reload The Race by Maurice McCracken

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Homogenous church

posted by Little Mo | Permalink | 12 comments
Ok, so I have no wish to start a mudslinging dogfight between parties of people here.

But recently the august organisation for which I work has come under some criticism for supplanting and doing the work of the local church when it really shouldn't be.

Thus the argument says: the local church is the place for mission and maturity, it is the vehicle of God's blessing to the world, and parachurch organisations are therefore unbiblical and worse, have the effect of weakening the local church because they encourage the individual to have a spiritual commitment above and beyond that of the local body.

Now, I have, actually, some sympathy for that argument. I am a big fan of the local church, and think it's precious standing in the sight of God should, by no means, be undermined.

However, some of the people who are making these criticisms are offering a very strange alternative model. What they want is basically a group of students meeting on campus under the authority of the local church but still gathering as a group of students. Thus they would do away with the CU and set up an homogenous church. Where a churches like this already operate that's often what they do they have a "student congregation" and a "family congregation". They run student Bible study groups, have a student worker who runs that side of the operation and encourage mixing only with other students. If a student should go to the other congregation's prayer meeting, Bible study or family service eyebrows are raised left right and centre.

I believe that this concept is called "homogenous church"; running a church aimed at a particular dmeographic so to reach that demographic particularly. It has lots of advantages; indeed I benefitted hugely from such a student Bible study when I was an undergrad. However, I'm beginning to question the wisdom, and even the Biblical nature of it. This is not just because that group of people has had a go at my organisation, although that has led the whole issue has to come under consideration.

You see, it seems to me that one of the defining marks of the local church, is supposed to be that the barriers set up between people are, in the church, broken down. If a church isn't travelling towards diversity of social background, race, sex and educational status, it seems to me that the local church isn't actually fulfilling it's God-given role in Ephesians 2 of modelling the effect of the Gospel - homogenous church is church done badly.

The real issue, it seems to me, with the critics, is that what goes on in CUs is not under their authority, not that it isn't a proper church (as their alternative model, in my humble opinion, isn't a proper church). It isn't enough, it seems, that CUs operate under the authority of the Bible, but we seem to be heading down the strange pseduo-Catholic route of things not being done properly unless they are under the authority of the church. Weird for the children of the reformation.

Whatever the reasons, it seems to me that the critics are right that CU shouldn't pretend to be a church. But frankly, I can also very much do without the church pretending to be a CU.