Here’s the deal…
We live in a culture with an excess of churches – with new ones starting up and old ones closing their doors each and every week. A large portion of these congregations are vibrant and thriving, yet far too many fall into one of two extremes which has become quite typical of the western church. One extreme is dead and dying; the other extreme is gimmicky and goofy. And these two extremes usually follow one of three distinct organizational structures: The Corporation, The Cult, and The Co-Op – and these three structures can be found in either of the two extremes.
The Corporation Church is run like every other big business in the U.S.A. It has a Type A Senior Pastor who steers the ship where he wants it to go with all the normal business functions of branding, budgeting, and boasting found in every corporation. Under the Senior Pastor is a plethora of “yes”- men and women who pacify the Senior Pastor’s ego and together form their own “Board of Directors” consisting of subordinate pastors, elders, deacons, and coordinators who develop protective cliques in order protect their positions and promote their programs – most of which are foolish, frivolous, and fruitless in their efforts to develop people who display Christ in their lives and relationship.
The Cult Church emerges from a particular charismatic, ego-centric personality who is able to coerce and convince others to follow his/her agenda – usually promoting it as something new, novel, and necessary. He/She is often a self-proclaimed prophet, apostle, evangelist, or healer who is somehow able to make some people buy into his/her means, methods, and manipulations.
The Co-Op Church is usually formed by a group of dis-grunted church-goers who are fed-up with the bureaucracy and/or rigidity found in many current religious denominations and congregations, who break away and form their own “house-church” which then grows over time and becomes another local congregation of its own. The Co-Op Church is led by lay-people at first, but then they who assign one of their group as their pastor, after he/she gets a on-line, mail-order ordination certificate. Soon thereafter, they become a Corporation Church or a Cult Church depending upon their pastor’s leading style.
For the most part, irregardless of structure, the Church in the United States has become small, shallow, and weak in the impact and influence it havs upon the culture. The Book of Revelation describes seven distinct local congregations (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea) and the specific positive and problem areas that were keeping them from experiencing common union (communion) with Christ and communion unity (community) with one another. Maybe we can learn a few things from them to help us continue our reformation efforts and begin to love and life more like Jesus. For here are some of the results of the no salt, no light form of Church we are today:
- It is a Church that is small in love for Jesus and one another; but is large in its love for itself and the self-promotion of its personalities, properties, and programs. (Ephesus)
- It is a Church that is shallow in it’s understanding that suffering with and for Christ is a very normal and expected part of being a Jesus follower; but is deep in making it’s style of Christianity comfortable, convenient, and compliant in every way, shape, and form by attempting to make everyone (but GOD) happy and promoting Christianity as all fun and games. (Smyrna)
- It is a Church that is weak in regards to what it will tolerate when it comes to “acceptable sins” such as the three G’s of greed, gluttony, and gossiping, as well as heterosexual sex outside of marriage; but is strong in standing against the sins which it deems to be the worst on the list such as homosexuality, abortion, and other societal crimes. (Pergamum)
- It is a Church that is small in Godly, Biblical leadership as many congregations seek Type A personalities to pastor their church; but is large in giving preferences – and even positions of leadership – to people just because they are wealthy, beautiful, powerful, influential, and/or persuasive, and who infect the body with false teachings and practices. The problem with this is that a good Shepherd, must first and foremost be a good follower of Jesus; and most corporate CEOs (which is what most churches are looking for) are ego-driven, domineering, and determined to do things their way, rather than GOD’s way. (Thyatira)
- It is a Church that is weak in it’s mindset that “bigger is better,” “growth means GOD’s approval,” and “large equates to alive”; but is strong at incorporating all of the tools and tactics of sales, marketing, and branding into manufacturing “weekend experiences” which come with all the glitz, glamour, gadgetry, and gimmicks of Hollywood and Wall Street combined. These “experiences” are nothing more than fleshly fabrications trying to tickle the fancies of attendees while offering a facade of what Christianity really is. (Sardis)
- It is a Church that is shallow in discipleship – developing and displaying Christ in us; but is deep in promoting and protecting it’s programs which it believes are new and novel,yet have been and are being done a thousand times over near and far. The Church in the United States is weak in the concept of waiting on GOD and utilizing the power of GOD. Instead, the church today takes matters into our own hands believing we have the answers within ourselves to fix and solve what is wrong. (Philadelphia)
- It is a Church that is passive, impotent, and a product of the culture. It is lukewarm, like “milk-toast”, and indifferent. The Church is not preserving the culture, seasoning society, and generating thirst for Jesus like it should be. It is not pointing out the way, offering the truth, and modeling the life that is truly life. (Laodicea)
The criteria’s and characteristics that make for good church leadership are not the same as that for corporate America. Businessmen and Beaurucrats do not make good Shepherds of the flock, but rather make good companies, corporations, towns, cities, states, and nations. Shepherds must major in sacrifice, service, and sharing – which is what the Good Shepherd, Jesus, modeled The Church needs to change it’s thinking (repent) again on what it is , what it does, and why it is here.