You can read part 1 here
Imagine that I asked you to draw me a picture. I handed you a set of colored pencils and you set to work. But you discover that the pencils are all worn down and the wood is even with the tip. Imagine that you know nothing about a pencil sharpener.
I think you’d accomplish the picture one way or another. But I also think it would have come out much better if someone had taught you about a pencil sharpener.
Translation: I’m beginning to wonder if we are using ineffective tools in our efforts to “be the church.”
Who’s the hypocrite in our day?
In Matthew 15:1-9, Jesus and the Pharisees and Scribes are going at it. In characteristic style, Jesus lets them have it because they are hypocrites.
But they are a kind of hypocrite that I think we may be… if we are not very careful.
You see, those guys had “traditions” in place because they thought they were good… right… best.
Yes – they thought the things they were doing were right.
But Jesus said they were wrong.
Possible modern traditions that need a re-think…
The legally-defined, corporately organized church organization has become the norm, the expected that people in our day define “church”… and there’s much about it that feels like mere tradition to me…
- Focus on large assemblies (yes, the early church had large assemblies, but we FOCUS on them a bit much I think).
- Paid staff (yes, a worker is worth his wage… but you can’t convince me that Paul was thinking “salary” and “job description” when he encouraged caring for those who minister the gospel).
- Facilities (I don’t even know when the first “dedicated” church building came into existence. It was a long time after the first century though).
- Programs (these have their purpose and use, but why do we depend on them so much?).
- Order of service (1 song, announcements, 4 songs, offering, 1 song, prayer, sermon, response song… pretty predictable, and I wonder how “Spirit-led”…).
- A few serve (Pastor, music team) while many watch (congregation). (Of course, there are other places people serve besides Sunday mornings… but again, why the focus on the large meeting?).
- Official job descriptions for “paid staff” (How would Peter or Paul have responded if their local church family pulled out a sheet of papyrus, listing 27 and a half bullet points of expectations for them, and asked them to sign it? I think they would have cried, on the spot).
- Membership agreements (this is a new one for me to consider, because I’ve even recently advocated membership agreements. But I’m re-thinking their usefulness, especially if the church were to stay small in number).
- Organizational By-laws (corporate America at its best… or worst. Why do we do this as a church?)
Yes, I know… many of these things are useful, and none of them are “bad” in and of themselves. But they are things we’ve done for so long, I wonder if we really know WHY we do them… and whether or not we are willing to evaluate whether they are helpful at all.
At this point in history most of these seem to be structures we’ve developed for the sake of expedience and “comfort” rather than for the safe of effective body-life within the church.
Most of them could be termed “extra-biblical” in fact. (Yes, I know – the Bible is “descriptive, not prescriptive.” I’ve heard it… and am not sure I completely buy it anymore).
The questions we should be asking…
- What is “effective ministry?” I sit about large crowds or is it about true life change? – I have to insist on the later.
- Is what we are doing as “church” (see the list above… and feel free to add your own!) truly and most effectively facilitating that definition?
- If not, why are we continuing to do what we are doing? (You remember the definition of “insanity?“)
Other questions that should be asked right on the heels of those…
- Do our current structures enable us to obey the New Testament’s instructions regarding love for one another, unity together, and bearing one another’s burdens? (I struggle to see how they do).
- Why can’t we, the richest nation in history, accomplish what the poor folks in Acts 2 did (none of them had need)? (My answer: We’re putting all our dough into salaries, buildings, utilities, and retirement plans).
- Is it possible that in all our good attempts to advance the gospel and the church of Jesus, we have utilized and clung to methods that do not truly accomplish what we are trying to accomplish?
- Is it possible that in doing so without critical examination, we have given ourselves over to methodology, rote tradition, and structures, rather than to our Savior?
- Is it possible that as a result, our hearts (like those of the Pharisees and Scribes) are really far from God, while our lips (and structures) appear to honor Him?
I’m not trying to throw stones… just to evaluate why we are doing what we are doing…