In my previous blog I wrote about the church that has lost its power. And while I enjoyed the mixed responses I received (ranging from the category of “amen sister” to “how dare you write about the church like that?”), I still felt like I needed to say something more about it. . Because it is precisely my love for the church that makes me passionate about working for change within it.
Movement of people
I believe in the church as Christians who live in connection with God, each other and their environment. As far as I am concerned, the church is not a separate building, but a movement of people who proudly embrace their identity and are a conscious and active part of society. And so the church is present in people’s daily lives. She gathers around the table, by the pool, in parks, at festivals. She helps, she is there where there is brokenness, she celebrates life.
Isolated from society
We can hardly deny that the church in 2023 does not look like this. The church has isolated itself from society. We meet in a building, at a specific time, using language and singing songs that most non-Christians do not understand. This is not conscious, but has grown over the many years of church history.
When Paul wanted to describe the first Christian church, the word commonly used to describe such a group was ‘koinonia’. The word ‘church’ did not yet exist. In fact, it does not appear at all in the original text of the Bible. A koinonia was ‘ an organized unit with clear goals arising from common ethics ‘. They shared their passion and mission. Another characteristic of the word koinonia at that time was a group of people who mixed in society. So it was not a group that isolated itself, but was part of society.
At R3NEW (the foundation I also work for) we increasingly see Christians organizing themselves in new forms, which we like to call community. Community comes from the Greek word koinonia. The purpose of such a community is to work together, as a counterpoint to the individualistic life we are so used to. To live in connection with others, instead of in fleeting and superficial contacts.
Not coming back
For years I have functioned within the church institute, in recent years I have been part of a community. So I know both forms well. Although I sometimes long for the ‘easy’ sliding into the pew, I couldn’t and wouldn’t want to go back. From my own experience I can say that sharing life yields more than it costs and that, although it is not always easy or comfortable, this form of church helps you grow enormously in many ways.
My plea is not that the current church as a whole should change. That everyone in neighborhood communities should shape the church. Because an existing system with so much history cannot simply be changed. My plea is that the institute should give more space to people who want to opt for new forms. Because there are enough people, but they are often tied to tasks that need to be carried out within the municipality. A good example when it comes to giving space was our predecessor a few years ago. When we asked whether he wanted to ‘bless us’ into the neighborhood, he responded indignantly; “Blessing? No! We are going to bless you. Because what you do in the neighborhood also belongs to this church.”
As far as I am concerned, the existing church may, no must, encourage their members to become part of society. To be discipled and to disciple others. To be less concerned with oneself. To share life with the environment. To go for justice and justice. To demonstrate the Kingdom of God. Society needs it so much! That is not always a feel-good message. Maybe people will walk away… Didn’t that also happen to Jesus?
Yes, the church has lost its power because we have lost connection with society, but it is certainly not a lost cause. There is so much potential. More than ever I believe in a revival of the church in its purest form. And that revival is on its way. From church to koinonia!
Royal Mission will start a new school in September: the School for Church Revival. A one-year part-time course in Veenendaal for leaders of existing churches and planters of new churches, who are willing to move outside the framework of the old church model with what God wants to do with His church today. You read therehere everything about.
Elements from this blog have their origins in R3NEW’s E-Book ‘The 7 essentials of vital communities’. If you want to know more about sustainably building a community in your neighborhood, you can do thishere download for free.