Tag Archives: Church as body of Christ

Crazy Churches!!

One of the things that Jesus was accused of was being crazy. Here was a homeless, self-made rabbi from Nazareth, with no authentic credentials from a Rabbinic school, who  was challenging the religious leaders by his actions that flaunted the laws of the Torah by reaping on the Sabbath and healing the sick on the Sabbath.   This man was  advocating for the poor by speaking against the economic domination of the poor by the rich in his society.      He was touching the “untouchable lepers” and healing them.  He was restoring sight to the blind. He was referring to himself as Son of God, which was one of the specific titles of the Roman Emperor.   He was healing people and casting out demons and talking about a Kingdom of God that he taught and modeled in his life.  That Kingdom of God  was completely different from the present conditions—it was  ruled by God and not by the emperor or king.  And the Kingdom of God was one of justice and fairness to all.    I really believe if Jesus came and  said and did similar things today in our world we would think he was crazy also.   You see, when anyone is truly filled with the Spirit of God as Jesus was, they will always disturb and disrupt our sane and structured world by their words and actions.   Jesus was filled with the Spirit and he did exactly that!

By what he said and by his actions Jesus was drawing an uncomfortable amount of attention to himself.   As a result,  two groups —those closest to him (his family) — and those most threatened by him (scribes and Pharisees)  began to ask the same question:   “Is this guy crazy?”  “Has he lost his mind?”   In the third chapter of Mark we read  that  Jesus’ family showed up while he was teaching large crowds and asked to see him.   They had come seeking “to restrain him, for people were saying ‘he’s gone out of his mind!'”   (Mark 3:21)

The other group, the scribes and Pharisees accused him of being demon-possessed and doing his work through the prince of demons—Beelzebul.   In their minds he was crazy and dangerous and should be put away.

It makes me wonder what would happen if the church, referred to as the “body of Christ”  by the Apostle Paul would go “crazy” like the one who is their head—Jesus the Christ?    And then I ask myself—-what would that “crazy church look like?”    What if the church today embraced the craziness of the gospel as shown in the life and teachings of Jesus?   What if,  rather than worrying about fitting in with the society they are apart of, the church didn’t care what society thought of them and instead were bearers of the message that Jesus brought through their actions?   What would that church look like?

What if some of the churches sold their beautiful buildings and sound and projection equipment, their comfortable air conditioning and heat, and their padded pews and utilized  the money to aid the poor, to minister to the sick and outcasts of society,  as Jesus did to his own society.   What if churches began to meet in   old buildings downtown that were vacant so that they could encourage each other and spend their time serving the homeless, the poor, etc instead of spending their time keeping up their building and paying huge utility bills?    Crazy!!!

What if the church started ministries that did more than entertain the children and educate the adults, but that pursued the prostitutes and help them out of their business by working with them to rid themselves of their addictions.  What if the church focused on rescuing addicts with no regard for their own church’s reputation?    Crazy!!!!

What if the church used their buildings and moneys to feed and house the homeless,  to offer clothing to the poor,  to provide dental and medical care to those who can’t afford it?      Crazy!!!

What if the church became politically active and demanded changes in the economic and political domination systems of our day, where the few dominate the many economically and politically.   What if churches descended on legislatures en masse  at state and national levels and demanded specific justice and fairness for all and not just for the privileged few?   What if the church demanded new laws that paid workers a living wage as a minimum wage?   What if the churches demanded that laws  treat the indigent with respect?     Crazy!!!

What if the church sent its members out into the community to pick up and bring to the church for worship those wandering the streets in their city on Sunday morning?  What if they gave them a special place down front, and then  invited them to their individual homes for dinner after church? Or to a fellowship dinner at their church?    Crazy!!!

If churches started doing the above, our society would think they were “out of their minds”, “crazy”  and just plain nuts!    May God give the church the will to be as crazy as Christ!!   Amen

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Being a Church Member

 

Are you a member of our church?   Have you “joined” our church?   Before you answer the question I want to share Donald T. Williams definition of “Member” in his Devil’s Dictionary of the Christian Faith:    “Member (n.) One of the individuals who allegedly make up the roster of a given Congregation (q.v.)  Less than one half of them can usually be found or accounted for.”    A  Congregation, according to Williams is:  ” church-speak for Audience; those who show up for the entertainment offered on any given Sunday.”   Note well that in neither of these definition does the word “Christian”, or “disciple of Jesus”, or “followers of Jesus on the Way” show up.   Nope—just “member”.

While William’s definitions are  obviously a “tongue-in-cheek” way of poking fun at churches who are a little too proud of the large number on their membership rolls; there is more truth in the above definitions  than we would like to think.  There are many on our church rosters who are not followers of Jesus nor Christians in any sense of the word. They are ones who “joined the church” , were baptized, etc. and went through the expected rituals, and then left and will never be seen again—-until they or a loved one are diagnosed with a terminal disease, or die unexpectedly.   Then they or their families will expect the pastor of the church they “joined” to give them solace and hold their funerals.   Many times as a pastor I was taken by surprise to read in an obituary that someone I had neither seen nor heard of  was a member of my church!

That’s been the perennial problem caused by the idea of  church membership.   Church membership seems to mislead people into thinking that becoming a church members makes them a Christian!.    It may well be—but it may not, also!

Another aspect of this perennial problem with “church membership”  is that it leads  people to think that they are  “in” and those who are not “members” are “out.”   This type of exclusivity is not Christian.   It is not what Jesus taught nor the way he ministered.   Surely anyone who has read a Gospel knows that the poor, the vulnerable, the blind, the leper, the victimized were the ones for which he showed priority concern.  Never once did he say, you have to join my church to be my follower.  No, you just followed him and modeled your life after him and his teachings.  That’s what made you Jesus’ disciple.

   Church membership as required  is not what Paul wrote about.  True, he founded churches so that they could mutually sustain each other in the midst of persecution.  I believe Paul would say that church membership alone is just a variant of  the old temple-system of Jesus time revived with its Court of the Gentiles, Court of the Women, Court of the Jews and the Holy of Holies that only priests could enter.   One of the reasons Jesus attacked that system was its exclusivity.    Paul likewise criticized in his teachings and his ministry those who tried to make Christianity exclusive—e.g. those who said you must become a good Jew and observe the Jewish Torah and customs, including food customs and male circumcision,   before you can be a Christian.  Paul wrote that  God gives his saving Love and Grace to all—not just to those who have their names on church rolls.

“Membership” is good if it unites people in the body of Christ (the words used by Paul to describe the church) and therefore enables them as the body of Christ to do things that a single individual could not do in serving God and walking in “The Way”.    Its the actions of  all the individuals that make up the body  that show they are followers of Christ—not their individual name on a membership roster of a church.

Who cares if you are a “member of the church”?    That’s not the question.   A better question to ask is “Are you walking with Jesus on the Way?”