You Are Doing It Wrong

A little more social science…

It is utterly impossible for a congregation of several hundred or more to worship together without squelching the blessings and opportunities of the majority of people there. I have run into this time and time again in institutional churches. The needs of the hierarchy and their institutional plans outweigh the needs of every individual in the place. Furthermore, there is a major conflict between the needs of the institution and the needs of those in the pews. The only way the institution can prosper is by spiritual oppression, crushing the moral health of the individual. The blessings of giving people more room to hear God and act on their calling far, far outweigh the pitiful thin “blessings” the institution claims to offer.

Everything you see in churches today comes from a specific historical thrust to govern on a human level from within human capabilities. Read that again. The whole system is designed specifically to dehumanize everything about the experience. It turns the governing rules into a false god. It removes people from the process, and makes them merely the subjects of the process. The idea of “rule of law” is a blasphemous rejection of Christ. It has to be personal or He’s not involved.

We have never seen a New Testament church body in the West. You may imagine that my crabbiness about feudal tribalism is just an obsession with rules and some imaginary golden age, but you would be wrong. The one and only means for keeping proper order in a church meeting is that some person is in charge, that the meeting itself is in their personal domain. That’s where elders came from in the New Testament: It was someone who had recognized ownership of the facilities. You were there as a guest, and you had better behave yourself. Personal feudal ownership is the only God-ordained means of keeping order.

It’s not that you can’t expect individuals to sacrifice some of their personal inclinations for the good of the household. The issue is how and why those sacrifices are made. It must stand on the grounds of people bringing their individual God-given dominion to the meeting and setting aside their privileges in order to be together as family. They must come together fully conscious of those privileges, and know when to assert them by withdrawing assent in one degree or another. Then it falls to the host to determine when something crosses the line, in which the dissenter is already schooled in deciding their justified response.

Modern Western church structure disembowels the whole thing by denying everyone any dominion at all, as if God should not be allowed to work that way. So everyone is herded willy-nilly into one pool as mindless supporters who will uniformly jump when commanded by someone who has neither God’s nor the individual’s best interests at heart. The leadership assert the lie that the interests of the institution are the interests of God and the individual. Actually, everything the leadership does is in their own interests, as if somehow calling it “church” sanctifies their interests. It’s all professional, you see? It dehumanizes the church leadership, too.

By combining the roles of elder and priest into one as “pastor,” the modern Western church skewers the biblical model of the Two Witnesses — elder and priest working together. It is the very likelihood of conflict between those two figures that makes this model holy. It’s not a question of what they can accomplish, but how they relate that manifests divine glory.

There is nothing — nothing — sinful about human conflict in itself. Biblical Law assumes conflict is not just inevitable, but necessary. If the whole image of the Fall and the necessity of divine revelation for living as fallen creatures is to have any meaning, then conflict must exist. Without it, someone is being fake with God and with their brothers and sisters. The issue is how we handle conflict. The whole point about communion and fellowship is divine justice within conflict. Without the conflict, God’s divine moral character cannot be revealed.

That’s because the only way there can be no conflict is by someone being spiritually dead and unable to hear the Lord. Don’t project your sense of logical order on God. He does indeed fill His children with conflicting demands, and does it on purpose. This life is a lie; we must see that. This crap about how God must surely be efficient with His provision is a blasphemous insult. He is extravagant and provides more than we could possibly use. However, that generous supply is locked behind the door to understanding that conflict is essential, because the one place where His glory shines brightest is in how His children love each other and overcome their differences.

Divine “personnel management” includes moving some of His servants around when the demands He fires in their hearts requires them to move on from this or that congregation to another mission. Did not Paul argue with the prophets who warned of his arrest in Jerusalem? He had a divine mission to face that persecution. The churches along way had a strong need to protect him. It was an argument, and there was no way both sides could win. So it is with some of God’s servants today; sometimes He drives them with a mission that is wholly incompatible with what the congregation is doing. The Lord spoke to the congregations through their failure to change Paul’s intentions.

This goes back to my criticism of the notion that outcomes matter. Churches aren’t supposed to accomplish anything. They simply exist, and their existence presumes a tension that cannot be resolved until Christ returns. It’s all about the process, not the product.

If we don’t stop reading our Western secular obsessions back into the Word, we can never hope to understand what the gospel message is, and what it should do in our world. This much is plainly visible from a system analysis perspective. If your model is broken, reexamine the underlying assumptions. Mainstream Western assumptions that churches are supposed to be institutions with concrete goals executed with an eye to resource efficiency have done tremendous violence to the gospel message.

About Ed Hurst

Avid cyclist, Disabled Veteran, Bible History teacher, and wannabe writer; retired.
This entry was posted in social sciences and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to You Are Doing It Wrong

  1. feeriker says:

    Beautifully written, Ed, and, dare I say it, something that should be mandatory reading for every church attendee, churchian or Christian, in America today. “Professional Christians;” otherwise known as “pastors,” or “priests,” would certainly attack it, as it represents a direct threat to their own selfish (and Godless) interests, but the truth behind it is clear and undeniable. Indeed, the fact that “churches” as they are now constituted are suffering the decline that they are, a decline aggravated and accelerated by the temporal COVIDIOCY to which they’ve succumbed, serves as positive evidence of it.


  2. Jay DiNitto says:

    “Churches aren’t supposed to accomplish anything.”

    I want to link the “churches need to do/perform x” back to the Protestant work ethic directly, but its pedigree goes further back, for sure.


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