Church as Movement, Not Industrial Complex

If you wear glasses, you know when it’s time to get a new pair. Your vision is getting increasingly blurry, and traffic lights are a little hard to see. So you go to the eye doctor, get tested for a new prescription and get sized for a new pair. The moment you place that new pair of glasses on, you realize something: things are much clearer, and you’re able to see things you have not seen in a while.
This is the power of new lenses.

Church Glasses

We all have a set of glasses that affect the way we see the church. We’ve all been wearing a set of glasses that affect our vision; that affect our view on who the church is and what the church is about. We automatically envision certain things and certain ideas when we think of the word “church”.
Where did we get the primary lens that seems to dominate our vision of the church? Where did we get these glasses?
Maybe our vision has gotten blurry, making it difficult to see the church in the way Christ envisions the church in the world. Many today see the Church as an “Industrial Complex.”* There is an unquestioned, undergirding concept of the church that is highly informed by modern ideas of success.

Industrial Complex Glasses

To be successful in the Church as Industrial Complex, the church must:

  • Grow bigger
  • Collect more resources
  • Consolidate power
  • Create stronger hierarchical structures
  • Experience exciting rapid growth

All of this emphasizes the most obvious, simplistic cultural signs of success. Whether you serve in a small or big church is not the issue.
Our concepts of being the church is heavily weighted by our modern notions of success. This is the lens of Church as an Industrial Complex and it operates like a container that sees it as necessary to collect and consolidate more resources, more programs, more paid staff, more property, and more people in attendance.
We may be swimming in resources, ministry real estate and fast growing churches, but little of this seems to resonate within the wider culture as meaningful for their daily lives.
[Tweet “Our concepts of being the church is heavily weighted by our modern notions of success.”]

Movement Glasses

But what if we got new glasses? What if we gained new ways of seeing? What if refused to accept the way we’ve always envisioned church? We need a new lens in which to view the reality today.
We need new lenses to see The Church as a Movement.
We need to start with the foundational question: How did Jesus, the founder of the church, start and sustain the movement of early followers? This might seem like an odd place to begin, but it might be the most relevant question in our day.
We need to recover and reignite movemental axioms:

  • Tight-knit community
  • Life-forming discipleship
  • Locally-rooted presence
  • Boundary-crossing mission

These attributes are as old as the historic church, but we need a refreshed expression of them in the here-and-now.
We didn’t invent these movemental values, Jesus the founder of the church did.
The church has had blurry vision seeing the Church as an Industrial Complex but God is offering us new lenses, giving us eyes to see and ears to hear.
[Tweet “We didn’t invent these movemental values, Jesus the founder of the church did.”] This is not a fad. This is an awakening of God’s people to the grounded practices of the Church as a Movement, in our world and most importantly in our neighborhoods.
Join the Movement.
The Church as Movement, co-authored by The V3 Movement’s JR Woodward and Dan White, Jr. is now available for preorder and bulk order from InterVarsity Press. For 1-4 books, you will get 40% off, for 5-9 books you will get 45% off, and for 10 or more books, 50% off. Shipping is free for any purchased $45 or more.
Order Now *Skye Jethani and Scott Bessenicker borrow this terminology from Eisenhower’s Farewell address (1961) and apply it to Christian books selling and mission respectively. Skye Jethani, “The Evangelical Industrial Complex and the Rise of Celebrity Pastors,” February 13, 2012; Scott Bessenecker, Overturning Tables: Freeing Missions from the Christian-Industrial Complex (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014).

About the Author

Dan White Jr.

Dan co-planted Axiom, a faith community in Syracuse, NY with the compelling commitments of tight-knit community, locally-rooted presence, and life-forming discipleship. He works as a consultant and missional coach with the V3 Movement. He also co-founded The Praxis Gathering. Dan is the author of Love Over Fear: Facing Monsters, Befriending Enemies, and Healing Our Polarized World ,Subterranean , and co-author of The Church as Movement winner of InterVarsity Press Book of the Year 2017. Dan is married to Tonya, dad to Daniel and Ari, and can be found enjoying conversations at Salt City Coffee.

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