For many years I was on the hunt for the best model, the best approach for church. Some follow tradition even as their entire denominations faces extinction in their country. Some have follows the path of pragmatisim. Look at other “successful” churches and copy their approach. In the house church movement there are many who are looking towards the New Testament to find a successful model.
While I agree with those that say we have ignored the bible for too long in regardes to how we approach church I’m not sure we can definitively define a model. Is it perhaps because there are things more import than a church model? After 8 years of involvement in a simple church that meets in homes I’d say I look intently in the scriptures to inform my understanding of ministry, but I’m not looking for a model. Instead of asking “what is church” I’ve been asking “what is ministry”.
Consider a rather innocuous section of scripture from 1Thessalonians.
1 Thessalonians 2:4-8 NLT
For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts. Never once did we try to win you with flattery, as you well know. And God is our witness that we were not pretending to be your friends just to get your money! As for human praise, we have never sought it from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ we certainly had a right to make some demands of you, but instead we were like children among you. Or we were like a mother feeding and caring for her own children. We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too.
What would ministry look like if a high profile minister was decidedly low profile. Someone who didn’t seek the praise of people and was actually concered about the motives of his or her heart. Someone that would intentionally work with their hands to earn their living while they ministered and would love people so sincerely they they exuded compassion and gentleness. While ministering their heart was so open they shared more than a message but their own lives with people.
If two essential components of ministry were genuine love and sharing one’s life with people how would things change? Would we still find it acceptable for pastors to engage in forms of blatant self promotion whether if be through carefully crafted media or bragging about their sex life? Would we continue to accept blatant profiteering through the sale of books, music and education? Would the whole ediface of church industry come crumbling down?
I ask these questions as I continue to run in to people beaten and battered by the industry. I’ve started calling it an industry. The Christian religious industry is the institutionalized quest for glory, honour and status in the eyes of people. It is this desire that sends us askew as much it did the Pharisees.
We have turned a blind eye to this most grievous sin. Today in the church we have something similiar to what Jesus saw in his day. So many among us are like sheep without shepherds. Harassed and helpless as people are held in prisons of fear and fleeced for their hard earned dollars. I’ve been sharing stories of church abuse that bring tears to the eyes of my friends. I’m often stunned to hear what has been perpetrated in the name of Christ and tolerated by members of the church. My heart has been broken time and again as I’ve watched people breakdown in front of me a they recount their treatment by their church.
The need is so great but the truly sincere agents of Christ’s love are so few.