Let’s Put The Church Out Of Business

Let’s Put The Church Out Of Business June 6, 2019

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?

Absolutely not.

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.”

(Mark 10:42-45)

“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.”

(Matt 23:8-12)

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.

It said:

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 pulpit
*The building
*The giant screen plasma televisions
*Even the pastor!

DETAILS:
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

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Rudy Schellekens

    Great post! Just one question: Role of elders (Not a board of directors), but elders/shepherds/overseers?

    And, if possible a comment on the submission text in Ephesians 5:21ff (Note: I start with the “submit to one another!), the “headship” text in 1 Cor. 11, please

  • Elders are recognized, not by me but by everyone in the Body of Christ. We all already know who we can trust and who we should go to for wisdom, advice, prayer, etc.

    As far as submission goes, we are all commanded to submit to one another, and this submission is something we grant, not something others demand.

  • jock1234

    Almost totally disagree with you Mr. Giles…
    You seem to teach well the Philosophies of man, ‘mingled’ with Scripture, and Paul warned us of false Prophets.
    Also, thanks, but not interested in having you speak to anyone I know.
    Lastly Sir; please tell us, about your book deal with regards specifically to what the profits are for you. Thanks in advance. I’ll look forward to hearing about the profits for you book…

  • billwald

    In the USA, The first amendment of the Constitution put main line Protestant Churches into the business mode. More evidence that Money is the civil religion of the US.

  • Completely agree about the Church and its hierarchical structure. This is indeed not what God wanted or intended. But it is a fact. So you have to ask yourself a question. If the church got this wrong and it did what else did they get wrong as time went on – plenty!

  • Silverwolf13

    The Presidency is regarded as the highest office in the country, and rightly so. But it is also the lowest office in the country. The President is the employee and servant of every American, from the billionaire to the grubbiest homeless person. It’s time that our politicians remembered that they were elected to serve all.

    When was the last time that a politician address es you as “boss”? But that would be the proper form of address.

  • Kyllein MacKellerann “

    Didn’t Jesus say something about making God’s house into a place of business? If so, why are the alleged “pure Christians” doing business in His name?
    Ahh, Hypocrisy, you’re doing well these days…

  • Everett Kier Jr

    My thoughts? We have here a marvelous string of “cherry picked” texts along with an very Americanized–perhaps better an enlightenment–concept of freedom and humanity with a false dilemma. I assume the idea of Acts 20 or the teaching of the pastoral epistles is dismissed as far too culturally bound? Abuse abounds on both sides of this divide–leaders who “lord” it over others and those who have themselves as gods so the truth must be found somewhere in a give and take in love–Hebrews, “obey your leaders and submit” along with the admonition that leaders are not to be into the “power” game.

  • Eric

    Keith, I totally hear your heart and yearn for something different. But we are all products of our environment. We live in a capitalistic culture and therefore we mimic society. Transformational, generational change is hard. Satan has us too busy, to start the next ‘home church’ or ‘family church’ movement in our city. What can we do?

  • Rudy Schellekens

    I am not known to agree with Mr. Giles very often. When I disagree, I will point out very specific points. So, I would challenge you to do the same thing. Rather that “Almost totally disagree… the philosophies of men…” and such, share with us what you disagree with specifically, and why.

    With Giles, I can make a very strong biblical case that goes against the current norm: The professional clergy, the business oriented attitude, the real estate hunger etc. How about you try the same for where YOU disagree with him?

  • Rudy Schellekens

    CHANGE – that is what can be done. Challenge leadership for a Biblical defense of their existence. Not a copy of the By-laws etc., but a Biblical case for professional clergy, the investment in real estate vs helping the poor/widows, and supporting missions (The only two reasons to be found in the New Testament re. Body and finances.
    Argue with your check book if you have to… Refuse to financially support such structures. Speak up – LOUDLY even…

  • Maxime

    Sorry for you if you feel this. Imagine 1000 years ago if we would have the church out of buisness, as you say ; How would be the message of the Christ spreaded now a day ? We need true christians. the church is just the mirror of christians behavior. Don’t judge, pray. Peace

  • jock1234

    There would be several points Rudy… One right off would be this point about the church being told to meet together often in fellowship: The word appears 19 times in most editions of the Greek New Testament. In the New American Standard Bible, it is translated “fellowship” twelve times, “sharing” three times, and “participation” and “contribution” twice each. The first usage of koinonia in the Greek New Testament is found in Acts 2:42–47. And by the way, I am a strong believer that we as parents and spouses teach our own families in our own homes the Gospel, as the primary ‘teachers’ ! But to rid ourselves as a society of brick & mortar churches per se? No, no, such would lead to much more and stronger moral decay within our societies. Such, would surely please Lucifer & his minions. I could go on, but I don’t want to type a book. Lastly, everyone has to make a living, but Mr. Giles and his book deal… In transparency, why has he not told us how he makes his living. Example: If you are a Dentist you work on teeth. Nothing to be silent about there. If you write books, you make your living off of publication revenues. Again, nothing to be silent about there. But there is silence… Further, silence is present about ‘amount’ of book revenues… We are all adults, we all must also think like adults, but also act as such. I want what is “BEST FOR SOCIETY AS A WHOLE”, and not what is always best to line the pockets of those with whom I disagree.

  • Rudy Schellekens

    I am all for fellowship. As is Giles. The question is: How much fellowship does a group of several hundred allow? Smaller groups make for more fellowship.
    So, we have several megachurches (5000+) in the country. Exactly what advantage does such a church have?

    I do not know what you do for a living, and I am not asking you how much you make. My wages are in the local news paper once a year. So I have no secrets – not even if I wanted to!

    And, I am not sure what your request for such information has anything to do with the point of view he holds.

    If Giles is an author, it would be normal if that is where he receives money from. It is none of my business as to how much.

    Society as a whole needs a strong Christian influence. That influence can only exist where strong groups of Christians exist. Strong groups of Christians can only exist when they are edified and encouraged on a regular basis. This is to be done by “…each of you…” Not a professional clergy, but each member of the congregation has that responsibility.

    Society needs strong Christians who are not afraid to take a stand when such is necessary. That means that we speak up when we see wrong happening. That we speak up, no matter the consequences. When we let ourselves be silenced by fear of repercussions, we have a definite problem!

  • jock1234

    Good points made Rudy!

  • Dr Paul

    Keith, I agree that the only way to assure a pure fellowship is to start your own church. However, there are advantages to a larger church such as friends for your kids, a larger set of friends for the small group. More resources available like counseling, marriage classes , finanical planning classes, wholesome activities for the kids. I’ve been in both types of churches, home churches, mid-sized and mega churches. They are advantages to each. What I find is the first thing you ask before going regularly is who governs the church? If it’s one charasmatic leader or an authoritarian outside senate, look elsewhere. The Biblical standard is governance by a local “body of elders.” to whom you can speak. I hope you’re not being too dogmatic in your comments.

  • James van Hemert

    Dear Keith,
    I thank you sincerely for your thoughts in this particular blog and all of your writings!. I say ‘amen!’ Yet, I struggle. I love the church as a body of believers and have been part of intentional small groups (like a house church) that have been wonderful blessing of fellowship with each other and God. I have faithfully served in the institutional church as a missionary, elder, diaconal leader, organist, pianist, welcomer of newcomers, and worship leader BUT as far as I know, despite all this for over 50 years I have not directly facilitated a single person to follow Jesus. Not even my own two children. So maybe it is time to walk away from the institutional church and try something entirely different. Sigh.

  • momzilla76

    Your comment has me guessing that you did not read the article. There is the church(body of Christ) and church(building on a street). The article is not talking about getting rid of the body of Christ but reforming the building that runs on the modern business model church.

  • billwald

    Unfortunately, we are stuck with the defective human nature that God designed for us. (Personal opinion of my corrupt and ignorant human mind.)

    One observable difference between liberal and conservative is that sinful liberal Christians want to save the world for non-Christian sinners and sinful conservative Christians want to save the world for Christian sinners.

  • Ken Willard

    Government endorsed tax exempt status for churches is intended as an endorsement of the the religious element in our culture and has historically been a blessing to “the Church” in America. It has aided missionary endeavors around the world. At the same time, tax exempt status has fueled much of the unnecessary “business” of church polity. When we eventually lose our tax exempt status, God’s people may find a silver lining in that loss. The church may well become stronger.