This article is the Second in a Series. Start here.
Wealth, especially property, becomes important to any of man’s organizations. It has always been so. We read of greed in the story of Abraham, and subsequent Bible stories, including Judas Iscariot, right up to Ananias and Sapphira’s lie about “giving all” in The Acts of the Apostles.
Any “real” church (local Christian fellowship) can usually be trusted with its own purse strings, but as soon as it becomes centralized and controlled from afar, it attracts a different crowd. The new crowd may start honestly, but the size of the common pot becomes a dreadful lure. The largest mainstream denominations — Catholic, Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc. — are fine examples. They want it all, and coordinate their facilities to be “generous and cooperative” in every “mission.”
Judas is the best illustration. He kept the money. Is it any real surprise that he was the betrayer? So, it seems, is the story of big, central organizations. And make no mistake, denominations are organizations.
Why do we have them? We read in our confessions that “The Church is catholic. . .” That means “one,” but we are far from one! By one list, there are 33,000 denominations! (That includes all “independent” groups as a separate denomination.) Our long list of denominations include everything from non-believers and Unitarians to syncretist and Agnostic fellowships that have no Bibles to be found. The unifying element of most is a desire to “assemble” regularly (forsake it not!) and take an “offering.” (Give generously!”
Generally speaking, denominations are a consortium of like-minded believers who contribute to a central pool for mutual support, common books, hymnals and literature sources and authors, shared resources, coordinated legal and ethical power, and the ability to allow “transfers” as people move about. “The Umbrella Plan.”
Some denominations restrict their purse-strings so carefully that every dollar you give is the property of the denomination, which then re-designates a pittance to the local congregation — a Marxist system. Others have the essence of a “license” to operate in their name, with virtually no qualifications for accuracy or doctrine. Most are included in a category of “other,” which includes everything in between.
What does the big corporate structure attract? Administrators and accountants, directors, lawyers, poll takers, radicals, reformers, and those with a large salary as a primary motivation. (Theologians are cheap, and they get to do whatever they like in these corporations. What they come up with is seldom considered anyway.)
Special interests have become vigorously organized competitors in that denominational fray. Political, economic, and lifestyle reformers being chief among them. “Growth experts” have their own place — some are even Bible reading Christ-believers, jaundiced by a job title that may not fit the established doctrine. “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” – Matthew 6:24
How can a Christian compete? Spoiler alert: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”.”
Next: A Christian’s Options