We’re living in a day and age where the New Testament doctrine of the church is fast becoming an antiquated idea for many professing Christians. In fact, the most popular trend among American evangelicals, is being what is called, “a self-feeder.” One of the biggest cheerleaders for this idea is the leading evangelical marketing consultant, George Barna – who, in 2005, wrote a book entitled, Revolution: Finding Vibrant Faith beyond the Walls of the Sanctuary.
In this book, Barna’s main objective is to make the case that the “revolutionaries” have found that in order to pursue an authentic faith they had to abandon the church. Who needs the church when you have an iPod? Thus, for Barna and his revolutionaries, Christians cannot survive in the 21st century if they retain any commitment to the local organized church. Christians must find their intimacy with God and growth in Christ in their own ways and by their own methods, without depending on the church to aid them and hold them accountable to such growth. Hence, the Christian of the 21st century, according to Barna, is a self-feeder.
Sadly and tragically, in our American culture of rugged individualism, the Christian as a self-feeder appeals strongly to the flesh. It caters to that gravitational pull of wanting freedom and independence without having to answer to anyone for what we think, feel, say, or do. It recoils against submission to authority and resists the very notion of personal accountability. And for many professing Christians in this American culture, they see the local church – as designed by God – with its leadership, order, and discipline as the greatest threat to their liberty.
The New Testament doctrine of the church therefore is under siege – by self-serving, self-centered, self-feeders who have been deceived into thinking that their maturity as Christians has grown beyond their need for the church. But what they believe is the answer to a greater walk with God, will only prove in the end to leave them in spiritual infancy with all the hang-ups and hindrances that come with those who never truly mature (see 1 Corinthians 3:1-3; Hebrews 5:11-14).