You don’t need “church.”
That’s right, you don’t need it. At all.
You can live and do everything Jesus commanded and modeled without “church.”
With a steeple on nearly every corner, if churches are making such a positive difference in the world for Jesus, why do we see an increasingly far less positive world and why do we see increasingly far less of Jesus? “Church” doesn’t work, that’s why. Not with a “gospel” of belief-dependent salvation from a torturous god-designed hell. Not to mention, sin-management, conditional love, a codependent god, reaching the so-called “lost,” and converting and colonizing the so-called “world.” That’s a gospel that is no Gospel at all. It makes people worse, not better; more fearful, not at peace; more self-centered, not humanity-serving. In fact, it’s evil. Anti-Christ to the core.
The vast majority of Christianity… anti-Christ.
There, I said it.
Church was never the invention of Jesus, you are the invention of Jesus. You are the church. Each one of us, individually.
Where it’s believed that Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” The word for “church” is the Greek word, “kuriakon” which is the idea of “people loving people like Jesus loves.” It’s not the word “ekklesia.”
Where it’s believed that Jesus said, “Where two or more are gathered in my name, there I am with them.” It’s not the idea of people gathered who believe in Jesus as the prerequisite to His presence. But rather, the reality that when people love people like Jesus loves, He is represented and dwells in the midst of that. Gathering in His name is about loving and serving humanity well, not believing a certain set of beliefs.
Again, “church” was never the invention of Jesus, you are the invention of Jesus. You are the church. Each one of us individually; a walking Trinity in skin.
The mind of Christ is within you. Enough Love to change the planet is within you. Everything of the Universe is within you. Yet, so often, “church” blinds, poisons, restricts, distorts, and kills this Light that is within all humanity. It becomes a black hole to all that is good, holy, and right. It exchanges individual, spiritual freedom for communal conformity; divine affirmation for organizational condemnation; and hope and peace for tribal shame, fear, control, and human abuse. More often than not, “church” is the disease, not the cure. And we wonder why the world doesn’t get any better, especially Christians.
You don’t need “church” to find “like-minded” people.
You don’t need “church” to validate or authenticate your faith.
You don’t need “church” for spiritual growth and maturity.
You don’t need “church” to maximize your impact through a “team.”
You don’t need “church” for accountability or support.
You don’t need “church” to find and live your life with joy, significance, and purpose.
If church is a place you go, a service you attend, a creed you follow, or a people you gather with, you’ll never get there, you’ll never find it, and you’ll never have it.
Instead, church is you; you loving neighbor, selflessly serving the world, feeding the hungry, freeing the captive, welcoming the stranger, mending the brokenhearted, defending the least-of-these, and proclaiming the unconditional divine favor, affirmation, equality, and inclusion of all into All.
It’s you taking care of the needs in front of you. It’s you resisting and undoing systems of injustice, violence, greed, and oppression. It’s you being you in ways that honor Love and authenticity. It’s you disconnecting from a self-esteem that’s shackled to personal performance and production. It’s you closing the Bible searching for a perfect thread, answer, defense, meaning, truth, or justification and, instead, opening the Light within you revealing the perfect One, Mind, Spirit, and Universe.
That’s the Church we need.
It’s you. You, and only you.
You are the renewal God is bringing to the earth.
The church we need can’t be contained in a building.
The church we need can’t be confined to a creed.
The church we need can’t be conformed by fear.
The church we need can’t be caged into the Bible.
The church we need can’t be compromised by racism, greed, power, and hate.
The church we need can’t be coerced into judgment, pride, supremacy, and ignorance.
The church we need can’t be controlled by leaders.
The church we need can’t be chaperoned by patriarchy.
The church we need can’t be converted through guilt.
The church we need can’t be calculated in numbers.
The church we need can’t be commissioned by vision.
It needs no defense.
It needs no pastor.
It needs no committee.
It needs no membership covenant.
It needs no budget.
It needs no conferences, books, or celebrity.
It needs no light systems, branding, or worship choruses.
It needs no gathering of the like-minded.
It needs no team-work to make the dream-work.
The church we need is… you.
You are the church: God is Love, the Gospel is the universal and unconditional inclusion of all into All, humanity is our community, earth is our sanctuary, and love is our worship.
Everything else is the “church” we don’t need. Everything else is the “church” that isn’t Church at all.
In fact, for far too many, “church” is the crutch and disguise that keeps them from actually following Jesus. It’s the spiritual pacifier of the spiritually restricted and resistant.
For what does most every church and church leader hate and fear the most? The revelation and reality that you don’t need “church” at all. That you can live and do everything Jesus commanded and modeled without “church.” In fact, often better. And very likely, not until you’ve walked away from all of it.
It’s true. You don’t need “church,” and neither does God.
Grace is brave. Be brave.
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Chris that has to be one of the most imbalanced articles I’ve read in a long time. I think you need to read the New Testament again and check out what it says about church. Please!
William, thanks for reading and considering the article. Your assumption is that I accept the New Testament as the norm and guide of my faith. It is not, nor do I believe the authors are always correct or speak from the heart and design of God. That is your belief, not mine.
It gets clearer all the time that we are in a period described in the Bible (Matthew 24:22): “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.” I see your courage and want to strengthen it, as I want to shore up my own weak courage. We have in President Zelenskyy and the democratic majority of his countrymen a candle – or maybe a searchlight – that is showing us the true natures of both of our politicians and our acquaintances. There are those among us who are deceived by the spirit of antichrist that animates Trump and his master, the war criminal Putin. Many of them will not see the light in this lifetime, but some will. I hope you, Chris Kratzer, will continue to help me find ways of calling out the evil while keeping open Christ’s invitation to redemption for all.
Linda, it’s an honor to be on this journey with you.
I believe you are correct. Up until Trump was elected President I couldn’t fully wrap my head around how Christians (so-called?) would embrace the Anti-Christ when he comes. And then to watch this horror-fest of evil roll across the country, where Christians traded right for wrong and good for evil, then it became clear. The spirit of anti-Christ is dramatically rising in leaders across the world so, surely as Trump is an anti-Christ, so is Putin, and frankly, so is anyone (1 John 2:18) whose words and actions are anathema to the Gospel. Because this is a spiritual battle while, logic, facts, and common sense are not effective weapons against it, prayer is. At the same time, I am in a constant battle against the hardening of my own heart as I am incessantly confronted with this masquerade of faith reflected in our places of worship, the media, the government, and over a third of the adult population. So I could use everyone’s prayers on that. I guess we just…pray without ceasing.
I usually agree wholeheartedly with Chris Kratzer but not on this one. He is terribly affected by the hypocrisy of the church he grew up in and I am afraid it colours his thinking on this one. Church is not a building. Church is a community of believers who collectively can do more than any individual can. They support each other, their communities and contribute to international poverty relief in vast numbers. Those of us who practice weekly communion are strengthened by it. When sick or grieving we have a whole community looking after us. Yes, we can practice our faith without it, but I would personally lose a great deal of support without my church.
Nancy, thanks for reading and considering the article.
I think you just proved his point. The reality is we don’t need church, but we can want it and it can make our life better when it is done correctly. Just like I don’t NEED my husband, if I needed him that would be called codependency and would be a terrible foundation for relationship. But I want him, I choose him, which is a great foundation for relationship. I don’t think he is saying that everybody should walk away from church but that you don’t NEED it the way that it has been preached, through fear lingering and making people distrust themselves. Imagine being in a relationship with a controlling man who said, unless we are together, you will follow away and go to hell and never be the person you were created to be. You would say that is a very controlling relationship, even abusive and cult like . But in a healthy relationship you’re each free to choose each other, honoring the others free will.
As a former of pastor I agree with this sentiment, for too many people church is a crutch and a codependent place to hide, although I have also seen godly community done very well, seen churches honor peoples free will, and enrich each others are lives.
The sentiment stays though, you don’t need the organization, and any organization that tells you that you desperately need them is one that you should leave.
Well said, Alex.
Thanks for the reply Chris. Your posts have strengthened and increased my faith considerably and I am grateful. As a linguist and translator, I have grave doubts about the translation of Christ’s words in Aramaic having gone through so many languages before English. So my faith in the Bible is like yours…taken with a grain of salt. I would like to believe the Holy Spirit inspired the translators, but there are so many errors, for example in the King James version, that I cannot believe it.
Decades ago, I had a fellow church member tell me that God told her he wanted me to do a certain job at church. I innocently asked why God hadn’t told me. She got quite angry at my impertinence. Years later, when I tried to find a church in which to dedicate my infant daughter to God, not one would do it because her father and I were not yet married. So I dedicated her to God myself. That was the end of formal church for me, but not the end of my faith. At age 70, I believe deeply in God, and I think your message in this essay is spot on. Thank you, Chris.
Kathleen, thanks so much for having the vulnerability to share a bit of your spiritual journey. I stand with you, and am so grateful for your encouraging words.
This is one of your best essays Chris. Thank you for all you put into it, and for continuing to speak your truth. Which, when evaluated, looks a lot like the truth Jesus was trying to share. Thank you.
Thank you Kristina!
Another way of looking at it might be to analyze the money flow. For every dollar a “church member” contributes/tithes, how much of it goes for the maintaining itself (e.g. physical plant) vs. the amount that goes directly to feed the hungry, freeing the captive, welcoming the stranger, mending the brokenhearted, defending the least-of-these, the inclusion of all people. et.al. ????? I believe that the “organized church” will implode as its “membership” declines…. It’s far too easy to “join” a group than to live as the church – “a walking Trinity in skin”. Thanks for the clarion call, Chris
Thanks Jim, sure do appreciate your insight and encouraging words.
I worked as a volunteer translator in Greenville N.C. after a horrible flood. It was run as a non profit coalition of churches and the synagogue, with a volunteer board. Every church in the city contributed with money, food, clothes, rides etc. The Baptists opened a daily soup kitchen. The national church bodies sent money, equipment and most appreciated, the Methodists sent a team of experts to help us organize, to interview people needing help and assuring there was real need. I can testify from personal experience that his Interfaith organization did more good than the Federal Emergency Management Association and the Red Cross put together. The former helped only “owner occupants” of a flooded home…no renters. The Red Cross put their volunteers up in the priciest Hilton hotel, while the animal rescue groups slept in sleeping bags in the shelters. I viewed humanity at its best and sometimes the worst as some tried to grab more than they qualified for. Some refused help saying others needed it more. What a learning experience that was. No, church money does not just go to salaries and building maintenance. My church contributes 25% of its offerings to Lutheran World Relief and I suspect most mainline churches do the same. I can’t say the same for the Fundamentalist evangelists and their mega churches.
Greetings Chris – I am a first time reader. I, too, find myself comfortably in Open and Relational circles, and in a panentheistic worldview. I also struggle with what to do with the Bible, and do not hold it as authoritative for my or others’ lives.
I appreciated your comment here: humanity is our community, earth is our sanctuary, and love is our worship. Yes, yes and yes.
But I am curious as to your sources for your claim that Jesus was not using ‘ekklesia’ in Matthew 16:18? My Greek Bible uses ‘ekklesia’; and although one of your commenters rightfully points out that my Greek Bible is a translation of Jesus’ original Aramaic, what is our evidence that Jesus meant anything other than ‘ekklesia’ (and its Aramaic counterpoint), traditionally understood?
“kuriakon” is preferred as the root and undertone of “ekklesia” by scholars in this rare instance, especially as it better communicates the non-religious and informal nature of “of the Lord” being communicated.
One of the valuable things the church as an institution has provided is instruction for the next generation, something the Old Testament in particular is very committed to. Outside of my home, the institutional church is were I received some of my most valuable instruction. Closing the Bible, as you suggest, is fine once you have a grounded sense of the story within. I am grateful for Sunday School, VBS, and church camp where I (and indeed, my children) was first introduced to theology and doctrine. I have no quarrel with the idea that there are significant problems with the institution of church, however, sharing the biblical story with children is something I think they often do well.
Chris, thanks so much for reading and considering this article.