One of the oft-used buzzwords of the current presidential campaign is "change." It seems everyone in the country who is concerned about the economy, national security, the war, and the present state of the political world is calling for fundamental change in the way our country lives and is led.
I think the word "change" also resonates with many of us across the country who desire to be fully-devoted followers of Christ, a Biblically-functioning body, and the "light of the world" that he promised we would be. I've been astonished (though not entirely surprised) by the major churches in our city (Columbus, GA) that are undergoing a slow-motion implosion. In the year that we've been back in this area we've seen three of the largest, most popular churches in our city end up in the newspaper because of scandal or upheaval. Today Cascade Hills Baptist Church, which is the largest church in the city, appeared on the front page of the Ledger-Enquirer for the second time in a few months. The first story, late last year, centered around the church acquiring the assistance of a judge in an attempt to force Yahoo to release the identities of church members who had sent e-mails in which they expressed disagreement with the change in leadership structure. That change essentially silenced the congregation and made a few men (who are some of the wealthiest in Columbus) the final, absolute arbiters of all church matters.
In all three of the major church upheavals (not to mention several less publicized ones) the issues have all stemmed out of the "business" or "leadership authority" of the church. As I've read the comments made by Columbus citizens on the Ledger-Enquirer website in response to today's story, I can't help but wonder if the time is drawing near for a fundamental change in the way the church of Jesus Christ lives, leads, and loves. My curiosity is further stirred by more national issues regarding the church, like the congressional investigations into the financial dealings of mega-churches, the public failing of prominent "Christian leaders," and the dramatic exodus of people from the established church all across the country.
I wonder if the time is drawing near for a new (yet ancient) way of life for the people who belong to Christ and exist as "The Church."
I wonder if it's time to return to the notion that all Christians are priests in the "priesthood of believers" with each of us being active participants in "the church."
I wonder if it's time to return to the notion that apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are called to a life of serving the body and equipping THEM to minister to one another and the world instead of the current system in which apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers do ministry TO the body for a fee (often one that exceeds the average income of most families).
I wonder if it's time to return to the notion that the building, campus, and assets are not "the church," the people are the church, and the church can be the church (probably even more faithfully) without buildings, campuses, and assets.
I wonder if it's time to return to the notion that Christians give their "tithes" and offerings so that the poor, widows, and orphans will be cared for and the Gospel will be carried into unreached cultures.
I wonder if it's time to return to the notion that church gatherings should center around life together as followers of Christ on mission to the world, instead of expensive one-hour performances observed by an audience, recorded, and packaged to sell for a profit.
Could the time be drawing near here in Columbus and across the world for an outright revolution in which the false church system crumbles and the true followers of Christ emerge to rebuild The Church as she was meant to be with Christ as the head and every believer a life-giving priest who illuminates the world with the light, love, and kindness of God?