A recent Australian T.V. programme told about the dangers faced when building homes of timber. The host was holding a piece of painted timber about 4” x 3” by four feet in length. It was painted with a very glossy paint and appeared solid and strong.
Suddenly, the host gently squeezed the piece of timber, which crumbled in his hand, falling in pieces onto the floor. The only thing holding to the original form of the timber was the thick coat of paint, which was easily crushed.
I was reminded of what we generally understand as “church”. Something quite different from the Church which Jesus promised He will build which would be a living breathing entity with an eternal warranty.
It would be a very brave, foolish, or ignorant person who would state that the entity we understand as the institution called “church” was any more substantial than the piece of wood held in the hand of the T.V. host; shiny and brash, believing it is strong, when, in fact, it is riddled with termites!
During the last fifty years or so, I have heard most of the reasons (read excuses) why the “church” doesn’t reflect the Church which Jesus is building (apart from what is going on in the “church”), and I’ve heard some very creative ones, such as infiltration by spies from other denominations, fifth columnist liberals who sneak in, etc., etc.. Of course we must not forget the secularism revealed on T.V. is also a strong force to contend with, as well as many other of these myriad “enemies” who are damaging the “church”.
Then there are the “clergy” who say the downturn is God’s chastisement upon the “church”.
More recently, of course, modernism and post modernism also join some of the more recent “enemies”, along with charismaticism, the emerging church, the home church movement, and those of which no one has yet heard.
For goodness sake! Someone has to carry the can!
Well! My own observations cause me to join with Pogo, who once said,”… we have met the enemy, and he is us!” The enemy isn’t coming from outside!
The most dangerous enemy of the Church today is the “church”!
I remember hearing a Christian leader from the USA, when speaking about one of the major hurdles to personal evangelism, say, “The problem is that many unbelievers DO know a Christian!”. I would say it a little differently, “The problem is that many unbelievers DO know someone who claims to be a Christian!”
The “church” commonly recognized in any given community is the biggest threat to Christianity today because of what they have become, simply one of a number of the religions, whose most urgent interest is representing their own agendas, maintaining the status quo, self assured of their importance!
Astronomical amounts of money are tied up in property, as well as investments, ownership of insurance companies, etc.
Yet each one claims to represent Jesus Christ, who had nothing but the clothes on His back.
There can be no doubt that the “church” is declining at an accelerating rate, despite the increasing efforts to stem the decline.
Is it possible that Jesus was a little ambitious when He said, ”I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it”?
In a time when gigantic failures are common: Is it possible that the Son of God is the biggest failure ever known? NO!!
Have we ever faced the possibility that since Constantine we have been wrong about the Church which Jesus promised to build, and that He was not speaking about the “church” of Constantines and our sinful, proud imaginings?
Can we even begin to think that maybe He IS building His Church, a Church which the religionist cannot recognize, and is steadily being built all over the world, and that the gates of Hell, indeed, will not, cannot, prevail against it?
Will it ever occur to the religionists that the true Church is not the result of human endeavour, of great programmes, of good secular management skills, of mere resolutions made at annual conventions and assemblies, joined to carefully planned cosmetics of princely buildings, and great orators, of backsides on seats listening to guilt inducing words, who practice token benevolence, and attending meetings, and obeying laws, rules and impositions?
When will we learn that the Church is about a people of Gods own choosing , every one of them “A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY (1 Peter 2:9-10), and that all have a living, real relationship with God, who revealed Himself in the life and work of Lord Jesus Christ, a relationship which all genuine followers of Christ share; a relationship which is a gift from God who, “…being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them”.