There are plenty of ways to destroy a church. Vandalism aside, you can put into practice any of the age-old heresies so that the church goes into the abyss at full stride. You can stop preaching the Gospel. You can even just all stop coming. Thing is, I don’t only want to talk about how to destroy a church but rather how to destroy a distinct type of gathering of God’s people—the Open Brethren assemblies.
Open Brethren have historically been committed the centrality of Christ, the weekly declaration of the Lord’s death and resurrection, a high commitment to Scripture, commitment to missionary work, and to pursing the simplicity of worship of Christ found in the principles afforded to us within the New Testament. This last bit dovetails back into the Lord’s Supper and (what other Christians might call peculiarities, but we call) brethren distinctives. It’s why Open Brethren for years gathered outside of other denominations to proclaim the death and resurrection of Christ in obedience to his command “This do in remembrance of me.” It’s why the Open Brethren don’t even like to use that term, but rather pin “so-called” in front of it. We’re largely committed to just calling ourselves “brethren” according to the principles we see laid down in Scripture.
There’s a way to kill all of that.
In a few easy and non-ordered steps (so far numbering six, the number man), I’ll show you how one can go about murdering a ministry and a movement of a local church. It should only take a little bit of time but, if you go about it the right way, you can deeply injure the believers who have been trying to faithfully gather in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
One: Build around personalities.
Why hang your hats on the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob revealed in the crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus Christ when you can rally around some other person? Or a couple of persons. Make them your go-to. Cheer when they do anything because that’s the way to go. And, if you lose those guys, follow them! They’re the real reason any of us are here, anyway.
Two: Major on the minors.
Stop focusing on the objective supremacy of Christ and focus on everything else. Instead of coming to the Lord’s Supper to focus on Christ’s supremacy, make it about how your week went or about how this person is dressed differently or how you don’t “feel it”. Instead of sitting under the preached word of God, focus on your perception of the quality of the preacher’s method. This ties closely to a point I make below about internalizing everything, but the difference is that you’re not merely focusing on yourself, you’re maximizing the minimal.
Three: Implement “Why not?” into everything.
The goal isn’t to earnestly discover how closely we can get back to the principles laid down in Scripture as we worship Christ but rather to question everything the brethren do. There are no verses against this or that, so why not go ahead and do this or that? No, it doesn’t matter if you have a conviction for this or that, all that matters is that you inject “why not?” as the basis of every decision to ensure that anything not explicitly forbidden can be tried—even if you don’t have anything else to contribute. After all, why not?
Four: Stop investing in the future of the assembly.
Do this in every possible way. Avoid singing theologically grounded hymns. Don’t even learn them. Avoid preaching the gospel. It’s only for the lost, anyway. Don’t train your young speakers. Double down in bringing in speakers from the outside of the local church and make sure those preachers are from outside the assemblies. Don’t pray for the assembly. Don’t come to the assembly; show up when it benefits you. Like, if a celebrity preacher is visiting (as above), or if you can be there to criticize the regular local preacher afterwards. Never set aside money to give to the Lord’s work. Sure, Christians are called to give generously but making the giving all about you—you don’t want to see your money squandered so you won’t give it to those people in that church.
Five: Internalize everything.
At the end of the day, it’s not about Christ, but rather about how you feel about things. If it doesn’t make you cry or your spirit soar, it’s not real, so make sure everything ultimately is pointed inwards. If it gets in the way of pointing inwards, then chuck it. If the Lord’s Supper bores you, stop coming. If the Bible Study is taught by that dry guy, avoid it. If the preacher is going to be that guy who does verse by verse again, just skip it and zoom elsewhere. Ignore every passage that says anything about being part of the body that is there for the sake of others but make it a fact that you just aren’t getting what you want so make noise about that.
Six: Bad mouth the assembly. Early and often.
This comes off even better if you couch your bad-mouthing in pious-looking gratitude. In fact, if you can pull off piety and graciousness with a sense of sober gravitas while performing said bad mouthing within the same assembly or a sister assembly, even better. It not only helps with the destruction of the assembly but greatly enables and builds your own brand. If you’re lucky, it will even feed into creating a cult of personality around you! Don’t do it every now and then. Make sure to gather with like-minded bad mouthers.
This isn’t a complete nor a perfect list, but it is an effective list. I could’ve included things like “form a support group with fellow bad-mouthers” or “chip away at the saints over time” or “downplay assembly ecclesiology” but then I’d have to increase the list to 10 and that just means way too much effort and doesn’t allow you an opportunity to add your own. After all, currently, you can add digital tools (like creating a website that tears down open brethren assemblies while trying to look like a supporter). Or start a twitter account and add “Recovering” in front of it. In this therapeutic age of deconstruction, anything goes.