Close Your Church for Good. Chap 2, Sec 2. How did church become so complex? It didn’t start that way; it evolved that way. But we can become simple again.
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Christianity began quite simply. Yet over the years, it has gone through various cycles of gaining complexity until a renewal movement arises, and brings a portion of the church back to simplicity. These cycles are nearly always the same. Initially, the movement begins with a few simple but profound ideas which could be taught and learned in minutes. The people who hear these ideas are so moved by them, they are able to remember, practice, and teach them to others.
Within a few years, however, the movement begins to morph. Questions get asked and answered and innovative practices become standard traditions. Cultural influences are incorporated to appeal to the masses but soon become indistinguishable from the movement itself. Eventually, the movement begins to slow as the required knowledge and expertise to live and function within the movement becomes so great, it takes not a few minutes, but a few years to understand and grasp the ideas and practices of the movement. The two or three initial truths which spread so rapidly at first are developed into massive systems of beliefs and practices, complete with books, specialized leaders, and training centers where new initiates spend years of study before they are allowed to go out and teach others also.
This continues until someone comes along and simplifies things again. Then a new movement begins bringing reform, renewal, passion, excitement, and generally, an explosion in evangelistic activity. Frequently, these new ideas, new practices, and the people who teach them are condemned as heretical by the established and well-grounded movement. But over time, the new movement either dies out, or follows the general pattern above, and is eventually incorporated into the well-grounded and established movement. When this happens, new books are written, new explanations are provided, new training centers open, and the ever-growing mass of required knowledge to live and operate within the movement expands. Eventually, a new movement begins and the process starts all over again.
These spiritual movements often center around freedom. Those who are involved in the movement believe that the Scriptures contain very little about how church should be done. The Scriptures do tell us, however, what the church is, and what the church is supposed to do. As long as we understand this, we can be as free, flexible, and creative as we desire.