Bean seems to fluctuate a lot in her writing. I find myself agreeing with many of her points but her approach to dealing with the issues she uncovers is the exact opposite of what I would do. She brings my attention to some real needs in the church and even says that she wouldn’t do away with the church but then she calls for not going to church anymore. So what is she really advocating? Does she want reform or does she want dismissal? As a church leader, I am finding areas where we need to place some attention, but if church is optional for Christians as Bean suggests, then what is church, really? Is it just a place where people who need it can go and those that have grown beyond it in some way can do without? This does not seem to describe the church founded after Jesus’ ascension.
Here is a revealing quote. “I wrote this book with a desire to see a world changed for the better as people practice ‘being Christian’ together in ways that birth faithful communities, spur generosity, encourage kindness, and inspire the hard work of reconciliation on the home front and in the world.” To this quote, I say Amen. That sounds to me to be a perfect mission statement for the church. Why can’t the church family, coming together weekly and in small groups, seek to accomplish this goal? Why does it have to take place outside of the local church gathering? This is the confusion that I keep sensing.
She continues with this statement, “We are not called to go to church, think the church belongs to the pastor, or serve a building. We are called to be the church.” Once again, I partly agree. But in agreeing, does that mean I forsake the church? Reactionary again.
Perhaps one of the most accusatory statements was this one. “When we start building houses we hope can contain God, we miss the point. That all ended when the temple was torn in two. God made it clear that God could be accessed by anyone-without a priest and without a special building.”
Yes, again. I agree with this wholeheartedly but do not see that applying this requires that I become a non-goer. I, and I am sure many others, do not believe God can be contained by any building. That is just an immature understanding of God and the church. If a pastor or church leader makes it seem that he is the only source of truth pertaining to the things of God then that is an issue with that particular pastor and not with the church as a whole. Does this statement have something to say to the church, yes. We as the church gathered must always be aware of the awesomeness and transcendence of God. We approach Him in awe and with a mind that understands that no one fully comprehends the things of God. This helps us to remain humble as well. Our church leaders fulfill a role that has been held for centuries. They lead in worship and instruct in the Word just as the early church leaders did. If you attend a church where the pastor uses the pulpit and the role of leader in an unbiblical way, then seek reform or seek another church but don’t opt out.
There will always be the temptation to use the pulpit in the wrong way and that is where elders and other leaders of the church can provide a way of checks and balances. There were struggles in the early church and discipline was given in order to get the specific church back on track. This is why I see that a proactive approach will always be better than a reactive one.