I have a confession to make: I want to put the Church out of business.
Here’s why: It was never intended to be a business in the first place.
A family? Yes.
An organism? Totally.
A community. Without a doubt.
But, an incorporated entity with a CEO, Board of Directors, Marketing Team and a logo?
See, what Jesus inspired was not only a movement, it was intentionally not a top-down, hierarchy. And how do we know this? Because he pointed us to both the Jewish Religious hierarchy, and the Secular Roman hierarchy as examples of what we should specifically NOT model ourselves after:
“And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
“But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
According to the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 12, the only hierarchy is this:
Jesus [the Head]
Everyone else [the Body]
And, within this Body, we have no one over anyone else. What we have are equal members of this Body, acting as organs to support the entire Body, under the direction of the Head [who is Christ].
Unfortunately, this non-hierarchical structure didn’t last very long. There’s strong evidence that, after the passing of the Apostles, their disciples began to adopt the top-down structure until soon the Body wasn’t allowed to gather together if the Overseer [Bishop] wasn’t present. However, this statement alone betrays the fact that – at one time – the Body of Christ WAS allowed to meet without the Overseer being in the room. Why? Because in those early days, they understood that the true “Overseer” was ALWAYS in the room whenever two or more were gathered there: Christ Himself!
Fast-forward a few thousand years and what we have now is a Church that is severely hierarchical and modeled more after a McDonald’s franchise than a humble gathering of believers around a table in someone’s home.
Churches today are more like rock concerts followed by a TED talk with cool video clips in between to remind you about the fund-raising campaign to build a new $4 million dollar sanctuary next to the $3 million dollar sanctuary you’re sitting in.
I don’t think this is what Jesus had in mind.
So, that’s sort of why I want to put the Church out of business.
It’s a bit like what Frederick Buechner meant when he said:
“…[I] wonder if the best thing that could happen to many a church might not be to have its building burn down and to lose all its money. Then all that the people would have left would be God and each other.”
[From “Listening to Your Life,” Harper, 1992, p.331]
A few years ago, I actually ran an ad in Craigslist about putting the American Church out of business.
The Christian Church in America is (finally) going out of business.
EVERYTHING MUST GO!
The Christian Church needs to liquidate all worldly assets including:
*The giant screen plasma televisions
*Even the pastor!
WHEN: As soon as the Christian Church realizes that God doesn’t live in temples built by human hands. (Acts 17:24)
WHY: Because every believer is already the living temple of God and priests in His Kingdom. (1 Peter 2:5)
HOW: By the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.
Of course, the post didn’t last very long. And the Christian Church in America went right on acting like a business.
So, I recorded this little animated video with my friend Richard Jacobson:
I wrote a few books about it. I wrote a few dozen blog articles.
I spoke at conferences. I created a few Facebook groups, too.
That was about 9 years ago. We’re still suffering from the same fixation on the Church Business model.
But, I’m not the only one, mind you. There have been plenty of great Christian thinkers and leaders – more influential and much smarter than me – who have seen what I’ve seen and tried to sound the alarm.
People like Billy Graham:
“Multitudes of Christians within the church are moving toward the point where they may reject the institution that we call the church. They are beginning to turn to more simplified forms of worship. They are hungry for a personal and vital experience with Jesus Christ. They want a heartwarming personal faith. Unless the church quickly recovers its authoritative Biblical message, we may witness the spectacle of millions of Christians going outside the institutional church to find spiritual food.” [Quoted in “World Aflame”, pp. 79-80]
And John Wimber:
“What God wants is a living body where the Holy Spirit is free to operate and the body is ordered in such a manner that it can accomplish much. This body is quite complex, because the process of evangelism and discipleship is an involved one. A key, though, is that God’s order—not our own—has to be established. Sometimes, He tips over our order so He can establish His.”And Charles Spurgeon:
“I want you to notice this, that they were breaking bread from house to house, and ate their food with gladness and singleness of heart. They did not think that religion was meant only for Sundays, and for what men now-a-days call the House of God. Their own houses were houses of God, and their own meals were so mixed and mingled with the Lord’s Supper that to this day the most cautious student of the Bible cannot tell when they stopped eating their common meals, and when they began eating the Supper of the Lord. They elevated their meals into diets for worship: they so consecrated everything with prayer and praise that all around them was holiness to the Lord. I wish our houses were, in this way, dedicated to the Lord, so that we worshipped God all day long, and made our homes temples for the living God.” [An excerpt from Charles H. Spurgeon’s sermon entitled “Building the Church” concerning Acts 2 which he gave on April 5, 1874]
And A.W. Tozer:
“We in the churches seem unable to rise above the fiscal philosophy which rules the business world; so we introduce into our church finances the psychology of the great secular institutions so familiar to us all and judge a church by its financial report much as we judge a bank or a department store.
“A look into history will quickly convince any interested person that the true church has almost always suffered more from prosperity than from poverty. Her times of greatest spiritual power have usually coincided with her periods of indigence and rejection; with wealth came weakness and backsliding. If this cannot be explained, neither apparently can it be escaped.
“The average church has so established itself organizationally and financially that God is simply not necessary to it. So entrenched is its authority and so stable are the religious habits of its members that God could withdraw Himself completely from it and it could run on for years on its own momentum. [A.W. Tozer, from “Tozer on Christian Leadership”]
Try to imagine a Church that isn’t run like a business, but is honestly like a family. Imagine a church where the people hear directly from God through the indwelling Holy Spirit, without the need of an “expert” who tells them what – and how – to think and believe.
Imagine a Church with no Senior Pastor, no bank account, no plasma screens, no worship band, no massive building.
For me, it’s not hard to imagine. Our family spent 11 years experiencing this Jesus-led, Spirit-infused, non-hiearchical form of ekklesia where Christ was our Senior Pastor and everyone was equally empowered to “be the Church” and not just attend one; where we learned how to have meetings WITH Jesus, and not just ABOUT Jesus.
I’m here to tell you: It is possible.
Not only is it “possible”, it’s glorious!
“When the Greeks got the Gospel, they turned it into a philosophy; when the Romans got it, they turned it into a government; when the Europeans got it, they turned it into a culture; and when the Americans got it, they turned it into a business.” – Richard Halverson
If you’d like to read more about this concept of Church, my new book “Jesus Unveiled: Forsaking Church As We Know It For Ekklesia As God Intended” releases on Sunday, June 9 on Amazon.
Keith Giles was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church 11 years ago, to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community. Today, He and his wife live in Meridian, Idaho, awaiting their next adventure.
His newest book, “Jesus Unveiled: Forsaking Church As We Know It For Ekklesia As God Intended” releases on June 9, 2019 on Amazon, and features a Foreword by author Richard Jacobson.
His book “Jesus Unbound: Liberating the Word of God from the Bible”, is available now on Amazon and features a Foreword by author Brian Zahnd.
He is also the author of the Amazon best-seller, “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb” with a Foreword by Greg Boyd.
Keith also co-hosts the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast on iTunes and Podbean. BONUS: Want to unlock exclusive content including blog articles, short stories, music, podcasts, videos and more? Visit my Patreon page.
Join me this summer at one of these upcoming events:
*Costa Mesa, CA – June 22 “United We Stand”
*Hot Springs, NC – July 11-14 “Wild Goose Festival”
*Woodstock, GA – July 27-28 “Unleashing the Word of God” [With Richard Murray]
Want Keith to come speak at your church or in your home town? Learn more HERE