I believe there is a reason why God told us that “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10) and to be stewards of money (Matthew 25:14-30). It’s quite clear that the Bible tells us to guard against the grip that money can have on our spiritual life. And so to be a part of a large church organization, the stewardship of money becomes vitally important. I would contend that most churches which aren’t flat out apostates understand this in concept. However, it is my personal experience, that the mixing of money and spirituality is a very dangerous game at the institutional and organizational level. I understand that churches need to operate on some level as a business. We need buildings, offices, resources and the like to carry out Godly work. But it seems like the line between proper spiritual conduct and proper business conduct is blurred, if not lost all together under such circumstances.
If we were to be honest, the conduct of the people who are part of a church organization representing Christ should be to “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). This means putting aside our differences in Theology, Philosophy, and Political affiliations to rejoice in who God is and what God has done for you and for me. Upon that rejoicing, we can begin those discussions. Secondly, the work of the church should be based on the Great Commission. This means we should do what Jesus told the eleven disciples, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20). And so what God essentially tells us to do, is to rejoice in the Lord and to make disciples. Combine that with what Jesus tells us is the greatest commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all yoru soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love you neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hand all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40).
Now if we take these passages revealed to us through the Holy Spirit and filter it through what we see in the organized and institutional church, what are we left with? Well each church differs and I am in no position to really say to what degree each church does or doesn’t abide by these standards, but I can say from personal experience, that what I have gone through recently in my own “church” is a watered down version of all of these key points, developing a hedonistic outlook on what our own personal purpose in life should be (Thank you Mr. Warren), slapping the “Jesus” sticker on it and calling it God’s work.
Again, I don’t want to hyper critical because I know and I get that these are age old challenges. But there has been in the last half century a rise in something that the church has clinged onto. That is the Gospel of Social Justice.
If you’ve visited or come across my blog before, you would know that I work at a church as part of the audio visual team. I serve by serving the “talent.” I have sentimental roots to my church because it’s where I came to know the Lord, got baptized and began a community and fellowship I had never experienced before in life. One of the biggest problems I have had in all of my less than three decades of being on planet earth is, that I think too much. Now this may not sound like a bad thing initially, but when I say I think too much, I mean I dwell on things. I get encapsulated and engulfed in whatever the topic is I am thinking about. So much so, that I forget or neglect small details and boundaries which confide me in this “institutional” setting. The reason why I brought this up, is because I want to make it clear that my criticism of a church that is rooted in social activism is not to say what they are doing is wrong. It is merely to bring up a point of conlifcting interests and hypocritical concerns regarding who we say we are and what we do in light of it. In other words, I may be over thinking this whole thing.
So here I go to the world of “published online and therefore forever a part of who I am.” My question is, does the Bible and God’s Word tell us to be world changers? In other words, in light of what we understood earlier about rejoicing, making disciples, loving God, loving your neighbor, do we gain a sense that our job here on earth is to change it? Change it socially, politically, up-rooting sin issues etc? I believe the answer is, “sort of.” We are called to be the hands and feet of Christ doing His work. We are also called to be salt and light in a world decaying and full of darkness. Perhaps the over zealous people who talk about changing the world are simply reflecting enthusiasm for God’s power to move here on earth. But it seems to me that this kind of enthusiasm for “changing the world” and doing “work for the Kingdom” lead to some very unbiblical places. First of all, I have seen way too much of self righteous behavior in many of these proponents of social outreach. There are many people who are humble and I don’t want to make the mistake of making sweeping generalizations. However, it is blatantly evident to me that there are members in leadership who hold themselves as higher than the rest of us “normal” employees of the church. Furthermore, the level of drama to “please” the leader is substantial. Because institutional churches still operate as an organized business, there is a ladder or hierarchy and thus political struggles within the church is evident in many ways. Second, it leads to false security. The vibe I get and even hear from people is, “well we’re saved because we do God’s work in helping the poor, the needy etc.” And it’s clear to me that the opposite is true. We do good deeds because we are saved. Not to be saved. There is nothing we can do to become saved. God came to us. We didn’t have to go searching for him. This is the epitome of religion.
Now this might be a dead giveaway for people who might be local or know me personally, but the vision of the church is, “transforming ordinary people, into passionate followers of Jesus, courageously changing the world.” First, none of us tranform people. We may influence them, but ultimately anyone who transforms and changes into passionate followers of Christ was done through the Holy Spirit. Not us! I find statements like this one extremely arrogant in light of what we are told in Scripture. Second, we are not called Biblically to change the world. The world is what it is. We are to be the salt and light, hands and feet of Christ, heal people, serve the homeless, the needy, the forgotten etc. But again, they are symptoms or the fruit to being saved. In other words, such matters should simply be something they do because they are followers of Jesus. This vision makes it sound as if changing the world is the priority and Jesus called for it. I find no such evidence in my Bible. Do you?
A second point I would like to contend is in the area of CCC (Culture Changing Church) movement. Our church is a big part of trying to “change culture.” Now if God’s people are not called out to change the world, then we are certainly not called to change culture. This is part of the institutional agenda, not necessarily God’s. Now first off, I want to define what culture is. Dictionary.com defines it as, “the quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent in arts, letters, manners scholarly pursuits etc.” Correct me if I am wrong, but aren’t all of these things worldly matters? Is not the “quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent…” a very fleshly matter? Don’t get me wrong. I think God has already given us the standard to which what is considered excellent and so to pursue such a goal is very noble. But again, I hearken back to my point. It’s simply not Biblical. No amount of helping the poor, the needy, the sick, the lost, the broken is going to change culture. I apologize for sounding so negative or pessemistic, but I think the core issue is preaching the Gospel. That should be the focus. From that, all of these goals of changing culture, and social justice, and taking care of the homeless etc are going to take care of itself.
So in all of this, I would like to ask a very simple question. Are we as the body of Christ gaining our mission statement from the Word of God, or the Cultural Mandate? It seems very popular to push the Church mission to be evangelism, discipleship, helping the believers and non-believers and transforming culture and the world. But if we are to stick to the blueprint given to us by the New Testament, it’s clear that we are to simply spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth. And it is my belief that in the process of doing so, we would create disciples. And wouldn’t you know it, creating disciples would address the issue of taking care of the homeless, the lost, the marginalized. If we simply focus on social justice as the aim, we are no different than any other secular group doing the same work. Some might point out, that it’s an opportunity to spread the Gospel by way of helping people. This is true. But it must be the focus. Otherwise, all the rhetoric about being faithful, full of grace, forgiveness, and love would all become just words. So the goal for any missions trip or social activism should not be the number of well you can dig, or the number of people you can serve. It should be the number of people you can save. But it’s all God’s work, not ours. We wouldn’t be the ones saving people. We would simply be the messengers.
If we are to stick to what the Bible tells us, we would be absolutely hated in this world. And for the most part, Christians are criticized by the unbelieving world. But things like the “the social justice gospel” and “changing culture” movement to me sound like a plea to the unbelieving world to accept us Christians, essentially saying, “Hey look at us, we are Christians and we do good things too! Accept us!” It’s no wonder why the church is largely labelled as hypocritical. We are all hypocrites in our own way, but this over thinking Christian thinks that all of these “good deeds” and “serving” are mere cover ups for the lack of spreading God’s truth into the world.