How many churches have you either been a regular attender of or had the opportunity to visit in your life? How much difference was there between the churches? How much real difference was there? I mean, I know some churches have contemporary worship songs instead of hymns. I know some churches have small groups instead of Sunday school. But outside of the minor things, how much difference was there?
It seems to me that churches, for the most part, are imitations of each other. Is it because they get their instructions from Scripture and therefore they should all look alike? I do not think this is the case. Scripture gives clear guidelines for what a church’s purposes are: teach the word, practice the ordinances (communion and baptism), hold each other accountable. It also gives clear guidelines for how a church should be governed to ensure orderly meetings rather than chaos and to protect against heretical teaching: elders and deacons who meet certain qualifications.
However, the Bible gives us no specifics when it comes to deciding how best to accomplish these things. There is nothing in Scripture that says we must have a big church building with a large sanctuary and classrooms. There is nothing that even says a church must have its own property. One can argue that there are advantages to these things, but one could also argue that there are advantages to not having them; the greatest being not having the cost of having them and being able to do other things with the church’s finances. There is nothing in Scripture that tells us that we must have Sunday school, a choir, AWANA, children’s church, etc. Again, an argument can be made that these are all good things and I am not saying that they are not good, but they are not MUSTS.
So, the question is, why do all churches pretty much look the same? It seems that when we study Scripture, we are told that every church is made up by a group of believers that have unique gifts and abilities (1 Corinthians 12). As individuals, we understand that we are all unique, which means that we do not try to be someone else, but we try to be ourselves. We are most happy and productive when we act like ourselves. If we believe the that each church is truly unique in its make-up, why do we all try to act like one another? Would we not be more effective if we just let our own unique personalities shine?
Church can happen in many contexts and venues. It can have many different programs and ministries to accomplish the same purposes. We do not all need to look and act the same. In fact, I wonder why, if we are all pretty much doing the same things, we need so many churches. If we are all alike, let’s just all meet together and save the trouble of having so many churches.
Is it possible that by trying to be just like every other church, a church becomes ineffective because it fails to understand and utilize its unique gifts and abilities, which are determined by its people? If churches truly began to think outside the box and address their uniqueness, what would happen to their ministries? I think we would have churches that all looked very different and were reaching a far greater number and a far broader type of people. What do you think?