The church exists for mission. As Christopher Wright says, ‘Jesus did not give a mission to his church; he formed a church for his mission.’ Without the mission, a church is not a church; it’s just a group of disobedient Christians hanging out. The church is a movement before it is an institution. And the number one characteristic of a movement is… movement. If something is not moving, it can’t be called a movement. And people who are not moving are not part of the movement, even if they are members of the institution.
—J.D. Greear. Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches that Send. (Zondervan, 2015), 38.
I think this is a great quote. It is strange, then, that I am going to try to undermine it. One spot in the quote I think is an effort to be move clever than true. That is the statement, “Without the mission, a church is not a church; it’s just a group of disobedient Christians hanging out.”
The problem with it is that, in a sense, the opposite is true. Almost definition, The Local Church IS “a group of disobedient Christians hanging out.” I fully agree that it is good for the church to be in the process of becoming LESS disobedient over time. Before it was an institution, it was a movement. B ut before it was a movement, it was an organism— and organisms don’t always move, or at least move very fast.
I am saying this all not completely seriously, but not fully in jest either. I have seen churches (I have been part of at least one such church) over the years that was so focused on its mission, but it stopped looking at itself as an organism… the body of Christ, made up of many members, but an organized machine made of many parts— parts that can be tossed aside and replaced if they fail to do their job.
A church, no matter how driven to serve God, worship God, obey God, is not a church if it is not FIRST, a group of disobedient Christians hanging out together.