A church is formed to serve the spiritual needs of a community.

It starts with a belief that the world that we see and touch is not all that there is. That there is something more. Something beyond what we can see, rather something that we sense. Something greater than ourselves. A belief that there is a source of all things that we call God. A belief that that source is goodness itself. We call this belief, faith. It’s a faith that we are somehow connected to the source. That there is something called a spirit. That our consciousness is connected to God through something we call a soul. It’s a faith that we are better physically and spiritually we remain in harmony with that source.

And bodies and souls need something to help them remain in-tune to keep that harmony strong.
And so a church is born. Bodies and souls need tending like a garden.

The people of the church care for each other and the community around them. As their faith dictates, they feed the hungry and care for the sick and poor. The work to offer hope to those who are hurting. They ask nothing in return. They understand that by reaching outward to spread goodness to others, their own souls are enriched. They contemplate on why that is. They focus on the quality of their giving. Over time their numbers increase because other people recognize and feel the goodness that is coming from this place. They like the goodness and they realize it makes them feel closer to the source that these people call God. Goodness draws people in like a warm fire on a cold night. There is harmony.
The institution that is called a church points outward and remains true to the function it was designed to serve. The institution thrives. Form follows function.

Over time the small collection of people grows into a large organization with layers of leadership, and an ever increasing amount of wealth. Some within the church realize the church has power and influence. They recognize that these are things they can use to serve the ambitions of the institution of the church. In the beginning, this inward turn is justified, because the ambition of the church is still focused on serving the community.

But, before long the compass needle moves farther and farther off course. The focus of the church starts to shift to maintaining its power and influence. It justifies this reason because it believes the community is better because it exists within it. That the community needs the church.

The focus of the church shifts from believing that the “source” of goodness is within the church itself. The focus turns more and more inward to serve the institution of the church instead of the community. Ambitions shift from feeding the hungry and caring for the sick and poor to how to drive up weekly attendance and increase Sunday morning offerings. Attention shifts from the sick and the poor to the wealthy and well connected.

The institution that was the church no longer believes it serves the community. It believes the community serves it.

People no longer feel the goodness coming from this place. They attend more out of obligation. Until they don’t. Attendance drops, panic and infighting ensues within the leadership.

It is a church that no longer serves.

Harmony shifts to dissonance.

The institution that was a church has become disconnected from its purpose and no longer serves the function that it was created to do and eventually collapses.

Function follows form.