The world looks at us.
They know something, perhaps more, about the structure of church than they know about what the church proclaims. Or is supposed to proclaim.
What they see are hierarchical structures (power structures?). They hear about rules and regulations. They walk pass massive architectural complexes. They see colourful robes and tussles, candles, swinging smoke-pouring lanterns. They observe forms of secrecy and magic.
And then there is the issue of money.
One person last night on TV referred to the church as “a multimillion dollar corporation always seeking to protect is own business.”
After that program the news followed. Three priest were defrocked because of sexual misconduct perpetrated of over many years.
I turned the TV off – disturbed and unsettled. Something has gone wrong in the church. Something has gone wrong with is message.
People know more about the church than they know about its message. The message has been replaced by the structure and other paraphernalia.
Maybe the charge against the church is true: we are just a bunch of hypocrites.
Hypocrites who get together on a Sunday who profess that we believe in the message of the Bible about Jesus Christ, and who then depart from worship to carry on with lives no different from those who don’t believe in our God.
The world demands same-sex marriages and gay rights. The Bible clearly forbids it. We try to defend that message, but the world does not understand and don’t take it as serious. We understand from Scripture that the Christ-message will always be stumbling block to those who clinch the fist against God, and we should not be on the retreat because of that.
What I find disturbing within my soul, is that some rebel against God, not because of the message of the Bible, but because of how the church became an abhorrent structure next to the Bible. Everything such a church try to say or proclaim will be deafened by the structures of man-made tradition.
Double standards within the church also contributes to this confounding perspective on the church: while we decry the demand of the world to adapt to be accommodative in a “progressive society” and allow “equal rights in marriage”, we shudder to think that we are charged with homophobia knowing well that the Bible forbids it. And so we should.
The double standardness of church life surfaces when we don’t deal with other sins within our midst. Liars count under those who will we “outside” of the New Jerusalem, so will the sexually immoral and those who practice magic arts and idolaters (Revelation 21:8). How many “good” Christians can get along and live in hatred of one another. What about “factions, dissensions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and the like?” Like those who practice homosexuality people who continue in these things and do not repent before God, “will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.” (1Corinthians 6:9,Galatians 5:20-21)
It would be unfair and impossible for the church of Christ to operate without structures. But the organisation and structure should always be Bible based. More, the organisation should be the handmaiden of the message of the church. The message stands central and should’t be jostled out by the extraneous.
To think the first New Testament church had no structure is incorrect. There were Apostles, elders, deacons and other helpers without which the care for the thousands who joined the church, especially the widows and the poor, would be impossible. But central to their church life was not the structure, but the message. Because if this outsiders did not always join in, but the church “was highly regarded by the people.” (Acts 5:13)
Not so today. There is hardly any regard for the church.
The message is rarely heard! And if we proclaim it, let’s not dilute it for the sake of being acceptable or popular. It will win no respect; besides, God hates lukewarmness.