Guest Blogger: Jason Helopoulos

I would contend that many of our disillusions with the church are based upon a wrong ethic. We misunderstand the true nature of fellowship in the gospel community. And therefore, we wrongly apply the ethic of other communities to the church.

The foundation of our fellowship is not the feelings we have for one another, as important as they may be. Neither is the foundation of our fellowship based upon the fact that we live in the same geographic place, educate our children in the same way, hold similar political views, or are the same ethnicity. No. It is the gospel that is the foundation of our fellowship. Nothing else. It is truth rooted and founded in the person and work of Christ that lays the structure, creates the realm, and the reality of our union with one another. The key to understanding biblical fellowship is that it is rooted in a spiritual reality, rather than something that is physical. The basis of our fellowship is spiritual.

Because our bond is spiritual, in Christ, in the gospel, the way we are related to each other is drastically different than any other entity on the face of the earth. Deitrich Bonhoeffer pointed out in his little book, Life Together, that because the Christian community is spiritual there is never any “immediate” relationship between its members. This is unlike every other community. Individuals in the Christian community never have direct contact. We are always related to each other through Christ. I am not bound to you because we share common things or you to me because we have similar interests. Our contact, our relationship, is always through and in Christ as He is revealed in the gospel.

This means that we don’t love one another for our own sake. The love we have for one another is for Christ’s sake, because it is always through Him. Bonhoeffer said, “human love seeks direct contact with the other person; it loves him not as a free person but as one whom it binds to itself. It wants to gain…Human love desires the other person, his company, his answering love, but it does not serve him. On the contrary, it continues to desire even when it seems to be serving.” Human love looks for something in return. But Christian fellowship is wholly something else.

We can live sacrificially for each other, because we are bound together in Christ, who meets our every need. I don’t need you to fill my cup, because Christ does. You don’t need me to fill your cup, because Christ already has. I can serve you truly sacrificially and you can serve me sacrificially, because we come to one another in Christ who is our all in all.

Many of our disappointments in the local church are rooted, founded, and based upon the ethic of other communities. We are disappointed and critical of our brothers and sisters in Christ, because they are not giving us what we want or what we think we need. But true fellowship isn’t grounded in what others can give us. Rather, it is grounded in what we have already received.

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27 thoughts on “Disillusionment with the Church”

  1. A. Amos Love says:


    I would agree when you write…
    “And therefore, we wrongly apply **the ethic of other communities** to the church.”

    “Many of our disappointments in the local church are rooted, founded,
    and based upon **the ethic of other communities.**”

    Seems, the “community ethic” most applied to “Today’s Religious System,” “the local church,” is The Corporation, The Business Model. Promoting the 501 (c) 3, Non-Profit, Tax Deductible, Religious Corporation, that the IRS calls “church,” as “the Church of God.” Promoting Hierarchy, “paid professional pastor-leaders,” “church leaders.” “clergy – laity,” NOT found in the Bible, for one of His Disciples. Promoting many “Titles,” NOT found in the Bible, for one of His Disciples. Titles” that seperate, elevate, and eventually are used to control and manipulate. Senior pastor, Executive pastor, Reverend, Right Reverend, Most Holy Right Reverend, Cardinal, Pope, Doctor. Etc.

    While Jesus, is teaching His Ekklesia, His Church, His Disciples, to humble themselves. Mat 23:12 KJV. Luke 14:11 KJV. With Jesus, as man, as an example to His Disciples, made Himself of NO reputation, took on the form of a “Servant.” And humbled Himself. Phil 2:7-8 NKJV.

    Jesus, also taught His Disciples NOT to be called “leaders” for you have “One” leader, the Christ. Mat 23:10 NASB.

    And, In the Bible, NOT one of His Disciples, His Ekklesia, His Church, His Sheep…
    Called themself, or had the “Title” pastor-shepherd, or leader, or reverend.

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall “hear My voice; “
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Voice – One Fold – One Shepherd – One Leader

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  2. Jack says:

    Amen, Jason, amen….

  3. Rick Owen says:

    Great thoughts. Here are some follow-up ideas for application:

  4. titan says:

    I am concerned that this piece leaves a lot of room to over-theorize the basic responsibility of building community at the church. I am fairly certain something is being implied here, but I am not sure what exactly: “The key to understanding biblical fellowship is that it is rooted in a spiritual reality, rather than something that is physical. e are always related to each other through Christ. I am not bound to you because we share common things or you to me because we have similar interests. Our contact, our relationship, is always through and in Christ as He is revealed in the gospel.”The basis of our fellowship is spiritual. I don’t think anyone disputes this. This piece rubs me the wrong way b/c I feel it’s aimed at certain people in the church that may have not gotten the care they deserve and have complained about it; or it’s to those who tried to build church community, but was told there were more important priorities. What gets me is that a pastor can push for establishing a missional church when they really mean just getting people in the door; and this pursuit is so consuming that they neglect to build and sustain community (i mean the real spiritually-based but anchored in reality and relationships kind), taking care of the people who are in the fold. i’ve seen this happen- where people at a church react to a church/pastor’s neglect in this way, even when in a very constructive manner- only to be accused of not understanding what “real community” is at a church. Could it be possible that before we get lectured on what “real community” is, that pastors (not all) take a look in the mirror and check themselves and ponder the possibility that it could be them that. Is it possible that the members of a church, as naive or even misguided they may be, may need more than what is being provided or cultivated? i think the over-theorizing helps no one, and in fact, i think it’s harmful b/c it can affirm a pastor’s position on this and allow him to continue to do little or nothing to build community. if people, are getting community wrong, as indicated above, then the onus is still on the pastor not only to educate, but to show that the spiritual aspect of this is inextricably connected from the very real relational aspects of community- that includes what’s referred to as the “physical.” otherwise, this could be just rationalizing a kind of status-quo for a cold, unfriendly church community.

  5. Dr. Jim Bohn says:

    North American culture has overtaken the church and that does not bode well for our future
    Because of the cultural soil in which it has grown, the North American church is unlike any group of church people in the world. It is built around the individual, not the collective. Beliefs are very personally derived; people come from radically different backgrounds, families of origin, levels of training, belief systems, doctrines, experiences and interactions with leadership, both good and bad. The focus is on “me”, not “we”.
    We must understand that in the North American Church we are in this together or we fail. Every person in the church shares a part of its success or failure, both the local church and the church universal. I was reminded of this recently when a dear and very wise friend told me of the Catholicity of the church; whenever any one of us reacts poorly or does something untoward, it affects the entire Body. It’s time we took stock of where we are, so Revival may come. This book is an assessment of all the working parts of a church with the goal of helping us discover the truth about ourselves to gain a fresh perspective of what the church is truly about; it isn’t about any one of us, but rather all of us. The church belongs to Jesus Christ and Him alone. None of us is as important as all of us.

  6. Mikee says:

    Yet what I have seen in the church in America is precisely the opposite of what Bonhoeffer commended, namely people who only want to gather with people just like them, reach people just like them and spend time with people just like them. Most conservative evangelicals are not disillusioned with their conservative evangelicalism at all, they are quite content with it. It gives them all the comfortable programs and homogeneous groups their flesh desires.

  7. Jacquelyn Hartland says:

    You all are making this harder than it is. You cannot get spiritual until you give your LIFE to God. Everyone has this and that to offer in information to the church. We’re sinners and no one can get it right. You are, I say again, to tell Him He may have your whole life and when He hears that, things will begin to change and you will realize you are now spiritual and you will not worry so much about the church’s shortcomings. Remember, we are sinners though God sees us as pure as His Son. We haven’t arrived; we’re not in Heaven yet.

  8. Will Dole says:

    Obviously an indisputable point that the foundation of our relationship to the body is a spiritual one. The idea that our contact is never direct, but always mediated by our relationship to one another in Christ is interesting. I’m not convinced that it is right to say that the local church is the only place this is true, though. If we are talking about a spiritual reality, then this affects any interaction I have with any believer anywhere. My spouse. People I meet on an airplane. Business associates, etc.

    And I would push back with this: physical realities (geographical especially) are, in fact, a very large part of what binds us to a particilar expression of the Body. Spiritual basis, absolutely. But not spiritual entirety, by any means.

    Thanks for the thoughtful piece.

  9. Curt Day says:

    Actually, my disillusionment with the Church has more to do with cultural compromises many in American churches have made with the Gospel with the end effect of seeing a greater love and sacrificial living for others and morality than I see in fellow believers who tend to live righteously selfish lives. Living a righteously selfish life is to live for oneself by living by the rules.

    At some time we have to address how our self-flattering love for our country or other groups we belong to causes us to distort the Gospel and Biblical living. Romans 2 describes how our sins can cause others to blaspheme God. It is time for all of us, not just the blatant sinner, to take that to heart.

  10. “We are disappointed and critical of our brothers and sisters in Christ, because they are not giving us what we want or what we think we need. But true fellowship isn’t grounded in what others can give us. Rather, it is grounded in what we have already received.” I don’t disagree with you in your definition of true fellowship, that is is grounded in what we have already received, namely Jesus Christ; however, I strongly disagree with your assumption that my disillusionment, and perhaps that of many others is because the church, my brothers and sisters are not giving me what I need. On the contrary, my disillusionment (actually, a better word would be grief)–my grief then, lies in the fact that my experience of church lately has in fact had so little to do with Jesus Christ at all. I have seen kingdom-building with a lower case “k” — all about becoming brighter, bigger, louder, flashier, more hip, more tragic, more exciting, more this, more that than the church around the corner. That is what grieves me and grieves my spirt as I am sure it grieves His Holy Spirit in me, and I would caution you and others from making such sweeping statements and assumptions about anyone’s motivations or disillusionment.

  11. Lyn says:

    Blogs are always a slice of opinion! Deitrich Bonhoeffer book Life Together is one that I love, but it is one perspective on what “Christian community” means. I don’t think all churches need be the same, nor are they capable of catering to everyone. Priorities ebb & flow. Those in the congregation need to see transparent leadership so as to know what the primary focus is. The comments made by A. Amos Love & Titan ring strongly for me. As someone who is not married, has no children & no geographically or emotionally close family, the church as community is vital for my wellbeing, and finding the balance between needing something FROM the Church & contributing TO it is not easy… Times dealing with that by 50, x100, x1000… I think we are a bit harsh on our church leadership. Often (particularly in large churches) what is overlooked is what the Bible says about looking after each other. James 2vs 1-26 gives a bit more of a balanced view. But leadership need to be intentional about it, as how the church uses it’s resources gives an indication to whether people are part of a community, a drop-in centre, or donating to a charity… One quote that love is this ” But in order for something to qualify as Christian fellowship, Jesus Christ has to show up. If Jesus never comes up in the conversation, if reference is never made either directly or indirectly to Him being the standard that brought you together, then what you have is not biblical koinonia. You have a get-together.” – Tony Evans, “What Matters Most”. A get-together! Church often feels like that!

  12. Phillip says:

    It is time for revisiting Eph. 1-4. We try to formulate community as something to work for.
    Where as we, in Christ, have been called into a unity provided by the Holy Spirit. We are a community, having heard and accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  13. Jack says:

    The discussion for the most part has revolved around the irritating symptoms of the problem, leaving the problem unrealized and untouched, that being the departure of GOD’s plan for the conduct and good works of HIS people.
    These being as fully represented by Jesus and His emissaries as is necessary for His disciples.

    Church being anything more than a building is of the tradition of men and not of GOD. We find it in the popular English Translations along with baptism and some 58 other words that got Tyndal murdered and burned and Wycliff’s bones dug up and burned. Yet we have continued on, for the most part, to plod on in the sins of our fathers, Hmm… isn’t there a lesson here to be learned from the Jews?

    When church morphed from a meeting place into an organization, via Rome and Henry VIII; thus popularized, few indeed have not followed. The problem is self-inflicted, and deadly it is, to turn an assembly of the saints into a religious community organization. Of Those we have had enough already.

    Assemblies of the saints are those faithful believers, saints who have reconciled by the gospel of GOD to salvation in HIS Son, in whom is the brethren’s relationship with each other. The vertical relationship; proceed and sustains every horizontal relationship with the brethren and severs every other spiritual relationship.

    They meet weekly to worship GOD in spirit and truth, participating in the Lord’s Table (1 Cor..10:16) to edify (build each other up in The Faith), and provide for the benevolence of the saints as they prepare themselves and others with the knowledge and means to be and make disciples.

    Paul wrote to Timothy, “And the things you have heard of me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, such as shall be competent to instruct others also (2:2…) Every scripture [is] divinely inspired, and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of GOD may be complete, fully fitted to every good work” (3:16-17).

    Have we learned nothing? Do we so easily discard the inspired reaching_ denying the power of GOD’s Gospel to find the narrow gate_ for broad gate of egalitarian universalism turning meeting houses into YM/YWCA’s Coffee Houses and abandoning sound teaching for therapy classes?

    Jesus fed 3000 and then 5000, but they only came because He fed Him, not because of His message or who He was (Jn. 6). All they came for was the “show”. History has shown programs well done can grow a large membership, but few, if any, who ever come to know JEHOVAH GOD or HIS Son well enough to be so grateful for HIS love that they will love HIM with all of their hearts, all of their souls, and all of their strength. None of this horde will humble themselves before Jesus loving Him more than the world or even their own family if that is what it means to take up their cross to a disciple of the Lord.

    Jesus came not to restore Eden, but to open the gates of Paradise.

  14. Mommy says:

    Thank you A. Amos Love, I think you spelled it out very clearly!

  15. A. Amos Love says:

    Hi Mommy

    Nice to hear someone else is seeing similar things. ;-)

    I don’t know if this makes sense, BUT…
    I NO longer believe it is possible for most of today’s pastors/leaders to know, or understand…
    As Jason calls it in the article, “the true nature of fellowship in the gospel community.”

    Seems most pastors are NOT very good at “Community.” Fellowship. The statistics are horrible.

    * 80% of pastors feel “unqualified” and discouraged in their role as pastor.
    * 80% of pastors’ spouses wish their spouse would choose a different profession.
    * 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.
    …….. Many pastor’s children do not attend church now because
    …….. of what the church has done to their parents.
    * 77% say they do “NOT” have a good marriage.
    * 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
    * 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.

    80% of pastors’ spouses are NOT happy with the profession. – That’s tuff on Community at home.
    80% say pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families. – That’s tuff on Fellowship at home.
    77% say they do “NOT” have a good marriage. – That’s tuff on Fellowship at home.
    70% of pastors constantly fight depression. – That’s tuff on Community at home.
    70% do NOT have someone they consider a close friend. – NO close friends? = NO community?

    When “Fellowship,’ “Community,” is NOT so good at Home, with Family, with Friends…
    Why would it be any better with “fellowship in the gospel community?”

    What is popular is NOT always “Truth.”
    What is “Truth” is NOT always popular.

  16. A. Amos Love says:


    And this is just some info from one article in “Leadership Journal” of Christianity Today.

    “Everyone’s Pastor, No One’s Friend”
    Church leaders are seldom alone but often lonely.

    “ Are All Pastors Friendless?

    Since my theology minimizes clergy-lay distinctions, I didn’t expect pastoring to make me thin on friends. But I began asking other pastors: “Are you lonely?” “Do you have friends?” “What do you do for personal support?” All indicated they had problems.

    -Upon leaving a seven-year pastorate, one pastor said he felt free to have friendships for the first time in years.

    -A nationally known pastor lamented, “I have friends across the country and indeed around the world, but none in my own community. I can’t afford to.”

    -A part-time pastor of a new church spoke of his happy involvement with a local theater group. But church members resented this, believing all his energy should go into the congregation.

    -Still another pastor wrote me: “In the ministry you’re everyone’s friend–sort of–but no one’s friend really. It seems that pastors either forgo friendships or seek them outside the parish (in so far as time permits).”

    I have yet to meet a pastor who isn’t lonely.”

    Seems kinda tuff for today’s pastor/leader to be able to understand, and build…
    “the true nature of fellowship in the gospel community.”

    When they ain’t got NO Fellowship…
    And, they ain’t got NO community…

    Oh, and did I say, “ In the Bible, NOT one of His Disciples, His Ekklesia, His Church, His Sheep…
    Called themself, or had the “Title” pastor-shepherd, or leader, or reverend.”

    Jer 50:6
    “My people” hath been “lost sheep:”
    **THEIR shepherds** have caused them to *go astray,*

    1 Pet 2:25
    For ye were as *sheep going astray;*
    BUT are now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

    I’m Blest… I’ve returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of my soul…

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  17. Mommy says:

    I’m not surprised at all by the statistics.. Do you blog?

  18. Fred says:

    We continue to be at a difficult time because of many different factors. Ezekiel 34 describes shepherds that have abandoned and scattered the sheep allowing the wild animals to devour the sheep. Whether out of fear or intimidation, the church leaders have been led astray by the teachings of the false prophet believing that it is their responsibility to cull the flock. Unfortunately, man does a poor job and anyone that has participated stands guilty before God for doing so. God’s eyes are too pure to look upon evil. Daniel 11:32 With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant. This refers to betrayal by the leaders because the covenant that they have is to love and tend the flock, not destroy them.
    Another point that I would make is that the early Christians met daily to break bread or have communion. Communion, community and communication essentially implies sharing all things. Now, we might meet for 1-2 hours a week, hear a one-way message from a preacher and then return to our Babylonian way of life of over-indulgence and indebtedness, paying more attention to sports and other idols rather than serving one another.
    I’m guilty of all of these things as well as anyone but to try and influence change can be quite difficult when we have been practicing our traditions for so long. I pray for radical change both in myself and those around me. No one will see God without holiness means that they will not see God in us, if we do not have love for one another. It does not mean law-keeping. Love for our brothers and community is our covenant and command from Christ.

  19. Donna says:

    Our current church structure has been corrupted by Greek thought since almost the beginning. The original structure of the church, the church that produced countless miracles, saved people throughout the known world, and demonstrated love as the world had not known it previously was not based on the podium. It was based on the gifts of the Spirit as they were distributed throughout the believing community. During the meetings, everyone had the opportunity to speak or contribute according to the leading of the Holy Spirit and in tandem with their particular gift(s). That meant that there was not a focus on one individual and worship was completely communal.

  20. Donna says:

    The meetings were not confused either. The Holy Spirit is not the author of confusion. Sometimes someone who was especially anointed, (like Paul) would speak for a long time, but often the entire service was open to those who were led to speak, sing, or present what the Spirit was leading.

  21. A. Amos Love says:


    Very well said…
    “The original structure of the church, the church that produced countless miracles,
    saved people throughout the known world, and *demonstrated love*
    as the world had not known it previously was
    “NOT” based on **the podium.**
    It was based on the gifts of the Spirit
    as they were distributed throughout the believing community.”

    “During the meetings, *everyone* had the opportunity
    to speak or contribute according to the leading of the Holy Spirit
    and in tandem with their particular gift(s).”

    In my experience…
    The Persisting Problem, “DISILLUSIONMENT WITH THE CHURCH” Points to the Pulpit.
    Remove the Pulpit, and the Pulpeteers, and the Problem, DISILLUSIONMENT, can be Prevented.

    In 1 Cor 14:26 – ALL believers can, and are expected to participate.
    ALL can Teach – ALL can Hear from Jesus and ALL can get Revelation.

    1 Cor 14:26
    How is it then, brethren? when ye come together,
    every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue,
    hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.

    But – In my experience…

    Paid – Professional – Pastors – in Pulpits – Preaching – to People – in Pews…

    Prevent – Public – Participation – and – Promote – Passive – Pew – Potatoes….

    Pressuring – Peons – and Patrons – to Pray – Pay – Stay – and – Obey… ;-)

    Procuring – Power – Profit – Prestige – for the Prevailing – Parsing – Pastor…

  22. Muhammad says:

    I really like what you guys are usually up too.
    Such clever work and exposure! Keep up the awesome works guys I’ve included you guys to my blogroll.

  23. MC2 says:

    Sounds like you have never been through a church divorce, my friend. Your article didn’t show much understanding of the experience of church disillusionment, though you do have the theology down.

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