A complicated church is not essential to the Christian life. We can survive and thrive even without it. What is essential is to be a part of a healthy, life-giving church, regardless of the size. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to be large. In fact, it can be simple.
We have grown so accustomed to our culture that we sometimes forget that a lot of things we assume that we need are actually not essential to life. Take our church experience, for instance. We assume that unless we are a part of a large, vibrant, successful, multi-program church, we are incomplete. Unless we can attend an exciting worship service, our Christian life is boring. We long for it, and we look for it earnestly. We want to belong to something like that. The bigger, the better. The more people, the more exciting it is. The more excellent the preacher, the better our Christian life would be. This idea somehow became ingrained in our consciousness that we assume it must be the truth.
The result is, of course, quite predictable. We become spectators. We watch as a small percentage of the body of Christ perform on stage to inspire us. Some are very good at it, and this attested to by its size every Sunday morning. That’s their reward. Some are very poor at it, and they remain small through the years. Churches these days are measured by the size of their attendance, their buildings, and their cash (the ABC’s of church life).
Another result is that we become indifferent to the needs around us. I’m not speaking about the needs of the world. Big churches can have big projects, and they can be pretty amazing. I’m referring to the needs next door or just around the corner of where we are. We also fail to reach out to the lost, hoping that the “experts” will do it for us. We become consumers of various programs and activities, thinking that more information will result in real transformation. We drown ourselves with activities, with fun and laughter in our fellowships, forgetting that perhaps the condition of our souls is not that healthy.
A complicated church — with all its complex structures, personnel, programs, schedules, etc. — can be very impressive, and attractive. Who wouldn’t want to be part of it? And there’s nothing sinful about it, really. It’s just one of the expressions of what it means to be a church, and that’s the most important thing to remember: it’s just ONE of the expressions. Period. Our problem is when we conclude that such a structure or form is THE KIND OF CHURCH we all need. There couldn’t be any other. Or other expressions are just supplements or add-ons. In fact, we reserve the name “church” only for those groups that are duly organized and with the proper clergy or personnel to run it.
Historically speaking, the early church did not have large buildings or complex structures. They did not have programs or paid staffs. They were simple, organic movements across the then known world. Throughout the history of the church, many communities of faith (churches) thrived without big buildings or worship halls. Today, many churches exist in the world without the benefit of listening to fantastic worship bands with their complicated technical set-ups. The christian life in many place of the world are actually very simple, and yet they thrive and grow. Christians in simple churches can be the most dedicated and devoted followers of Jesus Christ. That’s a fact.
Stop saying that you need a large complicated church to belong to in order to feel fulfilled in your Christian life. Join one if you like. But don’t conclude that it’s the only legitimate form of the church. There are other forms, and they can be equally, if not more, potent for our Christian walk. In fact, simple churches can be far more effective in helping us grow toward maturity than large, complicated churches. Transformation doesn’t happen with more activities that barely touch our souls. They happen only in authentic, life-giving relationships where real love is learned in the crucible of real life. A simple church can be a place like that.