Someone wiser than I once suggested that in many churches, what is needed is not a long, skillfully-delivered, scripturally-based sermon following a passionate time of worship but rather a short admonition. She imagined God wanting a pastor to simply stand up and declare, "Brothers and sisters, God's word to us today is 'Love your neighbor as yourself and love your enemies.' Go now and immediately put this into practice. There's no need to return next week unless you have completed the assignment. You're dismissed." That would be the extent of the service.
As I've written in my chapter on church, Save the Ales (from the Church), churchianity--the practice of making the demands of the institutional church more important than loving others--is a plague on evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity. Richard Beck made a similar point when he lamented how church and religious rituals (and I would add, believing the right doctrines) have supplanted the most basic Christian practice: being decent human beings. Rather than focus on what really matters, followers of churchianity put more stock in "church attendance, worship, praying, spiritual disciplines, Bible study, using religious language... and arguing with evolutionists..." (This is the short list). The outcome? As Beck says, churches become "jerk factories."
Churchianity rears its ugly head when we hear of spiritual abuse in denominations like Sovereign Grace Ministries and the Seattle Mars Hill church. I recently read the Mars Hill membership covenant and was shocked how lopsided it is. Members promise to "submit to church leaders, doctrine, discipline, and the authority of scripture," "not function as a member of another church," "commit to the mission of the church," which is to "make disciples (get other people to do the above) and plant churches" (get even more people to do the above), and promise to practice a long list in a behavior code having to do with sex, not living together before marriage, and refraining from pornography, alcohol abuse, and drug use. There was not one word about loving one another or loving the unlovely.
I'm not pretending that none of the things in their covenant are important, but that it's emphasis is on things only the church and its leaders can control (how they do church discipline, decide what's right to believe, decide what part of the Bible is authoritative, which interpretation to believe and which to ignore, what moral practices to follow, etc.). Churchianity is primarily interested in controlling others and empire building, not loving our fellow man, promoting social justice, and allowing people to govern themselves through Christ's superior law of love. These are the only cure for the plague. I welcome your thoughts.