Over the past few weeks, my discussions have revolved around church and the role of the church. I have been studying and reading on this subject, and have realized some of the most common mistakes churches make. I have discussed some of these previously, but here they are all in one place.
The first and one of the most common is embracing the building. A lot of churches are greatly distracted by their desperate need for a building. They believe a church cannot be a church unless they have this great "house of God," complete with steeple and maroon carpet. The New Testament emphasizes a church "not made by human hands," but instead made of of people. People are themselves Temples of the Holy Spirit and a church body is comprised of a group of believers, plain and simple. The actual meeting place is completely irrelevant.
Another common mistake is to be confused about tithing. Biblical mandate for tithing is an Old Testament law and was intended to maintain the Jewish Temple system and support the Levitical Priesthood. The New Testament church neither taught it, and they also did not practice it. I realize this may cause some contention and major disagreement, but read on before you disagree completely. The Christian Church did not mandate tithing until the 7th Century. Over 700 yeas with no tithing. If you read the New Testament, the offerings in the church were freely given out of love, not as a mandate for tithing. Some even gave more than a tithe and sold everything they owned and shared it with those around them. Tertullian, in his "Apology" in the 2nd Century confirms that no offering was taken out of compulsion but:
"Even if there is a treasury of a sort, it is not made up of money paid in initiation fees, as if religion were a matter of contract. Every man once a month brings some modest contribution- or whatever he wishes, and only if he does wish, and if he can; for nobody is compelled; it is a voluntary offering…to feed the poor and to bury them, for boys and girls who lack property and parents, and then for slaves grown old."
It wasn't until Constantine, that the clergy were paid for their services for the first time in Church history, and the payment was provided by the Roman government, not by the Christians themselves.
Another HUGE mistake churches make is ignoring the poor. There are over 2,000 verses of scripture in the Bible that speak of God's heart for the poor, and that we should love and bless the poor among us. Deuteronomy 15:11 states, "There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.” A church community should be active in their community helping everyone and showing everyone Christ in them.
Still another mistake many churches make is over-emphasizing the role of the pastor. The pastor was not the head of the church in the New Testament. The word "Pastor" only appears once and non of the epistles to the churches are addressed to the pastors, they are addressed to the church, the people themselves. Christians of the New Testament Church could not point out one man as their "Pastor." They could not even point out a priest. This is because everyone understood from the Apostles that they were the Priesthood. The people are the Priesthood.
Finally a mistake churches make, especially in larger churches, is yearning for political power. We cannot "Christianize" our society by legislating our Christian values. The New Testament Christians lived under an oppressive government, and were killed and persecuted on a daily basis. Instead of trying to reform the government, they obeyed God's word and loved their oppressors. They did not verbally abuse people with a sinful lifestyle, they did not form a coalition or a lobby group, they did not even pick up a sword and fight back. They simply loved the people around them.
Churches should focus more on the people that make up that body, and showing Christ to the whole community through love.