The modern church is a bewilderingly complex array of structures and activities. There will usually be national, regional and local organisations. At each level there will be a variety of committees, dealing with all sorts of activities. There is a complicated range of ministries: bishops, cardinals, ministers elders, deacons, pastors, priests, administrators, etc.

The church produces magazines, minutes, agendas, vision statements, strategic plans, tenets and doctrinal statements. It owns worship centres, halls, office blocks, training colleges, cars and superannuation funds. And the scene is further complicated by the duplication of all these activities across the various denominations. On top of all this, there are a wide variety of para-church organisations specialising in missions, youth work, children's work, evangelism, Bible distribution etc. The modern church is a large, unwieldy and complex organisation.

Most of the activities and structures that make up its complexity are not necessary for its essential work. The church has become so complicated that people cannot see the wood for the trees. And yet we find it hard to imagine a church without all these things. We need a radical change in our understanding of the church.

The institutionalisation of Christianity has severely weakened the church. It has also left elders frustrated, because they are unable to fulfil a true spiritual ministry. Fortunately, this form of church is dying, and people are instinctively going back to meeting in small groups in their homes.

The main responsibility of the church is to bear witness to Jesus Christ. However, all the peripheral structures and activities of the church stop people from seeing Christ. For most non-Christians, a church building is part of a strange institution, which they do not understand. They will only go into it if they really have to. In contrast, they will be quite happy to go into another person's home. If churches go back to meeting in believers' homes, people will feel free to join them. To be successful in evangelism, the church must meet in the homes of believers.

Back to What is a Church.