It’s times like these that the Church should burn bright with hope and manifest the Glory of God. But how do Christians do that during a pandemic?
Recently, I read a blog post written by charismatic evangelist and author John Burton. John is frequently interviewed by Christian publications and is part of the prophetic movement. I am a subscribed reader of John’s posts and I think many of his articles hit home on the spiritual apathy found in most Christians in our culture. I also wholeheartedly agree with John that the view toward sin in our society has become dangerous.
However, in one of his recent posts, I found myself disagreeing with John, not on the fact Christians need to exhibit Holy Spirit filled type of faith during the Coronavirus crisis, but it was the fact that the Coronavirus has acted as some type of catalyst in our culture to make people ridicule the church since many churches are cancelling services.
Is this showing a lack of faith among Christians? Maybe so. I don’t argue that’s a good possibility, but here’s the thing. Even if John is right about this, it’s the proverbial last nail in the coffin. The previous nails have long been driven into the dreary, faithless casket of a long dead, institutional church. The Coronavirus might be killing the church physically with eventual bankruptcy, but the institutional church has long been dead.
There are 3 key reasons why the institutional church is dead today.
1. The institutional church today is a business and does not serve the purposes of God’s kingdom, but rather materialism and worldliness. All institutional churches are incorporated and have employees. This makes their main purpose to increase their revenues through tithing in order to pay the salaries of professional pastors and staffers. All decisions eventually revolve around this purpose. As a result, bad behavior wins the day as the church surrenders itself to worldly desires. I would bet that as this crisis continues the desperation with which pastors will put pressure on their congregations to give money to stay open will be immense, even while most of these parishioners have just been laid off from their jobs. In times like this, I hope both the staffs of these churches and their congregations see the folly of their big building and overwhelming expenses.
2. The institutional church structure does not follow the biblical pattern of the church in the New Testament. 1 Corinthians 3:9-16 says, “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.” Paid pastors, large expensive buildings, selfish programs for the congregation, and very little fruit to show for it are all materials that will burn up in the end. In the real Church, biblical structure is followed. There are no professionals, but all of God’s people make up the parts of the body and everyone uses their gifts for the building up of the church. The only people that should be given gifts and money are those who travel to spread the gospel. This is the New Testament pattern.
3. The institutional church permits sin in the church. Oh sure, some churches hold out against trying to completely look like the world by appeasing the homosexual community, but that is changing fast. Many churches are adopting an accepting attitude towards sin at a rapid pace not seen before. Not 2 miles from my house is a church sign that says, “All are welcome”. In the early church, the gatherings were for the believers and it was the responsibility of the church to send some out to spread the gospel to create more believers. But unbelievers were never permitted into the communion and gatherings of the believers. Today, institutional churches are overrun with unbelievers. All the while the professional, and paid, pastors think it’s cool. Why? Because allowing this increases the money coming into the church for bigger salaries and bigger buildings.
I could continue on about things that need to change in institutional churches, but I’m not sure if the effort is worth it. Time might be better spent acknowledging there are true believers operating in their communities, outside of institutional churches, that are really building the kingdom of God. Look at the Samaritan’s Purse that just set up a hospital in Central Park, NYC to help treat Coronavirus patients. This is true Christianity in action. In my own community, there are church services at truck stops, homeless ministries, and church plants in low income neighborhoods. These are all being blessed in many ways by God, and none of it was done by an institutional church. In fact, the amount of giving to the community by these so called churches gets less and less every year. In the current situation, it would not surprise me if they have stopped all giving.
So no, I don’t think our culture is making fun of true Christianity. I think it is making fun of the selfish, materialistic, businesses that masquerade as churches. It needs to change. Pastors need to get jobs and become productive members of their community, all the buildings need to be sold and the money given to those that need it, and congregants need to stop putting their faith into people that call themselves “professional this” and “professional that” because what’s happening is the Body of Christ is not hearing from God because of the noise these fakers create.
Now is a time like never before. There is a golden opportunity for people to reclaim their faith or maybe even truly find genuine faith to begin with. The kingdom awaits…