Does a church love itself, or others?

When I finally returned to the church, I was disheartened by what I saw.

Eugene Peterson made this observation: “The vocation of pastor has been replaced by the strategies of religious entrepreneurs with business plans.” 12 The purposes of God’s church ought to be the love of all. “It must hold God and man in one thought at one time, at all times.” 13

It makes me cringe to see some churches adopting the ideas of businesses by spending millions of dollars on beauty spas and elaborate stages—all while their local poor go hungry. Elaborate stages are built by empty sages.

I once saw a church build a house on their stage just to prove a point in the pastor’s message. No one thought of building that house for the poor instead? Would Jesus need a theme decorated stage to speak at your church?

These overly stylish churches require full-time paid staffs to develop such Christian pleasures. Instead of caring for those in need, in their own neighborhood, these off track churches create flashy fundraisers to fly help over their own neighborhoods to those they don’t have to touch—just as a corporation performs acts of charity for the benefit of its own brand and marketing. If there is touch, it’s tainted for the benefit of growth. These sort leaders strive for the same ends: self-improvement and pleasure.

Soren Kierkegaard’s writings are prognostic of our time:

“It was a beautiful Sunday Morning in Copenhagen. The Bishop was scheduled to preach at the cathedral. He was dressed in his very finest and costliest liturgical robes. Slowly and majestically he ascended into the richly ornamented pulpit. His graying hair added a touch of wisdom to his already striking and dignified appearance. The entire Royal Family was present, dressed in their finest. The women sparkled with jewels. Several rows were filled by members of the Danish Academy of Science. The rest of the congregation consisted of the most prominent citizens of Denmark. There were bankers, lawyers, judges, and wealthy merchants, all with their families.

The Bishop began to speak. He began, “Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, my text this morning is taken from I Corinthians, 1:28, Behold, God has chosen you for himself, you, the despised and rejected of the world.” The congregation listened to this with utmost seriousness. And no one laughed.” 14

The driving force of all a church does should be for others, not for itself—giving, not getting. The church should live much lighter and lower, positioned better for the hurting. The church must give itself away in order to find its identity and life.

Dietrich Bonheoffer perceived the church this way:

“The church is the church only when it exists for others. To make a start, it should give away all its property to those in need. The clergy must live solely on the free-will offerings of their congregations, or possibly engage in some secular calling. The church must share in the secular problems of ordinary human life, not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell men of every calling what it means to live in Christ, to exist for others…It must not under-estimate the importance of human example (which has its origin in the humanity of Jesus and is so important in Paul’s teaching); it is not abstract argument, but example, that gives its word emphasis and power.”15

Instead of providing examples of serving, many executive pastors go out of their way to dumb down God to compliment cozy coffee. They ask listeners to receive Christ during mere motivational talks. Then, they present the next step as registering online. There is no personal contact welcoming the new believer, no familial love. Instead, you get an email. More like a corporation than a church, the metrics are met, and the job is complete. Such techniques can only create cookie cutter Christians, for Christ’s methods are not techniques, but love.

 

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