The following is a brief overview/summary of a book called Church Without Walls. The book was somewhat inspiring and thoughtful on what the church is and its mission.
In Church Without Walls Jim Petersen challenges the major concept of what we believe to be the church. He begins by addressing the current state of the church here in America and the current state of the culture around us. He addresses the church’s function and questions if the church is doing what it should be doing (reaching out to the lost). This is where the thesis of the book is developed. He states that God’s people are in the world to bear witness to Christ by living among and serving unbelievers. This ministry depends upon every believer using whatever God has gifted them with to serve Him by serving others. Has the church accomplished this throughout its lifespan and is it accomplishing this now?
Tracing the church through history we see where it veered off track. Jim points out that the early church Fathers established the church as an institution, which gave the church power, which lasted through the Middle Ages. There was also the creating of a rift between clergy and laity. The church became a haven for saints and people were expected to submit to its authority and want to come to it. The lost were forsaken. As the church moved through the Reformation a push to reform the church was initiated. This broke the unity of the Roman Catholic Church and began the process of different denominations (never intended by the reformers). The idea of church was a place where God’s people gathered to hear the Word preached and sacraments administered. This belief of what the church is stuck with the Puritans as they pulled away from the Church of England to move to America to live Christianity out the way they thought it should be lived out. Their focus was on the sermon and the preacher.
Much of what we do in church today is a result of thousands of years of tradition. Jim points out the dangers in sticking to form when it has lost its function. He addresses through his thesis that the church should be without walls and intentionally ministering to the lost where they are. He would like to break with the traditionalism of our past and move the church forward by looking back at the New Testament Church. He suggests we do this patiently and not fall into the business model mindset of what church is today. He wants us to reach out while at the same time holding on to our heritage. He wants us to preserve our traditions without falling under their control. He asks the church to adapt to unbelievers but not to adopt their beliefs and value system. He asks us to be a church without walls.
I'll return next week with an analysis (including a critique and some things I like) of this book.