Forget Rethinking the Church

The church’s faithfulness is what needs to be reexamined

Today, prodigious amounts of energy are being poured into this effort. Everything about the church must be rethought! We must rethink how it becomes successful! We must rethink it all because this is what businesses have to do! Their products are all the time dying as new niches and needs arise. So it is in the church! Rethink or die!

In my view, so much of this rethinking confuses rethinking the nature of the church with rethinking its performance. For the multitude of pragmatists who are leading churches in America today, these are one and the same thing. The church is nothing but its performance. There is nothing to be said about the church that cannot be reduced to how it is doing, and that is a matter for constant inventories, poll taking, daily calculations, and strategizing.

I beg to differ. These are two entirely different matters. We intrude into what is not our business when, in our earnest pursuit of success in the church, which we think we can manufacture, we confuse its performance with its nature. Let me explain.

The church is not our creation. It is not our business. We are not called upon to manage it. It is not there for us to advance our careers in it. It is not there for our own success. It is not a business. The church, in fact, was never our idea in the first place. No, it is not the church we need to rethink.

Rather, it is our thoughts about the church that need to be rethought. It is the church’s faithfulness that needs to be reexamined. It is its faithfulness to who it is in Christ, its faithfulness in living out its life in the world, that should be occupying us. The church, after all, is not under our management but under God’s sovereign care, and what he sees as health is very often rather different from what we imagine its health to be.

The church, let us remember, is called the “church of God” (Gal. 1:13; 1 Cor. 15:9). Churches are “the churches of Christ” (Rom. 16:16) because they are his, bought by his precious blood. Christ not only constituted the church (Matt. 16:18), but God has given us the blueprint for its life in Scripture. What we need to do, then, first and foremost, is to think God’s thoughts after him, think about the church in a way that replicates his thoughts about it. We need to ask ourselves how well, or how badly, we are realizing our life in Christ in the church, how far and how well churches stand as the outposts of the kingdom of God in our particular culture.[1]

[1] David F. Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-Lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World (Grand Rapids, Mich: Eerdmans Publishing, 2008), 222-223.

David F. Wells is Distinguished Senior Research Professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. This article first appeared on the Reformed Baptist Fellowship website and is used by permission.

×

Give The Aquila Report to 100 friends for only $5. / 9 days left in the 2014 matching funds campaign. Donate now!