Recently I have had the privilege of closer contact with some of the “Jesus people” than I have had before. They have told me of their work in community houses, among bikies, the drug culture, drop-outs, and others. The experience has been both heart-warming and mind-stretching. It has been good to get to know a little of the work these unconventional Christians are doing. But to someone whose Christian experience has been as much wrapped up in the institutional church as mine, it is a bit deflating to find these young men and women so repelled by the church.

For them the institution is just too much to take. They are for Christ, there is no doubt about that. But they are more than a little hesitant about Christ’s church. Indeed, they wonder whether that is the way to put it, whether it is in fact Christ’s church or some manmade institution.

I guess it is good for people like me to be made to think. We so easily take the church for granted. We have always associated the living out of the Christian life with our fellowship with other Christians in the church. We have taken seriously the injunction not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. It has never occurred to us that this might refer to assemblies other than the church. Even now that we see a number of groups thinking differently, we find it hard to imagine that forsaking the church assembly is a tenable Christian position. But it is not easy to deny the genuineness of the Christian experience of many of these new-style believers.

I do not suggest that we should give serious consideration to abandoning the church. The place of the church in Scripture is so central that it is impossible for me at least to contemplate a churchless Christianity.

But this does not ...

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