Yesterday, I received this comment on the post The Goal of the Staffless Church. I think that the comment is representative of a lot of people’s opinions, and I wanted to report the comment as well my response for the purpose of discussion.
I get what you’re saying and where you’re coming from, but I feel like you’re ignoring the cultural differences between AD 2010 America and AD 35 Rome. Sure we can devote 90% of our offerings to the hungry and poor, but that has not had any success when we devoted 20% to it, why would it change now? Plenty of churches offer plenty of services to those in need. It rarely results in anything resembling conversion and is usually simply a faith-based form of socialism. I’m not saying we shouldn’t so those things and indeed, we do far too little of it. but if our motivation is evangelism and growth, as opposed to loving others and obeying God, then we’re missing the boat.
And in an age where church volunteering is at an all-time low, the idea that churches should ask ministers to do as much as they do AND hold down a full-time job seems a little off base.
The problem, in my opinion, is that the theology of the modern church is very similar to that of the Pharisees of Jesus’ time. They mean well, but focus on avoiding “dirty” people, doing “good, Christian” things and and are highly judgmental and inbred. Most of the church’s functions today are focused on the congregations and not those who don’t know Jesus. We’ve created a whole new type of Gentile. We spend far too much time and money on conventions, retreats and Christian concerts, books and seminars. We can get 100 people for a special Christmas Eve service but only 5 for an evangelism class. We’ll pay 300 dollars and travel hundreds of miles for a weekend of listening to our favorite authors talk about how to be happy people, but barely drop a 20 for missions.
And the answer is to refocus and look outwards to those who need God, accept them without judgment and lead them to God’s love–much like Jesus did when faced with a similarly minded Jewish community.
We’re not too far apart here. I agree with you about theology. My contention is that most churches don’t practice monothesis worship of God, they practice a form of animism. They feed the god of fear with their teaching dependency. They placate the god of safety by reshaping the Bible about the individual. And they lay it all on the alter of the god of church growth.
Honestly, if all churches in America gave away 20% of their offerings to the poor… we’d live in a country that looked much different.
I think your wrong about the connection between volunteerism and busy pastors. My contention is exactly the opposite. If the pastor refused to do ALL of that stuff he/she is doing, it’d either force people to step up… or the church would stop doing those things.
And just a reminder, the early church describes socialism. Capitalism is not a Christian value. It is a perversion of the New Testament’s view of possessions, personal value, and money. Aspirations of a capitalistic/Christian society is a syncretism with Western culture.