I just finished reading a thought provoking novel by Jake Colsen, "So you don't want to go to church anymore."
The book highlights a made up pastor named Jake how is struggling with ministry, even though he is leading a huge evangelical congregation. In these struggles he meets a man named John that leads him on a journey to "experience" a life following Jesus that is separate from the church. Eventually he leaves his pastoral position, is part of a house church, and has an enlightening Jesus filled life.
This book reveals some glaring issues within the pastoral ministry and ministry within the church. Jake was feeling empty because much of what he was doing was guilting individuals to serve on church boards while he was trying to impress everyone with technology and flashy music. And what was lost was Christ. People were remember the rules (worship only on Sunday, memorizing Bible verses, serving on boards, coming to church on time) and forgetting the love and grace of Jesus.
This is a big concern even within our Lutheran circles. We often try to "fill" boards, ask for volunteers, organize activities, all the while people aren't desiring to grow in faith, but keep busy. Many people end up burned out, especially pastors, and the moment they are off the board they run away or go to another church due to more programs or nicer people. This is a MAJOR problem in all of our churches. When people discuss faith do they mention Jesus or the number of boards they served on. This struggle is a vital one for all churches to admit. Are we promoting churchianity or Christianity?
However, this is where things go very bad in the book. The ending solution was basically discounting the church insitution as a simply an institution without Christ. The pastor ends up leaving the church and promotes an experience of disorganized groups as a better alternative. Now, I must admit this is quite tempting at times. There are only so many church meetings one can attend before a house church with no rules seems awfly nice. Yet, the church is not all meetings or rules, but the means by which His gifts are given. Specifically the gift of the Gospel and Sacraments. Do we overdo our workload for the sake of looking busy? All the time. However, we don't need to get rid of the whole church system, but bring our churches to look to Jesus.
This might mean less meetings, it might mean less "fellowship" gatherings, it might mean more Bible study, it might mean more prayer, it might mean more offerings of the Lord's Supper, but it doesn't mean getting rid of all that the church has to offer.