What Does the 'Real Church' Look Like?

For years a war was raging inside him, but outwardly the Christian author sat in church and pretended all was well. Now he is ready to reveal his secret – he doesn't want to go to church anymore.

At the mature age of 65, Dr. Larry Crabb, who has gone to church his entire life, admits he'd rather go to his favorite local coffee shop and read a newspaper than go to church on Sundays.

But perhaps more shocking than the Christian leader's confession is that he believes he's not alone and that many of his peers feel the same way.

"I think it is rather a widespread thing among people in my generation," said Crabb to The Christian Post in an interview. It's just that people his age, the psychologist explained, are "not comfortable enough" or "maybe not open enough" to share about their dislike of going to church.

In the past year, Crabb said he has shared his problem with going to church to 40 to 50 peers and not one person has said, "My gosh, what is your problem. I love church!"

The people more favorable to church say that they go because they suppose it is a good thing, but they don't think it is doing for them what it should. On the other end of the spectrum, people respond by describing the church as boring or saying they're indifferent about attending service.

"Church as I know it usually leaves deep parts of me dormant, unawakened, and untouched," Crabb writes in his latest book Real Church: Does it exist? Can I find it? . "Maybe it's familiarly, the predictabilty of pattern and content that I find boring, superficially exciting at best, where emotions sometimes get stirred that get unstirred by the time I reach my car."

The book comes out of his effort to write his way through his "disappointment, frustration and concern with church" with the hope that at the end he will know what kind of church God envisioned and the kind of church he wants to be part of.

Crabb emphasized that while he is hungry for spiritual formation, most churches just focus on solving particular social or emotional problems rather than members' spiritual problems. He described many churches as "self-help clubs."

Through the chapters of his new book, Crabb discusses the different reasons people go to church and why he should go to church. Then he describes four characteristics that he believes the "real church" would have.

A real church would be immersed in the Bible whether it is through the pastor's sermon, Sunday school, or small group discussion, Crabb said. It would also teach its members that they are designed to be the greatest lover of all time because they are formed in the image of Jesus Christ who was able to love his enemies even as he was being nailed to the cross.

Third, the "real church" would have an authentic community where someone would feel completely comfortable admitting to others they are not doing well in their faith. And lastly, an authentic church would be occupied with spiritual mission, such as the desire to help the homeless and feed the hungry, to represent Jesus to the world.

"I hope people get away from the idea that God is a genie that you rub a lamp and call it a prayer and you get everything you want. That is not how it works at all," Crabb said in the interview. "I just hope people would see this is an incredible privilege that there is a vision for the church that is so high and lofty that it is only possible only through people who are fully dedicated to Christ. Hopefully we will get people moving in that direction."

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