The Church is often considered the place where worship occurs, as in “where do you go to church?” It is a problem that may be central to many, if not most, church problems. Reserve your venom against me until the end of this series, because I am not suggesting the elimination of denominations, nor an abhorrence of religious buildings, but please give this series prayerful thought:
At the very foundation of any 501(c)3 “church” there is a problem of property, wealth, salaries, and denominational bickering that serves too often as a division. Consider Luke’s account of the payment of taxes.
Jesus “perceived their craftiness” in trying to escape paying taxes, and He said, “‘Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?’ ‘Caesar’s,’ they replied. ‘Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’”
What is the Church? The Church proper is the body of Christ. The whole body of Christ. Jesus says this very clearly in Matthew’s Gospel, 16:13-19:
Jesus said to Peter, “’But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Jesus built the church on a man. Peter means “rock.” No mention of wealth. No statement of power. As Paul told Timothy, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” As Christians, our wealth is stored up in heaven. At least theoretically, right?
The Episcopal Church has several hideous examples many of us have seen. I spent several years in a “formerly Episcopal, now Anglican” congregation. That church had property stolen and the Pastor and his family were locked out in the street because of nonconformity to corrupt doctrine. I also have a friend who was defrocked by the Methodist Church and kicked off the property for teaching “Calvinist heresy.” (They did not call it that, but there is no clearer term for some of his Bible Studies.)
My own “Youth Pastor” as a young teen in the (Congregational) United Church of Christ was a homosexual. He moved to South Dakota. He came back to “take me to lunch,” and propositioned me to be his house boy on my 18th birthday. I was not a Christian (nor was the congregation.), I was also not a homosexual. He did not care about that. He offered me money, a job, and a nice place to live. I left, got drunk, and egged his rental car.
How can we understand these things? Corruption? Oh, yes. Unbridled power? Absolutely. Foolishness, ignorance, and rabid ambition? Yep. Lack of accountability. Sure. Sinful human nature? Right at the core. All that and more. But all of this begs the question: “Why? And how?”
All of these examples are built on three specific problems: Property, Income, and Authority. You can not “buy off a Christian,” but you can buy the deed to ourr property and control all of its activities. Actually, focus on one specific problem: That name on the coin. Jesus perceives the craftiness.
Next article in the Series: Church Money Problems