Gordon Atkinson recently posted to his blog If We Could Do Church, in which he tries to imagine what a Christian community would look like if it were free of most of the institutional baggage of contemporary churches.
(The comments to Gordon’s post are also interesting: Gordon clarifies some of his thoughts and several commenters refer to existing Christian communities that exemplify many of the characteristics that Gordon imagines.)
I’m always ambivalent about the church as institution, but I’ve been feeling more negative about it than usual lately, so Gordon’s post hit a nerve. I’m willing to admit that there’s always going to be some administrative overhead in maintaining any group of humans (even in Gordon’s conception of a church community), but I think it’s a constant struggle to weigh the amount of time, money and effort we put into the institution itself vs. the amount of those resources that are absolutely necessary for the group to use the remaining resources to help others. Many churches, it seems, get more caught up in maintaining the institution itself than I think they should.
I think the key difference comes down to size. Gordon says that his conceptualized congregation would be small enogh “to meet comfortably in a living room.” The larger the group of people, the more organization overhead you incur.
Another possible solution to this dilemma may lie in our Methodist circuit rider roots. In thoe circuit rider days, Methodist churches were small groups of individuals who managed themselves, and a circuit rider pastor only showed up from time to time to provide a minimal amount of professional guidance.

Categories: Religion