Should Churches look most like Schools? Really?

Donald Miller, the author of "Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality", wrote a compelling article that appeared in titled "Who Should Lead the Church--Plumbers or Scholars?" Here are a few clips from it replete with my comments:
"The church in America is led by scholars. Essentially, the church is a robust school system created around a framework of lectures and discussions and study. We assume this is the way it's supposed to be because this is all we have ever known. I think the scholars have done a good job, but they've also recreated the church in their own image. Churches are essentially schools. They look like schools with lecture halls, classrooms, cafeterias, and each new church program is basically a teaching program."
I find Miller's comparison of churches with schools to be very insightful. It explains why many Christians seem to think the Faith is all about the head and not the heart.
Church divisions are almost exclusively academic divisions. The reason I don't understand my Lutheran neighbor is because a couple of academics got into a fight hundreds of years ago. And the rest of the church followed them because, well, they were our leaders. So now we are divided under divisions caused by arguments a laboring leadership might never have noticed or cared about.
The influence of scholars and quazi-intellectuals on church splits has been so devastating. It is like these theologians believe that Christianity is all about the head and not the heart.
So why are we led by teachers? After all, the church and the school system are the only institutions in our culture led purely by academics. Well, the reason is the printing press. The government once controlled the church, but that ended when the printing press was invented and people could read the Bible for themselves. And the scholars were the only people who could read, so they got the job of church leadership by default. So church leadership went from fishermen, to government workers, to scholars.
These changes over time seem to be so subtle but in hindsight they make so much sense. Pastors these days are simply fitting into the mold set for them centuries ago. They seem to be attracted into ministry because of a love of books and study rather than a compassionate love of people.
Let me ask you this: Aren't you a little tired of scholars and pseudo-scholars fighting about doctrine? Is it worth it that you are divided against other denominations because scholars picked up their ball and stomped off the playground? If you are tired, then be the church. I'm not kidding; you don't know everything, but you know enough.
Miller's last appeal hits to the heart, not the head, of the faith. Unity is a heart issue - we will never unite in an intellectual sense. Yet I think that we can unite together in ministry when we shed our scholarly focused heritage and take up Jesus' command to love as He loves.


  1. This was basically our sermon last week. The church isn't a building, its people. We are to be the Church.
    Without love and concern for our fellow man we are just like every other academic institution.

    1. So agree Sue! The church is way more than a building or a particular religious group. Love, not theology, is what binds us together.


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