What is the Authentic Church?

What is the Authentic Church

About six months ago, I visited an Anglican church. I was expecting to find a church more focused on liturgical ritual than authentic belief. I thought it would be made up of older people who attended because or convenience. I figured most of those people attended each Sunday because they were simply continuing the tradition they were raised in and it never occurred to them to stop. I assumed it would be readily apparent that the congregation was dwindling and slowly dying out. In other words, I expected a spiritually dead experience that was perpetuated out of cultural habit rather than authentic faith in God.

What I found could not have been more unexpected.

The congregation was young. The church seemed to be fostering the next generation as many of the families had kids. And yes, there were older people there as well, worshiping right alongside the children, providing a lively, multi-generational worship environment. People were friendly, authentic and welcoming. The church was part of a growing denomination. 

But what was most surprising was the discovery that almost no one there was raised Anglican. In fact, most of the congregation was so new to Anglicanism, every Sunday began with the Priest giving an explanation of part of the liturgy to a congregation somewhat unfamiliar with the worship style. The congregation was mostly made up of people just like me, with backgrounds in nondenominational, evangelical churches. I was surprised to learn that most of them were there for exactly the same reasons I was.

You would think you’d find the millennial Christian more at home in the local megachurch, with childcare, an espresso bar, sub-woofers and moving lights, an inspirational sermon, and a crowd large enough to keep you anonymous. But I think a lot of Christians in my generation have come to see through the showy performances of large, modern, evangelical church services. Instead, we want real community, authentic spirituality, and historical richness. We don’t want to watch something – we want to be a part of something.

My Search for the Authentic Church

I started this blog as a result of my search for the authentic church. I had come to the conclusion that the perfect church doesn’t exist; but that doesn’t mean that the church has failed. Rather, the church is a work in progress and it is always improving, as it has been since Jesus established it. As I learned more about how the church could improve, I wanted to share what God has been showing me with others. So I used this blog to share as I learned, and encourage Christians reject institutional traditional churches and move into a powerful, interactive community of disciples becoming like Jesus. 

But why should anyone take my word for it? What makes my opinion legitimate? With very little formal training, no official ministry position, and no one endorsing me for ministry, I’m just some random guy with a passion for Jesus. I started to see the value and necessity of leaders being endorsed by other Christian leaders and the Christian community as a whole. This is what we call ordination, or in the Bible, the laying on of hands. And I started to seek this partnership in ministry, I realized that some people have this calling for spiritual leadership, and some people don’t. In order to support that calling, I accepted that paying clergy is biblical and established by God from the beginning of the church. 

All of this was gradually breaking down my dogma that the institution of the church was standing in the way of spiritual maturity. In fact, the institution is needed for ordaining and supporting those who are called to spiritual leadership.

Finding the Authentic Church

I have written about seven areas where I thought the institutional church needed improvement: community, interactivity, order, supernatural power, activities for edification, focus on disciples rather than outreach, and teaching the true gospel. These seven areas focus on allowing the congregation to participate in worship rather than just observe. Many of my critiques have been based on my experience with evangelical, fundamentalist, protestant Christianity – in other words, modern American churches. But there is so much more to Christianity than my limited religious culture and experience.

As I warmed up to the idea that church institutions might not be all bad, I started learning more about other denominations. And as I explored these denominations, I was very surprised to learn that there were denominations that didn’t need these seven areas improved at all because they were already worshiping the way that I outlined. But even more surprising, they hadn’t gone through a revival or reformation – all they did was stay true to the ancient forms of worship that were passed on to them from the apostles! So my seven areas of improvement were irrelevant, because not only did they already exist, but they've existed since the beginning of Christianity! Changing church wasn't the solution, it was the problem.

What I discovered is liturgical worship. Now, I still don’t think there is a perfect church, and liturgical churches aren’t perfect. But finding a worship style that is aligned with what I’ve been looking for in an authentic church for decades is really exciting and surprising to me.


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