Saturday, October 21, 2006

Tear it down and I will rebuild it in 3 days: Changing the Status Quo

Lately I have had the chance to review the aspects of the church I have problems with, in talking with friends and counter-parts. I have come to sincerely realize the church 'doesn't think it has a structural problem' or it goes unrecognized. Which is hard to ignore when I read plenty of bloggers and their absolute dismay with the current affairs of the church. Some say 'you shouldn't care' while others think 'it is unchangeable'. But I find it hard to watch an institution that I both love and care about lose some of the original focus of the gospels, which are the greatest teachings I have ever read. So the real question I pose is 'can the church be changed?'.

1. The Structure of the Church

Here is the structure laid out: Power people (Pastors, teachers, church board, elders, musicians), the show (worship, offerings, testimonies, message from head guy, and possibly some prayer for you), and the audience (congregation). The role of the whole thing is draw you closer to God whether that be in a 'sinner's prayer', some worship, learning from ideas of the speaker, or some ministering towards you (ex: praying over you + the laying on of hands). This is the daily service in a nutshell. The church also asks for your money (standard rule being 10%) for which they use for the ministries they have which might include missions, sunday school, local charities, bible college or a school, pastor's salary, new equipment for the band, additions to the building, etc. This is basically how it looks to the people that are 'in the know'. Can that be changed or better yet, should it?

2. The Problem with trying to change it (credibility)

You see it is okay to have questions about your faith (just don't doubt) but to have questions about the affairs of the church may be as 'taboo' as asking if God is a 'woman' during a Sunday Service. The problem lies in the fact you have no credibility unless you are the 'power people', hang out with the 'power people', or have some pull with them (ex: a family member). So if you have no credibility with that crowd then you are 'out of luck' in trying to make any changes whatsoever. If you a simple 'audience' person well you count for very little in their midst since you have no 'sway' with the power people nor do you have an active place to voice concerns. There is no credible people outside the 'power people', since they carry the doctrines of God and apparently live them out better then the audience (thus they have the right to minister these ideals to you). If you do have questions and want to make a change then you best be approaching the 'power people' and relating your ideas...nothing might happen but this is the correct procedure. So even if you have, well let's say, 2 degree's (one a bachelor of theology) and a wealth of great ideas to use you still are sub-servient to the leaders and your ideas are not valid since they never came from the minds of the enlightened 'power people' of the church...maybe they feel slighted by the fact you have these ideas in the first place and they cannot be shown to be 'behind the times' (lest someone question their position of power).

3. The absurd reality: we are all equals

The really weird thing about this whole structure is that we are all equal and no one has more power than the next dude. Nowhere in the bible is someone ever deemed as more powerful than others nor is this structure taught as gospel truth (it's actually not even mentioned in there so we have to find it on a blog). Music is never mentioned as part of the faith, although it is fun, nor is the importance of buildings as the place to meet God. But still the status quo will not be changed unless you know the 'power people' (who have no power except that they have from a denomination bestowed upon them - ex: accreditation). Then how do you personally change the structure, you go around their rules and do it yourself (a lone wolf so to speak).

4. Tear this building down

If you want to change the structure of the church you are in there are some easy steps to follow in the process. First, deny the right of the 'power people' to determine your faith - I know it's absurd but this is where to start. The 'power people' are just as human as you and I and make mistakes and some are paid by the structure (with respect) to uphold it...so they are kind of compromised in that regards. Secondly, don't doubt your ideas if the ideas are biblical. Just because some 'power person' says they are not, you already know they are trying to uphold their beautiful traditions and will not move to the left or right for you (you are a peon and have no power anyways so 'it's in one ear and out the other'). Thirdly, go about it for yourself and don't let the church decide if it is 'ministry worthy'. You won't have access to the money they have, nor the resources they have, but that is half the battle and something you can do nothing to change. Best thing to do is ignore their ministry lines and do you own thing without their blessings. Fourthly, rally the people to support your endeavor (obviously from the audience) and offer them a way to do something meaningful besides watching the show. They will be your support group and where your resources will come from. Once they feel empowered the 'power people' will not be able to break you down (they like to single out lone wolves). Lastly, be prepared for the worst. You will be denied by the church, you will be called all 'evil things', your reputation will become useless, you will be judged harshly, and in the end you will be an 'outcast'. But that's what you get for trying to change the structure and have no 'power' to do so. These same ideals got Jesus killed in his day, so I say be prepared for the worst.

So I personally believe the church structure can be changed and the focus they have can be altered. I don't think the church is beyond hope in this regard but it is quite the challenge. The 'old dogs' won't let their guard down too quickly and there bark is worse than their bite. Still, if you see problems in your church and want a change, well here's a model to use. At some point the 'old dogs' will fade away and their upheld traditions will fade with them, have some patience. If you are blessed enough the 'old dogs' might even support your idea, which feels great. Why do I say wait it out? Well, I don't agree with church shopping and if you are in a congregation why should you leave to get what you need? That seems divisive to me and further supports their irresponsibility as change agents in society. The adamant question is 'does it work'? Well I don't know but it seems like someone else did this in His day.

15 comments:

chris said...

It's crazy isn't it? But the Church has actually become a business. All the things you spoke of are happening in real time in my local congregation. We have the power people (people with the money) and they pretty much call the shots. I never really paid that much attention to it until just recently. But it is there, and it is ugly!

BruceD said...

All good points!

I'm not sure I'd "tear the buildings down", though. I think I'd rather see them all turned into homeless shelters. Then, the congregation could gather every Sunday morning and feed and bathe the homeless... and show them the love of the Father. I think nothing would please God more.

;-)

SocietyVs said...

Bruced, you genius! I am down with that plan.

Scott said...

I like the plan, including Bruce's modification. I'm not sure how effective it will be but for those who want to change it, it's a great place to start. What about those of us who don't want to changes it but just leave it and start from scratch? Any suggestions?

SocietyVs said...

Well Steve starting from scratch is what churches do when they are dissatisified with the 'status quo', so they leave and start another church...which to me defeats the purpose of keeping the structure responsible.

Diana said...

I once read an article that said "If all of the church property in America were sold for market value, we could feed the poor all over the world for years." There is no way to prove that thought, but it is provoking.

As praise bands work to perfect their emotion driven music, there is a greater need for better sound equipment and video enhancement to keep the hype (they call worship) up. This comes from someone who once was head of a worship team. It takes a lot of money to deceive people into thinking they are reaching a new spiritual level.

Scott said...

Svs, I do not want to start a new church. I just want to start my faith from scratch.

I agree that starting a new 'church' would not hold the existing structure accountable. But, I'm not sure that's a good tactic either. I seriously doubt it will ever change. The best we can hope is that it will just wither away.

SocietyVs said...

Scott your quite the pessimist, and I may agree that it won't change since it is so rooted in cultural traditions. Still I think they have to be challenged from the inside-out and I see no problem with asking them the tough questions about 'what does church even mean?" and 'what's the point of me being here?". Questions they never ask themselves as a corporate structure...which is also worth realizing the church exists not just for the 'power people' but for all of us and I see that I have just as much say in the direction as the next person (so I do voice my concerns).

The withering thing, well I hope it changes not disappears.

SteveW said...

I think of how confusing the Christian church has become. Babylon means confusion.

A guy named Jeremiah once wrote....

Babylon has been a golden cup in the hand of the LORD, Intoxicating all the earth. The nations have drunk of her wine; Therefore the nations are going mad. Suddenly Babylon has fallen and been broken; Wail over her! Bring balm for her pain; Perhaps she may be healed. We applied healing to Babylon, but she was not healed; Forsake her and let us each go to his own country, For her judgment has reached to heaven And towers up to the very skies.
(Jer 51:7-9 NASB)

"We applied healing to Babylon, but she was not healed."

Interesting. Maybe it is just talking about the Babylon of Jeremiahs day. Maybe not.

Scott said...

Svs, you are right, I have a tendency towards pessimism. Nevertheless, here is my way of thinking about the church, going back, and trying to change it. Now, I’m not saying my interpretation is correct. In fact, I hope it is wrong in some way but here it is.

The church holds scripture in the highest regard and as the ultimate authority.

The church’s understanding and interpretation of the scriptures are based on centuries of tradition and practice.

The church uses this self-defined interpretation to justify it's existence.

When the church is criticized, it defers to its own understanding of scripture for justification.

The position that we are advocating is, quite frankly, not in line with the traditional understanding of scripture. It is a mere whisper of something great and wonderful that is never fully explicated in the text.

If we try to refute the church’s current method, message, or very existence with scripture, it will only listen to its own understanding of the verses in scripture. The church then says that we are taking scripture out of context, not interpreting scripture light of its full meaning, or just flat out wrong in our understanding.

We have no ground to stand on for a rational argument in the church.

We could then say, but God's spirit speaks to us and tells us of this wonderful grace (a position I truly believe) and all that we can hope for is that God's spirit will speak to them as well (a hope of mine).

However, if you try to use your individual experience as rational for a position in the church, you will be laughed at...Again, no ground to stand on.

Svs, I hate that I think like this but I’m afraid in an institution so stuck on itself as the church the usual methods will not work. So, I am at a loss for where to go next.

SocietyVs said...

Scott, it's the credibility factor which you speak of in your reply, basically we have no credibility in the church 'eyes' (in light of their interpretations). However, I don't think that should stop anyone from keeping their local church honest and real...I figure you are as much a member as the next person (a sort of democracy idea)...so as long as you see that your voice means as much...it will (believing makes things real which start as ideas).

But I am well aware of how hard this is, being alone in a struggle vs. a whole structure (including all those people in charge). But I always think of the Prophets who were hated for bringing something new and refreshing to the people of Israel, they were considered right later on but during their time they were despised as false...what makes me think (according to Jesus' own words) that this will be any different for us who challenge a system that despises our voice (when approaching the truth and challenging structure/traditions)? 'No one said it would be easy'.

I rounded up a group of people to help in my endeavors, from within a church (including a Pastor) so we can help the poor and make church a wothwhile endeavor...meaning something. The people that joined me were family members and I have found it tough sledding in other churches (they like the idea but that's where the revolution ends). I admit the battle against old teachings and tradition is where the heart of this matter lies and the 'old dog' will not let go easy...they really believe they are right. But if we don't challenge it then ask yourself this 'who will'?

Soul Food Dude said...

I think you're onto something here.

Jathan

Franklin Ledgerwood said...

How's it going society?? I just thought I'd drop by and say Hi.

SocietyVs said...

Young Ledgerwood, you are a good man and I am glad to be blogging with you...I am fine.

BrotherKen said...

Hey all, I am new around here. I quit attending church about 2 years ago. I was frustrated for years and then really found out how far off the churches of today are. A friend of mine got me started on an course that is called the "The Damascus Road Ministry School". The course is more of a string of sermons by Rick Johnson, a powerful US preacher, as well as some other prescribed books. I have not finished the course, it got too intense for me. But what I did learn quite convincingly is that we cannot be part of the useless and weak system they call church nowadays. He lays it out in spades how the system is corrupt and he knows from first-hand experience - he was one of them. He tried to do exactly what you are trying to do now, change it from within. Not able to get any results he started up the Ministry School to get other groups going in the right direction.

SVS, it seems to me that you are really doing something here. If you would like to see if this course might be useful, I have a couple of videos and books if you wish to check it out. You can also check it out at my friends website. He has since become ordained, has a group in Humboldt and is the Canadian distributor for the course. If you decide you would like to take the course, I will go through it with you, I think I am ready to get a bit more serious about doing something about this mess we call church. See www.undertheson.com - Ministry School link.

Also, SVS and the rest of you here have prompted me to start my own BLOG. Please check it out at christianchurchreform.blogspot.com