truth has become more important than living the truth. Churches have even adopted “fill ins” as a way for congregants to keep up with information delivered by their smart pastor.
Information is not the destination. If faith is indeed a relationships, then every church should focus on what it actually takes to grow that relationship.
Think about the people in your life who you are very close to. Did you grow your relationships with them by studying al the facts about their histories? Did you become more intimate because you memorized their genealogies and pored over al their letters, texts, and emails you have shared over the years? Did you learn the most about them by meticulously studying their pasts?
No. The way you grew closer was by spending time together. Eating together. Looking into each other’s faces and talking about the things that matter most to you. You spent hour after hour together sharing your lives, listening, caring, and supporting each other.
Teaching and learning are merely one step on the road to transformation. That step goes somewhere, but the journey doesn’t stop there. Relationships with God and others are the key to growing in your faith. Can you imagine a church that centred everything on that foundation?
1 Corinthians 1:19-20 “For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’ Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the Law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”