Is it too much to suggest that the church has become more of a cooperation than a place of refuge to the sick, a place of healing for the broken? Does our description of today’s church match the description of the LORD’s church in the new testament? Are our standards His?
“Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed; To turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless!” Isaiah 10:1-2
Congregation or Group of Strangers?
I’ve grown up in modern America just like the rest of you, and it was only when I moved across country to go to a church no one’s ever heard of that I started to question our modern churches. When my family first started going to this, well different, church they kept using the word reform, which in simple terms means to make changes in order to better something. In this case, trying to get as close to the LORD’s standard as possible.
If you’re thinking “it can’t be that different,” you’re wrong. We don’t have a pastor, our elders, guests, deacons and just men of the church take turns. We get up individually or heads of households to get the LORD’s supper. And we have a time in our worship service called “exhortation” which allows the men of the church to stand and exhort the brethren on anything the LORD’s been teaching them. Oh, and we don’t have Sunday school all the kids sit with their families.
This brings people together. We don’t just see each other on Sunday and then move on with our lives. Each of our lives are apart of the others, and we’re bound together.
About two years after we had moved we went back to our home town for a visit and I was surprised at the stark contrast between the two churches. One was flourishing with life, continually gaining new members, young people alive and awake. While the other one was dying, with fewer members and almost no young people at all.
Now I’m not saying that you’re church has to be a mega church to fit the criteria of the Bible…because it’s actually the exact opposite. What I am trying to say is that average day church just doesn’t match up to God’s standards…want proof?
“Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste?” Haggai 1:4
God’s Standard vs. Man’s
Do you think the churches of America measure up to God’s standards? If you don’t think they have to than you’ve already answered my question.
In Revelations God sends messages to seven churches, first he praises them for their good works (which are probably above and beyond anything a church in modern day America has ever done) and then he says “nevertheless I have somewhat against thee.”
Praise: “…thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.”
Correction: “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.”
Praise: “I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.”
Correction: “But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.”
Praise: “I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.”
Correction: “Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.”
Correction: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:”
Did that last one sound familiar? A lot of churches would rather just “stay out of it.” In 2008 there was an estimated 8 million Americans identified as nondenominational Christians. (found here) Now sometimes it is the case where the denomination is the problem. For example the separatists, also known as the pilgrims, knew that the catholic church was at the center of the problem, so they separated from it to seek God in the right way.
All Day Every Day
“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” 1 Cor 3:16
This brings us to another point where I believe churches miss God’s mark. A church is made up of people. And people make up the church. Often times the most stifling thing in the growth of the church is the fact that Christianity is something that happens on Sundays and then we move on with our lives. But that’s not what God says.
“…When thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” Deuteronomy 11:19
Doesn’t sound like a once a week sort of thing. A church grows when it’s congregation grows. When the individual member seeks out wisdom. When the father’s are head of their households. When children are taught that things are wrong, not because mother said so, but because God commands it. So if you have something to complain about your church maybe you should look towards you’re every day life. Are you living Christianity? Can people tell? Do you make decisions not for there short term enjoyment but for the long term glory of God?
“That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love.” Eph 3:17
So why do I call the average church a corporation? Well there’s a way the Bible describes the house of the LORD and then there’s the way we can describe it.
The average income of a pastor is $89,579 (salary.com)
The average cost to build a church is $2,972,700 (www.rsmeans.com)
The average amount churches spend on personnel, buildings and administration expenses is 82 percent of the church’s budget (according to these finds)
Before our church owned a building we had to rent other buildings. I remember the strange sensation I got when we started worshiping at a Methodist church in town. We all whispered and didn’t touch a thing. It was a similar sensation you get when you at the capital or a multi-million dollar company. It was not the sensation that Moses describes in Exodus.
“Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” Exodus 40:34-35
When was the last time you remember feeling the glory of the LORD fill a room. And you know without a doubt that he is there.
Another thing that bugs me is the building itself. It seems people think they have to have this big building with painted windows and a podium and pews and the list get’s bigger and bigger. The Bible describes the church very differently.
“And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,” (Acts 2:46) “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” (Acts 5:42)
The Bible describes the church as more of a community of people rather than a building. Which goes hand in hand with the fact that Paul tells us we are now the temple of God.
“ And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” 2 Cor 6:16
Now some would say that God deserves great works of architecture for his abode. But that’s what David thought too. The LORD replied…
“That the king said unto Nathan the prophet, See now, I dwell in an house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains…Go and tell my servant David, Thus saith the Lord, Shalt thou build me an house for me to dwell in?” 2 Samuel 7:2,5
And if you believe the old testament has no bearing let’s go to the new testament…
“Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest?” Acts 7:49
You know this means something to the LORD when he talks about it in his word that much. So what do you think? Do you think the church of today matches up to the standards of God?
Or have we compromised….