Is an Other-Oriented Church Possible?

Last week I had a good conversation with an old college friend on the subject of Church. To be fair, there was a lot of venting and criticizing going down. This was because we both saw American Churches as primarily institutionalized religious organizations that are self-oriented clubs that have lost its capacity to be salt and light in the world because it favors majoring on the minors of doctrinal distinctions.

How distinct are we from the person and life of Jesus as seen in the gospels? Well, Derrick Weston suggests that churches are set up for the A,B,C’s, (focusing on Attendance, Buildings, and Cash). Hard to argue with that. With such energy focused on maintenance and self preservation, how does it affect our call to be the hands and feet of Jesus? How do we faithfully live with a Posture of Service, as Jesus did.


  1. jlundewhitler · April 18, 2011

    That’s the question! I’ve struggled with that one, especially since I, having grown up with no denominational backing or tradition, at the height of the development of my progressive leanings, purposely chose a tradition/institution in which to become ordained.

    I think asking the question itself, and admitting the struggle (pastors and churches), is part of the answer. If we’re pastors struggling with this, I think we have to invite our churches themselves along with us in that journey.

    That requires a heaping helping of humility all around… and a whole lot of listening to needs, fears, and concerns.

    This, along with a lot of prayer-filled discussions, can lead to some conversations about a) what forms the essential parts of this community, b) where are the places where we do not reflect the Kingdom, or do not support it, and c) what the real (not assumed) needs of the surrounding community are and how the church can partner with other churches to address those things.—All this, in turn, might open the door for a reformation in the church community.

    My sense is that a) all community organizations eventually become institutionalized, over-structured, and focused on self-preservation, at some point…. and so b) every community should consider having a “reforming” process on regular basis, perhaps even every few years.

    It’s all easier said than done, but for those like me choosing to work within the existing institution and call it to reform, there really isn’t any other option.

    • Drew Hart · April 19, 2011

      I like the idea of intentionally committing to a process of reformation every few years. We definitely need often and repetitive recalibration so that we keep other oriented rather than self oriented.

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