Part 1 of 2
Why did Jesus come when He did? Theories abound, but the state of the Church was likely, at least in part, behind God’s timing. Religious practices and teachings had gotten far off course, fueled by impure motives and metrics – and leading to cynicism among non-believers and an improper understanding of God among believers. Jesus came to blow up those misconceptions and set the record straight – about who God is and what He expects of His followers. Jesus reserved His harshest words and greatest indignation for the religious establishment.
We live AD but “church as we know it” has largely reverted to BC principles. It was intended to operate much differently than it did before Christ, but on close (biblical) examination it appears we have partially repaired the veil Jesus tore and rebuilt the temple Jesus said would be knocked down.
Consider what Scripture says about issues with churches and religious leaders in Jesus’ day, who had become…
A “4 walls” mentality with people treated as “customers” to attract and retain rather than as the embodiment of “church” to disciple and deploy.
BC Church positioned as an institution formed an unintended wedge between God and man (both churchgoers and those on the outside looking in):
- You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. (Matthew 23:13)
- When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Matthew 9:11)
AD Jesus went out to where people were, bridging the gap formed by “religion” to demonstrate His love (e.g. healing and feeding) before telling them who He was:
- At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. (Matthew 27:51)
- And he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. (Luke 9:2)
Emphasis on budgets and giving to keep the institutional church machine running.
BC Significant dollars were required to operate the Old Testament church:
- To that place you must go; there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. (Deuteronomy 12:5-6)
- I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their inheritance in return for the work they do while serving at the tent of meeting. (Numbers 18:21)
AD Flattened hierarchy frees up more giving to be directed toward fellow Christians inside and outside that church (e.g. the persecuted):
- All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. (Acts 4:32)
- Now about the collection for the Lord’s people:…when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. (1 Corinthians 16:1,3)
Not following the Lord’s commands to be compassionate and generous.
BC Religious leaders rarely gave to help the poor:
- But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God). (Mark 7:11)
- When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied. (Deuteronomy 26:12)
AD The critical importance of compassion was strongly reemphasized, with Jesus as the model (yet only around 1% of the average church’s budget today is invested back in the community – whereas the Church for 1900 years was the food bank and homeless shelter, and started most hospitals and schools):
- For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. (Matthew 25:35)
- Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress. (James 1:27)
Our next blog post will unveil the final four ways that churches in America today look and operate more like the Church BC than AD.
It’s Your Turn
We’ll explore more of these principles in the following post, but if this assessment holds water so far and our churches don’t reflect the radical shift Jesus advocated away from BC principles, how does the Lord feel about the current state of the American Church? Does this make you think differently about changes your church should make to become what Jesus intended?