I’m a firm believer that if you don’t have so much real dairy butter and jam, preserves or honey that it’s dripping off your buttermilk biscuit and on to your plate or your lap, you’re doing it wrong.
My goal is for that to be as far as I will go about things that I tell people they’re doing wrong when they’re doing their best to be doing it right.
You don’t have to cruise the ‘net very long to see that one of the worst problems in posting society is that we all think we’re experts on pretty much everything and it’s our right and duty to tell everyone else that they’re doing it wrong.
Especially in matters concerning church.
If others aren’t doing church the way we’re doing church, and have always done church, and the way we’re daggum sure they did it in the first century anno domini, then they’re doing it wrong.
And I’m afraid I am no exception.
But what if we are doing it wrong? Or, not so much wrong, as just … poorly? inefficiently? in a badly organized, overly organizational, super-institutional-and-democratic way?
Do we really need to grow into mega-churches? with huge fulltime staffs and preaching ministers and boards of elders and passels of deacons?
Or do churches just need servants of Jesus Christ?
Could we avoid a lot of heartache and heartbreak over hiring, firing, salary, benefits, office space, governance, authority, ego and id … if we all ministered? If our ministers all had fulltime jobs and careers, where they witnessed for Christ daily, and all of our members were ministers?
I don’t know if it would work everywhere, or even could anymore. We have centuries of tradition with hierarchies of leadership and professional ministry and authority roles and authority games and authority divisions and church divisions and legislation of rules and breaking of rules and breaking of hearts — including God’s.
How could we possibly consider giving up such a long and rich tradition?
We’re doing church right, aren’t we?
Then why ain’t it working?
No, maybe the small-and-humble way doesn’t work and wouldn’t work. Now. Everywhere.
But I know it works in the little church family with whom I worship. They have a church building (actually, they’ve been deeded at least a couple of others in other towns that have ceased meeting). They have four deacons, who oversee certain areas of service.
No budget to speak of.
No paid fulltime minister.
The preaching still gets done. The Sunday school classes get taught. And everyone looks after everyone else; everyone is a shepherd for everyone else.
Missionaries are supported. People in need of prayer are prayed for, with bold and powerful prayers. Rides are provided for those who can’t or don’t drive. The sick are visited. Those in need are provided for, sometimes with affordable housing.
And a year ago, as my dear wife Angi lay dying, my little church family saw to it that we were going to be moved into a beautifully-renovated house that I would be able to afford, and where we had hoped she could convalesce and get around more easily.
Maybe we’re an anomaly. Maybe it wouldn’t work now, and everywhere.
But there’s a good chance that it did, maybe for many years, in that legendary first century — where only two instructions are given about elders among all those epistles to different churches in different cities. And nothing was ever said about ministers who were paid to stay at a church and do the work that the members should be doing, or about elders hiring and firing them, or about finances and ownership of buildings.
Maybe the way it’s generally done today is fine.
Is it working?
Is it bringing people closer to Christ?
Is it growing the kingdom in quality as well as quantity?
Or is it just the comfortable last bastion of defense for the status quo and for generations of conviction that we’ve always done it the right way as long as anyone can remember ….
… until they read the scriptures, and there it is?