Part 2 of 2
Today, we continue the list from our prior blog post of ways the Church in America has reverted to operating principles employed by the religious establishment in Jesus’ day – which He came, at least in part, to discredit. Jesus and His apostles had much to say about issues with the institutional construct Judaism’s leaders had erected to usurp power and control people, by positioning buildings and themselves as unduly…
Defining church around a place and pastors to build the institution rather than disciples.
BC Success was measured by the magnificence of facilities and the celebrity of religious leaders:
- Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. (Mark 12:38-39)
- Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. (Matthew 24:1)
- Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones. (Luke 21:5)
AD Clarification that believers are truly the definition and personification of “church” (however, nearly all Americans today associate church with a building and its “success” with size in terms of square footage, occupancy and budget):
- You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood. (1 Peter 2:5)
- Jesus is “the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.” (Acts 4:11)
- They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” (John 2:20)
Claiming ultimate authority and power, but rather than relying on the Holy Spirit being driven by human principles.
BC They did not recognize, possess or leverage the power of the Holy Spirit:
- The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning. (Hebrews 9:8)
- Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. (Acts 1:4)
AD All followers of Jesus possess immense power through the Holy Spirit (however, few churches today emphasize the Holy Spirit, likely because He is too “spiritual” for non-believers who pastors are eager to attract and ensure feel “welcome” and “comfortable” in worship services):
- After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. (Acts 4:31)
- God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (Hebrews 2:4)
Emphasizing the Church gathered versus the Church scattered to ensure organizational viability and job security.
BC Knowledge of God and His Word was largely trapped within the confines of buildings and the minds of religious leaders:
- The Most High does not live in houses made by human hands…What kind of house will you build for me? (Acts 7:48-49)
- Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. (Luke 11:52)
AD Wisdom shared directly with individual believers who can meet anywhere for prayer, worship and fellowship (however, pastors today do not prepare members to be evangelists, but simply ask them to invite their friends to the church building to let the “professionals” handle Gospel presentations):
- But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands. (Hebrews 9:11)
- I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. (Matthew 12:6)
- …and to the church that meets in your home. (Philemon 1:2)
Conducting an air war of words rather than a ground war of love and compassion to fight the culture war.
BC Religious leaders battled to maintain a controlling theocracy against competing influences:
- No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them. (John 7:49)
- But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. (Matthew 23:23)
AD Church focused on Jesus as King and winning people to Him through love and mercy (however, Christians and churches are known less today for what they’re for than what they’re against):
- Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. (Mark 12:17)
- For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. (Isaiah 9:6)
Summarizing the Solution
The answer to how today’s Church can look like the Church Jesus intended (AD) rather than the Church Jesus reviled (BC) lies in addressing those 7 issues, becoming:
- Proactive – Turn church “inside out”, tearing down the 4 walls by equipping and sending individuals and groups into ministry where they live, work and socialize
- Generous – Reevaluate church finances to mirror the giving expected of members, investing first fruits outside the “4 walls” and living off the remainder
- Compassionate – No pastor can “outpreach” Jesus, so follow His model of opening ears to hear the Gospel by demonstrating God’s love first before sharing who Jesus is
- Commissioned – Build disciples who are prepared to live out their intended role as the embodiment of “church” to those who would never step into a church building
- Empowered – Boldly proclaim our need for the Holy Spirit, not worrying that non-believers in attendance will be “weirded out” since worship services shouldn’t be designed around those who don’t worship Jesus
- Decentralized – Restructure around a proper definition of “church” and the models that fueled its explosive growth in the Book of Acts, where small assemblies of believers were equipped to gather anywhere to reach their neighbors for Christ
- Kingdom-Minded – Ground church objectives in Kingdom advancement, which has much more to do with love and unity than with political victories
Imagine the reversal of the current decline in growth, influence, impact and public perception that would occur if churches in America would adopt these 7 AD principles.
It’s Your Turn
Do you agree that most churches in America today look and operate more like the “church” BC than AD?