Thursday, November 3, 2011

Abducting Jesus (9) - "Calling the Qualified"

My contention with this topic is that maybe the Church has the whole idea of discipleship all messed up! Now, that's quite a claim to say that the institution over a certain business has that very business wrong, but over the past few years I believe that is the conclusion at which I have arrived. And like the other areas, this one goes a long way in hiding Jesus from people. The abduction of Jesus has happened right under our noses with our main "business," how we make disciples.

Some observations about how we do things now:

(1) Our current training (aka. "spiritual growth" or "discipleship") models teach people to keep coming back for more. The Church implicitly, or even explicitly, tells its members to keep attending classes, youth group meetings, Sunday School, seminars, workshops, programs, etc. if they want to "grow spiritually." I know in my church I even taught a progression (the famous Purpose-Driven model from Rick Warren) in the spiritual life in which one moves from just a believer to a disciple to a minister to a missionary. After reading the Scriptures with a new perspective over the past couple years, I wonder where did we ever get some of this stuff?!?!

(2) Many churches keep the people dependent upon the pastors or other church leaders for their instruction. Most Christians in America actually believe that going to church is a key to their spiritual growth. They talk about "getting a lot out of" the sermons (whatever that means since research consistently shows that most people leaving a service can't even tell you what the sermon was about!) or needing the worship service to "get through" the rest of the week. In fact, I heard these very comments just this weekend from friends of mine. The scary part is just how unbiblical these concepts are without anybody even noticing or caring!

(3) Now for the most controversial and offensive claim I will make here. Based on my observations, the reasons for the first two points are power and paychecks. The simple fact of the matter, regardless of what anyone says, is that most churches in America are simple businesses. They are organizations that enjoy 501c3 non-profit, tax-exempt status, full with boards, staffs, and budgets...and they act accordingly. They are in the job of running businesses. This is a plain and simple fact! This means that, like any other company, the "bottom line" to stay in "business" is having money and customers. This is why many churches are driven to keep people coming back for more. It is the only way pastors receive salaries and utilities get paid. Period! It has to be that way.
(4) There is another reason why things are the way they are. It is what people believe is right. Many people have spent so long in a system that promotes this kind of discipleship that they simply think it must be the right thing to do. I don't question the motives of many laypeople or pastors. They genuinely believe that God wants them to preach sermons, plan services, go to church, attend classes and Bible studies, and on and on, all toward the aim of growing closer to Him. Most churchgoers really believe that pastors know the Bible better than they do, that trained evangelists are better at leading people to Christ than they are, and that Sunday School teachers/children's church leaders/youth pastors are best equipped to guide the next generation in issues of faith. I believed all this once too. People really think there is something to all this training, seminary education, ordination, and professional conference stuff that goes on. We have bought into the idea - a frighteningly false one - that these people are learning to be better Christians than all the rest of us.
Our next post will look at things from a different point of view, that of Scripture.

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