‘The American Church is broken!’ It's a statement I continue to repeat. The ‘Church’ was never meant to be an hour on Sunday where good people gather to sit and watch. The aim was never an hour of ritualistic music, education and “felt need” programming. The ‘Church’ was to be a collection of individuals who came together to share ALL aspects of life - the good, the bad, the easy and the hard.
So what happened?
The young Church started strong. The Book of Acts describes a group of individuals alive and committed to a cause larger than any one person. However, it wouldn't take long for the movement to drift. It would move from messy relationships to predictable patterns. It really isn't surprising since humanity always longs for the comfort of predictability. The Church, is after all, the people who gather. The patterns would become rules. Rules would become rituals. Rituals would become cultural laws. The state would step in to establish the penalties for diversion from the new norm. Slowly the Church would acquiesce more and more to governmental intervention. It would start with societal leaders hoping to assist and eventually slide into what author, professor, and church leader Dr. David Fitch would term, The Great Giveaway. The American Church would giveaway it's soul by choosing to believe the sharing of the. Good New of Jesus could be accomplished without combining words and deeds. As a result, much of the American Church has become nothing more than a solicitor of religious goods and services where the highest quality product garners the greatest audience.
For this reason, I believe the American word ‘Church’ has moved from a cultural positive to a negative.’Church’ has come to represent attendance, buildings and cash. As a result, the larger a Church becomes, the less it seems to embody the original design. Many within the establishment have recognized this and stopped using the word Church in favor of: ministry, Ecclesia, fellowship, community or mission. However, even these seem over used.
Hugh Halter has coined the phrase ‘incarnational community’ in his book, The Tangible Kingdom. While this term is better than ‘Church’ for several reasons (reflects our role, Christ's action and our willingness to come together) it still sounds and feels like Christian insider language. I've reviewed the synonyms, tried to be cool by investigating the Greek and even attempted to describe it succinctly but the result was not ideal. So I've decided to answer the question, ‘What is Renew?’ by proclaiming:
Renew is a gathering of people who come together ‘to discover a life worth living’ as an alternative to Sunday morning Church. Better yet, Renew is an alternative to Church for the ‘none, done and undone’ of our world.