On one hand, believe their intentions to be honorable. I think they believe this is a way to reach the unchurched, and I suspect they will enjoy some measure of success in doing so. Reading through their pastor's defense of this tactic, I understand their desire is to communicate that "church isn't a building." Well and good.
Their chosen tactic is ultimately destructive, however, insofar as it attempts to communicate to the unchurched by tearing down the visible church. Moreover, it does so based upon a lie. To quote the pastor: "For too long the church has been the object of scorn and Christians have been the biggest single reason people turn away from Christianity." Good grief. Jesus said we're supposed to be objects of scorn! People turn away from Christianity because "although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened."
This appears to be a growing trend--it's almost like we're trying to win the cool kids over by trying to get accepted into their club and making fun of our old nerdy friends. In the end, do we win them to Christ, or do we just become like them?
Look, believe it or not, I don't consider myself a defender of the Western church. We are corporately in need of a spiritual overhaul, and I think we can break some eggs to do it. I'm a fan of the Jailbreaker's attempts to release the church from its cultural traps so as to return to the essence of the gospel. But this is not helping.
As I read the New Testament, we're not the first church to struggle with serious issues. Paul railed against the divisive, self-absorbed, glory-seeking, sexually immoral Corinthian church (not to mention the "bewitched" Galatians)! But that was rebuking the "family", not attacking the "enemy".
Can you imagine Paul then turning his attention outward and saying to the people of Corinth, "Forget these clowns--they're objects of scorn, and it's their own fault!" On the contrary, despite his stinging rebukes, he spoke to them tenderly and encouragingly as well: "I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge—because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful." They were frustratingly sinful, but they were still the church!
You will say, perhaps, that Jesus rejected the religious class of his day and was found among the sinners, prostitutes and tax collectors. Fair enough. But I would not classify the sin of today's lukewarm and lazy church as being that of the bloodthirsty, autocratic, terrorizing "brood of vipers" Jesus encountered. Let's get some perspective.
So what will a "Ditch Church" campaign yield? Will some be saved? Probably, and for that we can rejoice. Paul also rejoiced when some were saved by dishonorable means. But let's look longer term--where does the tactic lead? And when we declare it all worthless, how much of the wheat do we burn with the tares?
Update--a church member writes in to defend their tactic:
Really? Wow. Our Easter service is the party. The word will be preached and communion offered. What is it about the word party that offends so many. I serve the only living God, and he loves me above all else. How can you not get excited about that? If you are unchurched that means you have already been a part of a church. These people already know what the "visible church" is. They have dealt with judgmental, self righteous, Holier than thou types, that you run into more often that not. They may have plugged in and tried to follow Christ, just to be knocked down, or ridiculed the first time they fell short. My bible says that we have all fallen short a time or two. The defeat isn't in getting knocked down, it's in not getting back up. At Cross Roads, we offer a helping hand when you fall, not ridicule. We show the love of Jesus to all, not just the perfect.(lol, there are no perfect people.)Again, I doubt not that they are "real people, serving a real God, and trying to reach real people," nor do I question the need for new approaches to evangelism. As I said at the beginning, it is not their motive I question, it is the tactic of attacking the church to reach the lost, and the categorization of the entire church as Pharisees. I have seen far too much of the good, godly, compassionate, humble church as I have literally traveled the world over the past couple of decades to let that stand.
Now there are different levels of sin. The "church" today is as much a pit of vipers as the church of Jesus' time. Plus the church of today has a far greater, and faster bite. Look at this blog. It could in theory impact the entire world! The church of old didn't have that power. Jesus would not say anything different about today's church then He did about the one of His time, unless He condemned it even more. The lukewarm and lazy church! Wow what a statement that is in itself. What does the bible say about being lukewarm? You saying that and not being upset enough to fight against it, to me says a lot! We at Cross Roads will not sit back and let the religious spirits rule any more, not where we can help it. We are real people, serving a real God, and trying to reach real people, where they are! If that's not something you can get behind, I'm sorry.