In the last couple of weeks I've finished three books: "Jesus Wants to Save Christians" by Rob Bell; "So You Don't Want to Go To Church Anymore" by Wayne Jacobsen and Dave Coleman; and "Patristic Theology" by Protopresbyter John S. Romanides. All three books contend that something is wrong with the western church.
Bell believes that evangelical church in the USA has embraced a nationalism similar to that of Solomon's reign in Israel and thus producing injustice in the world with its alliance with the military industrial complex. The call of Jesus as Bell writes is to disavow patriotic protectionistic persuasion and embrace the message and life of the suffering servant.
Jacobson and Coleman contend that the thing really sick and ailing isn't the church, but the institutional church, which can be described as big gatherings to home churches. The ailing institution hinders many from discovering and enjoying true life in Christ Jesus. They have composed their work in story format, creating an ongoing conversation between a disillusioned former pastor/spiritual seeker and an infrequent mysterious visitor named John. Make no mistake, this book is to be theological reflection. The trouble with the book is that many of the charges levied are rather wrote and musty - they've been around a while.
Romanides, would agree with the two previous books, in that something is wrong with the Western Church, specifically its abandoning of the full Gospel of Christ and its embrace of human philosophy as a substitute for divine wisdom. Romanides argues that the church in Greece is about to loose its glory if it continues to duplicate the philosophy and concerns of the west. However unlike the two other writers, he doesn't generally view the church through the lens of failure.
It is this lens of failure that has been predominant for many with regard to the church, since the conflict in Corinth, the letters to the seven churches in Revelation, to the Priest Scandal emanating from Boston to California. Even in my own denomination I hear of and see things where the ball is dropped and the machine breaks down.
Compelling about the Patristic view is that the Church isn't reducible to one category nor defined solely by one perspective. The Church while being incarnational is also wholly other in created essence. Disconcerting about the Patristic perspective is its claim that we've accepted limited definitions for church in the west and have therefore lost the faith once given to the apostles.
Hopeful in each book is the person of Jesus, always calling to the world and the church to follow Him.