The trend today seems to be moving away from a centralized "church" to a scattered smattering of lone ranger Christians trying to change their world by themselves. This trend is emphasized in a positive light in George Barna's book, Revolution.
But is it a positive thing? In an interview with Willow Creek's Magazine, "Willow" (vol. 13, Iss. 1), Barna asserts "...the role of the church is to help people honor Jesus Christ. It is meant to support each person's efforts to be Christ-like." ("Willow" vol. 13, Iss. 1, p.35) He continues to say that, "...expecting that person to be committed to that congregation leads to problems."
Is the church a bunch of individuals doing his or her best to honor Jesus Christ, or is the church one body connected by one Spirit with specific commands for organization and practice? If this trend continues, where are the individual Christ-like "Revolutionaries" going to join together for worship and encouragement? Are we more effective individually or collectively? What about unity of the believers? How will that be accomplished?
I am not advocating that the current practices of the church are flawless, nor do I think we are limited to stay within our own church walls. The heart for the lost is the heart of Christ. But Jesus was different than us in that He was calling followers for Himself. In this truth, we should consider ourselves more like the church in Acts than being "Christ-like", because we are not calling followers for ourselves, but building the church that was begun in the book of Acts.
1. It was a church united. (Acts 2:42)
2. It was a church with a mission. (Acts 1:8)
3. It was a church that was effective and powerful. (Acts 2:43,47)
4. It was a church that prayed together, daily. (Acts 3:1)
5. It was a church that took care of each other. (Acts 4:32)
6. It was a church that had accountability. (Acts 5:1-11)
7. It was a church that was organized. (Acts 6:1-6)
8. It was a church that was centralized. (Acts 8:14;Acts 14:4)
Decentralizing the church is a dangerous trend. The organized church may fail once in a while, and will always have flaws because of the human condition. But it is exactly that flawed condition that demands we be answerable and connected with each other in organized, centralized and accountable fashion. Decentralizing and the church is deconstructing the church. How dare we destroy the body of Christ in this way?