It’s Okay to Rethink Church

It is not this way among you.  - Matthew 20:26a (NASB)

At L5, we are about leadership training – specifically training Christian leaders to tackle big problems together, as they seek to serve Christ.

However, God has been pushing us consistently to ask a deeper question: For what? To what end? Do we continue to develop more and better leaders for existing structures and approaches to church and mission?

To me, the answer to that is now clear. It’s time for a deep reckoning – an honest appraisal of ourselves as a global Christian community – and what we are up to – and how.

We cannot continue business as usual. We cannot keep planting more churches of the type we already have. We cannot add more people to a Kingdom that barely resembles the one Jesus introduced 2000 years ago.

For too long the mission community has acted like its job was simply to preach the Gospel and get more people into the Kingdom, forgetting that at the heart of the Kingdom is the Body of Christ expressed through the living, interactive fellowship of disciples modeling a Kingdom culture that should be a shining beauty, a safe harbor, and refuge for the weary, a place of hope and a messenger of Good News of a future and present restoration. The Sermon on the Mount and the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus in the Gospels were not words to be forgotten, but values and life to be lived. It goes to the very heart of what it means to be church! When we lose this, we lose the plot. We become busy religious people deaf to the Spirit. 

In other words, what are we fighting for? What are we introducing people to? 

This challenge is not for one particular stream of Christianity. It’s for any and all of us who follow Jesus as Lord and Saviour, from Catholic and Orthodox to all variations of Protestant denominationalism.

But I want to challenge those I tend to interact with most – due to my own personal history. As Western evangelicals, we tend to make a big deal about the importance of truth – and rightly so! However, our approach is to dissect it and disintegrate it into little pieces of truth that, when put together in the wrong way, add up to less than the Truth. It forms a disjointed picture that is not very beautiful. In other words, we focus on the truth of the trees and forget the beauty of the forest. Both are necessary to create the beauty that is the ekklesia.

Remember that the Great Commission, that powerful rallying cry straight from the mouth of Jesus, which has energized and focused the work of so many countless mission endeavors and church outreaches, was given at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, not in the epistles.  Jesus said, “Teaching all that I commanded you!” To know what Jesus was referring to, read the preceding chapters of Matthew. You will find among them the Sermon on the Mount, essentially a manifesto of what the Kingdom was to be like. Instead of actually following this Commission, we have preached for the most part a Gospel of Salvation, which is the heart of people being rescued from the kingdom of darkness (empire) into the Kingdom of Jesus – but we have done little to live the culture of the Kingdom. This has resulted in a powerless, shell of a church with little impact on the world. Never in history have so many people been leaving the church.

All of this to say, before we go to the ends of the earth (and the far reaches of our neighborhoods) we must first BE the witness that shines brightly and flavors the earth. We must BE witness, rather than DO witnessing. The world will witness a redeemed community in love with God and with each other. That is how we bear witness to our God, the Trinity, after whom our love for each other is to be modeled (John 17).

At L5, we are refocusing our efforts to invest in the type of leadership that not only catalyzes mission movements and global efforts but also explores what kind of leadership it takes to shepherd tight communities of ekklesia (church) so that our missional efforts are not in vain.

To help your thinking around this, and bring it home in a practical way, let’s look at a handful of statements that I hope will provoke you to seek God and let him guide you as you immerse yourself in Scripture. 


Leadership is essential to humanity, to church, and to Kingdom. It’s Biblical. But in a church context, our model and traditions of leadership have set themselves up against the Spirit working in and through all disciples. Scriptures teach us that God edifies, teaches, and equips the body through the ministry of ALL believers and the gifting that the Spirit gives them.


Scripture says we should assemble. In other words, being the Body is social, it’s interactive, and it’s done together. It’s not an individual private matter. But it has been reduced to controlled choreographed programs rather than being the vibrant life of family.


Teaching is critical to the growth and maturing of the Body and each member. But it has largely been reduced to one man’s views expressed on Sundays in a one-directional oration. Jesus taught the masses this way, but when He was with His disciples, it was small group interaction time. Even in synagogues before and during Jesus’ time, teaching was interactive and participative. Why? Well, on a very practical level, it’s a far better pedagogy ( strategy of teaching ) than preaching is.


Fellowship (koinonia) is the vibrancy and social interaction of the church and is among us and with the Holy Spirit. But our routines in what we today call church give little time and space and are not structured for this. In many churches, it takes the form of mere pleasantries and little reality vulnerability.


Shining brightly, and being salt, being a flavor in the world is central to the Greatest Commandment. Yet rather than transparent beauty, much of what passes as church is mysteriously opaque to a watching and suspicious world. Church is not (should not be) merely the product of our evangelistic efforts. Church is the essence of the Body of Christ that gives the Gospel its power, punch, and attractiveness. We are the Fullness of Christ.


Who can argue with love? Biblically it’s at the core of everything, and both Jesus and the Apostles repeatedly make it central. Our model according to John 17 (in fact 3 times in one chapter) is the Trinity. What a model! Yet we cultivate in our churches a type of stoic individualism or caring at a humanitarian level which misses the depth of the call of Jesus.

From time to time, I’ve raised these issues in communities near me. When they push back, I invite them to sit down with me to read the Scriptures together, to discover what the Bible says about church and Kingdom. No one has taken me up on that invitation. It’s shown me that traditions are so locked in, so entrenched, that we are scared to death to actually read Scripture in a Berean way, in case that study might require us to change or abandon our traditions. This tells me that it’s imperative that we commit now to do that very thing – to seek God in a great reckoning.

Mission emanates from the Church, empowered by the Spirit of Jesus. But not the Church in the forms we most commonly see today which have become programs delivered to people from singular positions of authority. 

These topics are not reflections of my personal idiosyncrasies. I challenge you to study the Scriptures, with a mind open to the work of the Spirit in you. You will find that these are essential to pay attention to if we are going to offer hope, peace, and reconciliation with a Gospel that is truly good news!

At L5 we are committed to being a place of life, exploration, and learning for leaders, young and old, who want to be part of this amazing adventure that God has called all of us into. As Jesus said, when speaking of leaders who lord it over others, “It is not this way among you.” Let’s be leaders after Jesus’ model of loving, teaching, and serving.

Picture of Mark Orr

Mark Orr

Mark was raised as a missionary kid in Brazil. He has committed his life to helping emerging leaders be more effective, and ultimately the Church more able to carry out her Mission in the world. He has previously served in global refugee mission work. Mark and his family are Canadians, but have lived in the UK, Greece, and Uganda over the last 10 years.

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