Like everything else in this world, churches also go through change. When I joined a church in 1979 it was in the process of change. At the time it belonged to the Baptist Union and shortly after me joining the christian mysticism resigned from the Baptist Union and changed from an Eldership led Church to a Pastor led Church.
Due to the fact that this was one of the significant events that happened to me as a young Christian and because there was so much for the ex-Baptist and myself to learn as a young Charismatic, I came to believe that “moving on” was what Christians do; God revealed new truth to us and then we left the old truth behind and moved on.
I clearly remember one significant meeting, when a group of leaders of that church declared: “When the cloud of truth moves on (referring to Moses being led by the cloud in the wilderness) they too would move on.” I was right there saying yes I would be one of those. Since then I have moved on a number of times as promised, sadly the vast majority that were in that room that night, have not.
That’s par for the course though, the church does move on and always when it does the movers criticise the stayers and the stayers are convinced and publish document after document that the movers are now in heresy.
It’s been happening for almost 1000 years now:
1054 “The Great Schism” – Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches divide.
1519 Martin Luther starts “The Reformation” and the Lutheran Church
1534 King Henry VIII proclaims himself head of the Church of England
1559 John Knox starts the Presbyterian Church in Scotland
1581 Robert Browne and Robert Harrison start Congregational Churches in England
1608 John Smyth starts Baptist Churches
1650 George Fox is arrested; his movement is first called ‘Quakers’
1784 John Wesley’s ‘Methodist Society’ separates from the Church of England
1820 (approx.) Brethren churches and Exclusive Brethren churches started, mainly by Christians from the Church of England
1900 Pentecostal churches started in America
1960 (approx.) Independent Charismatic churches start in the U.K
More recently there has been the Emerging Church Movement and the House Church Movement.
The people in the emergent church like to call it a conversation. What those involved in the conversation mostly agree on is their disillusionment with the organized and institutional church and their support for the deconstruction of modern Christian worship, modern evangelism, and the nature of modern Christian community. The same pattern persists though, those that move on can’t believe that people can’t see the new truth and those that stay write the new movement off as reckless and heretical. Now with the introduction of internet there are just so many mean ways to discredit each other.
Recently, there has been an even wider spread rejection of religion and structure in the church. Many of these people just stopped going to church altogether, not rejecting God or Jesus, but just opposed to structure and the traditional interpretation of many of the scriptures in the Bible. I have seen a greater tolerance of other religions including Eastern philosophies and even new age developing. I know many people that while following the directive to pursue the Kingdom of God to some extent feel that they have out-grown church. To me it is a natural progression. Where does one go when you have rid yourself of the shackles of religion and form, but you are still pursuing spiritual truth?