Is it really a problem if "‘the Faith once delivered’ devolves to a civic club," as my parish friend R. Eric Sawyer fears it might? I don't think so.
Let's take Jesus at his word — that we will live eternally if we simply love God above all and seek the best for others as we do for ourselves [Lk 10.25-37].
On that assumption, the reasons even to bother having a church would seem to be these:
- to help us love God above all, and
- to provide an environment in which we can work together in seeking the best for others, so that our combined efforts will be more effective than what any of us could do alone.
That second part does sounds a lot like a civic club, doesn't it?
And the first part sounds like the first-century synagogues in which ordinary people — including Jesus — worshipped and studied.
If the Rotary Club (or Kiwanis, etc.) had regular divine worship and rudimentary religious education, it might well be the ideal church.
Everything else that we associate with "church" would seem to be an accident of history, and inessential.