|If we are to reclaim the world for Christ, then we must
simply face the unfortunate fact most of the churches today
are failures. This is particularly true of the main line
liberal denominations in the United States. While in England
the churches have become miniscule. In Europe the churches are
generally just as diminished as in England.
That this situation exists is evident and obvious to all. The reason this situation exists is largely irrelevant. The fact is that it exists and must be coped with.
I would suggest to you these factors for thought. The Christian churches have been tamed into nearly nothings by the education of their ministers in liberal seminaries. The liberals generally do not believe in God, but if they do believe in God, He is an anemic one.
The liberals are obsessed with getting rid of churchy doctrines. The Virgin Birth, for an example, seems to bother them particularly. I favor the Virgin Birth because it shows the incarnation of divine grace in Jesus. A church doctrine is usually seen as either a fact or a parable or both. I see the Virgin Birth as both.
On many of these Biblical doctrinal arguments, I view the commotion much as Luther viewed the question of taking the crosses out of the church sanctuaries. Luther is said to have remarked, “why take away a poor man’s crutch?” Within reason it seems to me mean-spirited to take away doctrines that root, symbolize and explain.
But the fact is I view the Main Line denominations as holding Christ back. The churches have atrophied into denominations that are bureaucracies under the control not of non-believers so much as No Believers. The last time a church was set out in my Presbyterian district, the first thing that was done was a sociological study. As for me, I laugh as I think of the Prophet, Isaiah, getting a sociological study before deciding to preach or where to go.
Let us look at Isaiah 43:6 for example. My parenthesis speaks of how the modern churches work. The prophet says, “I will say to the north, Give up.” (I will say this after a sociological study by pagan doctors of philosophy and then through a denominational committee whose wisdom is based on meeting to vote their ignorance. How do we know their conclusion is shared ignorance? Because we are where we are doing what we are. Why do you need God to get a sociological study?)
I advise that if we are going to claim Christianity for any sort of New Testament faith, we must turn to the example of the Apostle. Paul was a tentmaker minister. That means he earned his own living as a tentmaker. He could then be in the church but free from the churchy.
You are aware in most denominations if you proclaim or live Christ, you are an unofficial excommunicate in the church. The horror is, the deviating minister may be cut off from the bureaucratic benefits and pension funds. As one person remarked to me; “it is the pension fund that holds the church together. You err in saying it is love. It should be love, but that is not the reality.” I neither agreed or disagreed, I understood.
Let me make sure I am as clear as possible considering the circumstances we are in and the misapprehensions many members of churches labor under. I do not think presently a true Christ can be preached in the modern liberal atmosphere of the Main Line Churches. But if HE were, who is there to listen?
The Main Line churches are as busy as debutantes in a social round of useless committees, hemi-semi-demi church reports and secondary issues. Church's have swimming pools, bowling alleys, gymnasiums, but they have not Christ. And if Christ is mentioned, most members seem embarrassed by the subject.
If you think I am wrong, perhaps you have not visited the right places! Many of the churches are bureaucracies running farces. That are are obsessed by border line Christian subjects. The churches often seem to meddle in the business of odd causes but not Christ. As for what odd causes, every church member with common sense can fill in the blanks.
To proclaim Christ to the world, the world I believe needs armies of tentmaker ministers who make their own livings, so they will not be held hostage by the bureaucratic boards and committees of the anemic denominations who do not know the reality of Christ.
Who are the ones to be tentmaker ministers? Why, you, of course. You are to be in a church but not churchy. The spiritual light in you must be lit and not doused by bushels and pails of liberal nonsense as now is the case.
Let your heart be a chapel. Let your home be a church. And you should be a tentmaker minister of the grace of God preaching the reality of Christ. Do not be misled by churches. The will of God is that you know Christ. The desire of the churches is that you be churchy. Being churchy is not enough! You will know if you are to be a tentmaker minister appointed by God. How will you know? You will know from the light within, the Christ inside. Remember it is God who establishes, appoints, chooses and sends...not sociologists.
I feel strongly I have had revealed to me through the grace of God that a significant furthering of Christianity can be the result of the rediscovery of the tentmaking and self supporting ministry of the Apostle. The way some churches of Christ have fallen, spiritual men and women making their own way will be better off economically free of a fat cat church bureaucracy largely out of touch with the reality of Christ.
The Greek word “Ekklesia” in the New Testament that is translated as “church” is confusing. “Ekklesia” would be better translated as a “gathering” and an informal gathering, an assemblage. To give Biblical Christianity to the world what is needed are witnessing tentmaker ministers talking to informal gatherings, giving their hearers, empowering their hearers with Christ, whose Spirit walks the earth.
Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.