Some things are far more complicated than they need to be. Church can be like that too. Richard Halverson, a Presbyterian pastor and Chaplain of the United States Senate, said:
In the beginning the church was a fellowship of men and women centering on the living Christ.
Then the church moved to Greece where it became a philosophy.
Then it moved to Rome where it became an institution.
Next, it moved to Europe, where it became a culture.
And, finally, it moved to America where it became an enterprise.
“Church” became something it wasn’t meant to be. Mission-drift creeps in, meaning we must always be deliberately realigning ourselves, seeking to get back to being a fellowship centered on Christ.
But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
2 Corinthians 11:3
Here Paul compares being led away from a sincere and pure devotion to Jesus, to humanity’s first sin. He says this distraction is no less than a temptation of the devil. The word ‘sincere’ here means simple, not overly complicated or needlessly complex.
William Tyndale understood this. He was the first translator to get the bible printed in English, for which he was eventually burnt at the stake. One verse that really upset people was his translation of Matthew 16:18 in which he translated the word ‘ecclesia’ as ‘congregation’. Religious leaders wanted him to use the word ‘church’ but he said there was no need for great buildings. Their understanding of ‘church’ included a host of heavily institutional connotations not justified by Jesus’ original statement. In its essence, Church is a fellowship of men and women centered on the living Christ.
Let us seek to be “meek, simple followers of the lamb”, as Charles Wesley’s hymn says. And where our organisations outgrow themselves, let’s be courageous enough to strip them back, rediscovering the heart of what Jesus intends church to be: the people of God living gathered around Christ, loving God and neighbour.