The Reformers emphasized as the ‘marks of the true church’ that such a church exists wherever the gospel is rightly preached, the sacraments rightly administered, and (they sometimes added) church discipline existed.
The result is that the church has become a “place where religious stuff happens.” It became the endpoint of religiosity.
The problem is that the church becomes the center of people’s lives.
Why is that a problem one may ask? Isn’t that the whole goal, for the church (the body of Christ, vie sa vie Christ) becoming the center of someone’s life.
The problem is that this model of church is more like a vortex that sucks people out of the world and into the church for activities. The church building becomes the center of every aspect of life…where worship occurs, where community is built, where marriages are enriched, where homeless are fed, where blood-pressure is screened, where kids go to preschool, where Biblical education occurs, where fellowship dinners happen.
Still don’t see the problem?
The problem is that the Church, thereby faith, becomes another dispensing institution. Or, even worse, it becomes like Wal-Mart and dispenses knock-off replicas of the real thing because it’s programs are so diverse and water-downed.
Rather than being a vortex that sucks people out of the world and gives them cheap knock offs–such as “community.” The church should be a place of worship, where people are met, directed and sent by God into the world. Then they are prepared to build community with the people they live/work around, to strengthen marriages, to address the systemic issues of poverty, to provide medical care, to educate children, to teach scripture in the homes, and to have neighborhood dinners through their (or arguably God’s) initiative “out there.”