HOW MANY CHRISTIANS DOES IT TAKE TO UNSCREW THE CHURCH?
by Keith Giles
Over the last few months God has been leading me down a path that I have somewhat reluctantly agreed to travel. There was a moment when I was offered a chance to stop and turn back. Almost like Morpheus offering Neo one last opportunity to remain in Wonderland before unzipping his mind and allowing reality to spill inward.
I was standing in the bathroom a few weeks ago, getting ready to brush my teeth and roll into bed. My wife was turning off the lights in the house and locking the front door and so I had a moment to myself. Looking in the mirror I felt as if God were asking me if I wanted to continue to follow the path I was walking or not.
DEEPER IN, FURTHER ON
Isn't it enough that I've left the traditional church to plant a house church in my home, I wondered? Isn't it enough that I publish articles on the internet to provoke a complacent American Church to awaken from slumber? How much more radical can I be? Why can't I just stay right where I am?
Standing there in my bathroom, looking at my face in the mirror I knew there was a way out. "You can stop now and everything will be alright".
Even though a part of me was longing for the comfort of blissful ignorance, I knew there was really no choice at all. In my bathroom that night, as I unspooled a length of floss from the carton and wrapped it around my finger, I willingly stepped over the line that had been drawn in the sands of my mind.
DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE
At that point in my life I was reeling from a myriad of realizations concerning the development of the early Christian faith. The slim stack of books in my canvas bag sat like loaded clips of mental ammo and page by page each one was shooting holes in my reality. My universe was slowly unraveling, and by more than one thread at a time.
Today, just a few weeks later, I can look over my shoulder and barely make out that line in the sand. This journey has been brief, but it has taken me further down the road than I ever imagined I would come.
THE JESUS CODE
I know that Jesus had something amazing in mind when He designed His Church. It wasn't meant to be a burden to His people. He modelled and inspired a family of faith where everyone was gifted to serve and empowered to encourage and heal and edify and inspire the rest. Of course, the problem is that we have chosen to try it our own way and this is what we get - tired and empty and run down.
Very simply, Jesus came to abolish the daily sacrifice. He became the Lamb of God and there is now no need for any further blood sacrifice.
Jesus came to destroy the Temple. He became the Temple and destroyed it, raising it again in three days. The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and it remains so to this day.
Jesus came to abolish the Jewish Priesthood. He became our ultimate, final High Priest and lives to intercede for us to this very moment. The Jewish Priesthood today remains an empty shell of its former self, mainly due to the loss of the Temple and the ceasing of the daily sacrifice.
Why did Jesus do these things? To establish His Church. To give birth to a people who would become the Temple of God, who would daily lay down their lives for Him and who would become the new royal priesthood of God.
This was not an accident. This was the intentional work of Jesus. He tore down one system in order to give birth to a new, vibrant, living organism and His Apostles understood this completely. This is why they did not establish a new priesthood within the Church. Instead they taught that everyone who was in Christ was of the priesthood of the Believer.
It's also why they didn't continue to offer a daily blood sacrifice. They understood that Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice and that our response should be to surrender our lives as living sacrifices to honor Him.
The Apostles also demonstrated their understanding of what Christ had accomplished by not building a new Temple or place of worship. Instead they taught that the people of God were the building made up of living stones- the only building God had ever asked for.
God's design for His Church was specific. He intended that each person would use the special gifting imparted by the Holy Spirit to relationally encourage, strengthen, exhort, heal, inspire, edify, and counsel one another.
I must point out that it was never God's intent that all of the encouraging, teaching, healing, counseling and exhorting come through only one or two members in the Body. Instead, God's plan was to equally distribute the workload so that everything the Body needs is available to the Body, through the Holy Spirit which is implanted in the Body for the common good of the Body.
God also displayed His genius when He decided to distribute the gifts of the spirit to people throughout the Body. This means that a relational structure is necessary to keep the organism healthy. Because one person has the gift of encouragment, I must be encouraged by that person. To receive the healing I need it must come from the sister in our Body who has been given the gift of healing, and so on.
If God had wanted to, He could have given the gift directly to the person who needed it. Instead, He built into the organism a relational structure that acts as a delivery system for the gifts of the Spirit.
As I begin to see these things in action here in our own house church, and as God continually shows me His vision for His Church through the Scriptures, I am in awe.
At the same time, I have to admit a great sadness when I see how we have adopted our own method of gathering together that effectively unravels nearly everything that God had in mind for His Bride.
THE DESOLATION THAT CAUSES AN EMPTY NATION
In our modern day traditional American church we have abandoned a relational, family structure and embraced a corporate, business model for the Church. We have shifted to an organizational model and not an organism model.
Do models matter? Yes, they do. If you attempted to run your family like a business it would change the dynamic of your family. Decisions would be made to benefit the business first and the concept of family would become lost in the new corporate structure of your home.
"Sorry son, you know I love you- like a son- but George here has doubled his last quarter sales goal so I'm giving him your room. If you get your sales up next quarter I'm sure we can get you back in the top bunk."
God's design for His Church is important. If we are dying for community it's because we've abandoned a relational form of Church. If we see our pastors burn out and fall away it's because we've twisted God's relational plan for His Church into a one-man show. If our churches are unfriendly and cold it's because we have forsaken a family approach and embraced a corporate structure.
If we're really interested in following God's Word, it's important for us to listen to what it says, and to put these things into practice.
So, today I know that I have come too far to turn back. I can no longer remain silent. I have to ask, "How many Christians does it take to unscrew the Church?"
What scares me is, I have no idea what the punchline is.