Gold Coast Bereans

Out of Ghana, West Africa; Christian hearts and critical minds seeking, speaking and writing the truth with love. This is a conversation of a group of friends, now living in the USA and the UK, who have known each other for more than 20 years.

Monday, January 29, 2007

ME, You and Church, Part 4. Gaius Columbus goes church hopping

I think the lack of true participation by the laity accounts for some of the lethargy we see in the church. God has distributed His gifts throughout the church, so why are one or two brothers (or sisters) monopolizing the pulpit? This is not the Old Testament when one leader became the sole mouth piece of God. Today, Christ embodies all of the gifts, and in His wisdom has scattered these throughout the church to be manifested and shared for the edification of all.

So while well-intended, today’s predominant model of the church in which one pastor preaches 80% of the sermons and the assistant preaches 15-20% does not seem very scriptural. If we are lucky, we are treated every now and then to a short sermon by one of the other elders or even more refreshingly to a testimony or short exhortation by a lay member. Whenever this happens I am amazed at the untapped talent in the church. I think the church is less effective today and impoverished by the current state of affairs.

I do not endorse a free-for-all model in which anyone can step up to the pulpit and presume to teach the congregation. Yet, the other extreme seems improper to me. Only one person’s vision is trumpeted to the congregation. What we are all asking for, it seems to me, is more variety at the top and more participation by the congregations. This is something that has bugged me for a while. Recently my wife and I decided that if churches are unwilling to provide this, we will have to find a way to meet it ourselves. What we decided to do was to split our time between two churches in our area. Some Sundays we go to one and other Sundays we go to the other. We may increase the number of churches as we see fit. Indeed, we have refused so far to become members of any one of these churches preferring instead to go on circuit from Sunday to Sunday. So far it has worked nicely.

Finally, at risk of sounding like Judas, I have often wondered why many Christian churches are perennially so strapped for money. Often these needs are legit but other times I wonder if it is because of the amount of waste we allow. If churches were akin to companies traded on the stock market (fiscally prudent) rather than like the federal government (which can always increase taxes), wouldn’t there perhaps be greater economies of scale?

For a specific example, consider the matter of space. Each church in a sense has a tax base. Could that base not be expanded without increasing overhead if we were willing to share this space? Think about it: is there any reason why two congregations should not share the same building to cut cost? My wife’s sister belongs to a church that shares facilities with another. Think about the money saved over a model in which each church had its own separate building. There are probably lots of other examples of more fiscally sound management if we would only look.

Instead, the church in one sense acts as a tax-generating body burdening its members with more and more requests for funds and tithes and offerings and special offerings, on and on, often accompanied by a modest sprinkling of guilt-inducing exhortations. I wish there was a better model and perhaps it is time to agitate for one - Gaius Columbus DISSENTUS


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