Last week on Church Marketing Sucks we interviewed Mark Van Steenwyk of Jesus Manifesto. He talked a lot about New Monasticism and justice, but the money quote for me is when he talked about how churches have turned Christianity into a Sunday morning activity of teaching and singing, and not the way of life it’s meant to be:
Here’s the thing. Christianity started as a movement. It was a way of life. An orthopraxy. Sure, there were beliefs and creeds and teaching and songs, but all of that happened in the context of communities that were following in the way of Jesus. The Gospel was not simply something to be proclaimed, but lived out. Then things began to change. Slowly, the Church got in bed with the Empire. And those parts of the Way of Jesus that conflicted with the Way of Caesar got sidelined. And then, over time, Europe became a place where it was assumed that everyone was a Christian and the Church became a chaplain to society. Then the Reformation and Enlightenment hit and the Church began to understand itself primarily as an educational institution.
Today, “church” is a place one goes to listen to a half hour message and sing. And if you’re really spiritual, you also go to church on Wednesday to get more information. Ours is a disembodied faith that is about teaching and singing. It isn’t a way of life. We treat things like care for the poor, living simply, practicing hospitality, etc. as optional. They are primarily understood as supplemental programs. Not things that are woven into the fabric of our lives. (emphasis mine)