Are we living Jesus' dream?
Do our churches look like the Body Jesus hoped he'd have after 2000 years?
Is the institutional American church operating as Jesus intends?
My current answer to these probing questions is "NO". What we do in our American Churches is American stuff.. We compete for a consumer-driven audience by marketing our music, our preacher, and our programs so that our attendance will allow us to meet the budget and if possible, change a few lives. (If a life is changed every now and then we can justify all the marketing we do.)
I know of which I speak. I grew up the son of a Baptist/Charismatic/Evangelical preacher, attending church 4 times a week. I sensed God calling me into professional ministry when I was 18 and proceeded to not only get a theological/ecclesiological education but I landed jobs in 6 churches across 4 states over 25 years. I was a "biblical", "seeker-sensitive", "traditional", and "contemporary" full-service minister. I always sought to bring the reality of Jesus into the congregation that paid me. I put up with politics, senior pastors, and institutionalized people because I believed that being present was better than being absent.
I have not attended a church service for almost 2 years. With God's apparent blessing, I was left professional ministry. Being outside of the "bubble" has only increased my concern about the state of the Body of Christ in America. I cannot explain it by conventional means, but I am experiencing God at least as much if not more than when I was sitting in a church service.
I can't attend a church because it would be wrong for me to make life difficult for an existing pastor. It is not my place to join a congregation and then question the motives and strategies of the institution. It's not fair to the leadership or the people. And in good conscience, I couldn't help but call out the church for being less than Jesus must want.
One thing that could change the landscape would be to make it illegal to attend any American church and raze every one of them to the ground. Arrest and kill anyone who claims allegiance to Jesus. Once it is no longer part of cultural acceptability, true "worship" (read: how one lives for Jesus, not just how one sings for him on Sunday) would rise. Gatherings would have to be redefined and guess what, Jesus would have to be in charge.
Yes, I think we need a new starting place in America. We need a revolution that begins and ends with the Alpha and Omega, Jesus himself. Unfortunately, we don't have to do that as long as the culture is as it is and the institutional church continues to align itself along the same path.
When will I go to "church" again? Who says i am not already attending when I engage with others on the same trajectory over a cup of coffee? Who says I'm not doing "church" when I seek justice for orphans? Am I able to "worship" when I pour out my thoughts in a blog and trust Jesus to lead others to read it?
Alone or with others, one thing I do is count all things as loss for the excellency of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of the current institutional American church and count it as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.
Some people are satisfied in catching many sea bass; some of us are willing to wait for a marlin. If the current practice of church in America is what Jesus wants, then I am sorely disappointed. The Bible offers a grander vision and a more passionate experience.