Saturday, January 15, 2011

Looking for Reality (Part Four)

Still another problem is personal kingdom building or the franchising of the church. The church is not McDonald's or Tim Horton's which is to be franchised out in the name of advancing the gospel. Old style denominations like Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist and Pentecostal have often been criticized but at least they represented core beliefs that people thought worth articulating and preserving. Today's independent churches or franchise operations that are centered around different personalities are a completely different animal. Too often they represent strong leaders and their followers who cannot get along with anyone else. Other times they represent those who are convinced that they are right and everyone else is wrong. Either way they are full of trouble.

There is nothing wrong with ambition if it is channeled in the right direction. But religious ambition or using religion as an outlet for personal ambition is downright dangerous. How many times have we seen those who could never succeed in any other field try to throw their weight around in churches. Their manipulative bullying would never be tolerated in areas of endeavor but they get away with it because they take advantage of emotionally weak and vulnerable people who are afraid to speak for themselves. Definitive leadership is a good thing, but the kind of people who surround themselves with those who are not perceived to be a threat to their leadership are weaklings.

The church is about a body of truth that has been entrusted to it. It is supposed to be a community of redeemed people working and worshiping together under the leadership of the Lord Jesus as it is mediated through the scriptures and leaders who understand that the true church is marked by catholicity of spirit as well as apostolic doctrine. The endless dividing and subdividing that is too often evident in countries, provinces and even cities and towns is a sad testimony to the failure of people to talk to one another and to build meaningful relationships across party lines. We do not need more denominations or more personality cults. We need to strive for a real unity based on a common commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. For this to become a reality there is much work to do.

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