19th century preacher Charles Spurgeon wrote that a great calamity which should bring some of our church buildings literally crumbling to the ground “…might not be the greatest calamity which had ever occurred, if it only aroused some (people)… who will never be moved so long as the old house and the old pews hold together.”
Spurgeon is saying what you think he’s saying. We get into such a routine in church that the preaching becomes nothing more than a chore the pastor must perform and the congregation becomes desensitized to it. Michael Frost says in his book Exiles that congregations only put up with it because they are good Christians! If a church building would disappear it might not be such a bad thing if it shakes the people (including the clergy) of God from their complacency and gets them into the world. Most hunters don’t sit at home and wait for the deer, rabbit, or squirrel to come to them. A fisherman must go to the stream where the fish are.
At one point in his life, John Wesley was not permitted to preach in the church (in his deceased father’s pulpit, no less!) He was only allowed to preach from his own family’s property and his family happened to own the grave where his father was buried. After preaching from his father’s tombstone for 3 days, he said he had done more good in three days of preaching from his father’s grave than three years in his father’s pulpit.
This is what I believe the United Methodist Church means when it says “Rethink Church”. It’s not a new idea. John Wesley and Charles Spurgeon were saying the same thing hundreds of years ago.