Spiritual Issues

The Business of Church

August 23, 2010

So, on FB, my polling center of the generic American thinker, I asked a question:

“Why, in its fundamental public expression, has the church chosen to adhere to a secular model then attempted to adapt the Biblical model to it rather than adhere to the Biblical model and adapt a secular model to fulfill legal requirements w/o compromising Biblical, foundational structure and responsibility?”

Now, I didn’t expect much of a response and, frankly, I wasn’t surprised by the responses I got.

Some atta’girls, which are always expected and some chirping of crickets from some family I love who couldn’t quite get the gist of what I was saying and even a comment from a very intelligent lady who is Very Catholic.

What struck me most was my aunt’s response, because, perhaps for the first time, I found I have an answer to why people stay in supremely unhealthy environments for inordinately long periods of time.

Aunt E wrote, “I CANT FOLLOW WHAT U R TRYING TO SAY!!! but thats ok…u r the one that can figure it out for yourself and it would probably make more sense to you when u do! im tooo simply-minded to get toooo deep! God’s blessings to u when u do!! but i’s ♥ ya anyways!!! oxox..♥”

It’s not really that she is mentally and physically incapable of following the conversation, she’s intelligent enough.  It’s that it’s a thought process which is completely foreign to her.

Back in the early, zealous days of faith I read a verse that has become pivotal to almost every aspect of my life.

1 Thessalonians 5:21, I like NASB.

But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;

That truth.  That simple, clear truth rocked my world.  It wasn’t just an option to ask questions and think critically.  IT’S A REQUIREMENT!!!!  And I was inspired and ashamed and convicted and repentant and determined.

That thought, that vers is  followed closely by:

1 Corinthians 14:29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment.

And, we can’t forget,

1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (NASB ©1995)

And, my question about Church, Inc. aside, what the HECK happened to us?

One guy up front…  No body thinks… Everybody gives… Then we all smile, shake hands and wander off into our comfy little apathetic worlds.

Is it an indicator of how little we care about the Body? About those around us?  Are we really as simple that as long as we have the comfort of our few friends, the sense of community (which is dwindling, y’know) the socialization which we believe so desperately that we need that we have lost our way? Are we just too lazy to ask?  Too un-trained in the discipline of critical thought?  Of logical progression?  We know that 1+1=2 but we can’t seem to compute that immature + selfish = disaster or controlling + authority = dictatorship?

When did we quit testing each other?   Challenging each other to work harder to build our faith, with fear and trembling. As we are commanded to do!

I met a man yesterday.   He is near retirement age, gregarious, confident.  He had a firm handshake and a broad smile.   We engaged in a short conversation about life and liberty and family.  We have friends in common.

He’s one of the people who came into That Place after we left.  He is one of the three who took over the roles I had filled while I was there.  And, frankly,  I think I would have enjoyed getting to know him.   He was successful in a first, very demanding career and is now successful in a second.  He’s educated.  He’s… Well… There’s just no good reason that he should be so deeply integrated into a place that is, so obviously to anyone who will think critically, a cult.  A cult with bits of truth deeply embedded into a controlling, embezzling, frighteningly duplicitous environment.

When did he quit questioning?   What did he compromise to go there?

I look at us, all those years ago, and I have to soberly think about what we had to choose to ignore to continue.

The question I wrote at the beginning of this was a question I wrote in the fall of 2007.  During a time when we were seeing misuse of communal funds,  abuse of power and an almost pathological need to control others.  An illogical need to lie about the simplest of things.

We had again been awakened to that truth… “Test all things.  Hold FAST to all that is good.” And we were beginning to see the price we would have to pay for that truth to be lived out.

During the season of  Teshuvah, of repentance, we have an opportunity to make things right between friends, enemies, families.

This is the third year I have prayed that the Lord would prompt them to make things right with us.  Not because I have any desire to return to that fellowship.  Heaven forbid!!!! But so they could be free from the bondage they are drowning in.  I have already forgiven them.  In my heart.  In my actions.  In my prayers.

I pity them.  They are foolish, weak, blind and confused.

I have often wondered how much of the pain we observed, participated in and walked through was done because of the Business of a congregation that so completely served itself that it defiled the service of G_d’s people.  And I am humbled and sobered when I think of how much less I would have contributed to that very machine had I the sense to remember the WOrd and obey the Truth I know.  The Truth I knew.

That the Body is a living, breathing organism which needs to grow, to change, to be refined and to be led.   And while we are privileged to be a part of that process in whatever manner the Lord chooses?  It’s His Body, not mine to lead.  It’s His to direct, not mine to control.  And if the restrictions the world and the IRS would try to impose are at odds with the clearly stated definitions of order and structure found within the Word?

Then, we work diligently to be at peace but never compromise who we are.

Followers of Christ.

  • Well, as one who didnt answer….

    I didnt answer because I could have gone several ways on this one. I’ve been a part of the big mega-church, where things started out with me knowing very little of real faith, and then as time went on and I found out more I found that they were changing towards more of a focus on pew filling gimmicks. I saw the twisting of what is considered the standard man up front model we have now which isn’t entirely a bad thing into something that placed itself into heavy competition with the world when it should have been opposed to it. This competition with rather than opposition to is why the Church as a whole has no seasoning affect upon our culture and is rightly seen as irrelevant. (Really, there are MUCH cooler social clubs!)

    Why have the secular model? Its what we know, and its easier. Combine that with ridicule from naysayers who would keep you from trying a more Biblical model, both within and without the church, and then add on the need to keep your income (aka paid pastoral position) and we have a recipe for trying to please the world. After all, a Biblical model, where 13y/o boys are considered men, and women refrain from teaching men as well as cover their heads is pretty much right out in our culture.

    Of course all power structures attract people who would abuse them and those who are charismatic are able to cause people to ignore their faults. Having said that, I think that it is all done with the best of intentions. That makes it no better, and worse makes it never ending, but I don’t think that they are trying to lead people astray (your experience being an exception)

  • Well, as one who didnt answer….

    I didnt answer because I could have gone several ways on this one. I’ve been a part of the big mega-church, where things started out with me knowing very little of real faith, and then as time went on and I found out more I found that they were changing towards more of a focus on pew filling gimmicks. I saw the twisting of what is considered the standard man up front model we have now which isn’t entirely a bad thing into something that placed itself into heavy competition with the world when it should have been opposed to it. This competition with rather than opposition to is why the Church as a whole has no seasoning affect upon our culture and is rightly seen as irrelevant. (Really, there are MUCH cooler social clubs!)

    Why have the secular model? Its what we know, and its easier. Combine that with ridicule from naysayers who would keep you from trying a more Biblical model, both within and without the church, and then add on the need to keep your income (aka paid pastoral position) and we have a recipe for trying to please the world. After all, a Biblical model, where 13y/o boys are considered men, and women refrain from teaching men as well as cover their heads is pretty much right out in our culture.

    Of course all power structures attract people who would abuse them and those who are charismatic are able to cause people to ignore their faults. Having said that, I think that it is all done with the best of intentions. That makes it no better, and worse makes it never ending, but I don’t think that they are trying to lead people astray (your experience being an exception)

  • wendy

    I hate the word “relevant” because it’s popped up in Church circles to describe the practice of taking a secular, corporate type model or structure. Once I went through a membership class at a church that asked me to sign a document promising to adhere to their ministry model. And another church I was given paperwork signed by the pastor where he labeled himself the church “CEO.”

    I’ve also had people instruct me to sound more like the recorded version of worship songs. I got so frustrated with functioning on a worship team because the congregation viewed that time as a concert. I think all of these things are symptoms of what you are saying.

    That cult-ish kind of controlling behavior can show up in any congregation. I do not know its cause, but the remedy is in what you have recognized…a Church led by Him and obedience to the truth, as well as putting some effort into seeking it out.

    I think many people want a church led by one person because they don’t want the responsibility themselves. But, we are responsible anyway.

  • Serena

    Actually, it all started a long time ago and became pretty solidified during the time of Constantinople. Maybe there are factors that are different, but it still is pretty much the same. During the reformation, there was an attempt to leave that system, but they kept the format and actually are returning in this day to what they left back then. I think this saying sums it up pretty well – “Insanity is keeping on doing the same thing and expecting different results.”

    Also, when we are rich and increased in goods and think we have need of nothing, when we are neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm, I think we become those that are content to be part of something that is not passionate for the One who bought them or for His truth. We truly do need His eye salve and even more so need to remember the cost of His redemption – His most precious blood!

  • Why? Because we have been richly blessed and have forgotten that we don’t deserve it, growing spoiled and lazy and selfish instead.

  • Why? Because we have been richly blessed and have forgotten that we don’t deserve it, growing spoiled and lazy and selfish instead.

  • The”Man up front” is not a new concept in fact it dates back before the time of Christ, and was a common teaching method of Yeshua’s. In of itself it is not bad, but it was never meant and the sole way of spreading the gospel. It was simply a teaching tool. The problem is not so much the Man but those who sit and do nothing. We have simply stopped questioning what we are taught. To that extent those who do question or see things differently are chastised buy those up “front”. But that does not answer the question.
    I think the better question to ask is: What is the Biblical model for Church? What is the Biblical reason for the gathering of the saints each week? When this is answered then we have a starting point. Until we can answer these questions we are spinning our wheels so to speak. The secular model we use today is ingrained in our society at all levels. It is so ingrained that we never question it. I do not think we will be free from it until the sheep wake up and realize the dogs are in fact wolves who are biding their time. The real sheep dogs are spread far wide and thin today; and some have been cowed by the sheer ferocity of the wolves. It still is not an answer to the question.
    The fact of the matter is a secular business model is incompatible with a biblically modeled church. We need to be willing to accept the consequences of adopting a biblical approach, which is something most people are too docile to do. Life is easier when we go with the flow, if that means we allow the state to intrude into how we run our churches then so be it, as long as we get to watch the next installment of Sunday football we are content to let things be. We have accepted the world’s method of determining who is even “qualified” to lead our churches. One must have a piece paper that says you have been taught to specific guidelines in order to preach. Where is that in the Word? Secular society is so ingrained in us that we have lost sight of what He wants or requires plain and simple.
    Thanks for getting me on my soap box Heidi 😉