Here is the assessment:
From a distance, the
residence at 11101 American Way resembles a stately mansion,
suitable even for a royal occupant. However, on closer approach,
the building's serious imperfections are glaringly obvious. The different
structural elements do not fit together correctly. The supporting
beams lean every which way, creating a ramshackle appearance. Under
hurricane conditions, the whole house might easily fall over. The
walls are full of cracks, so the house is always drafty and leaks
when it rains. The mansion's faults cannot be blamed on inferior
building materials. There was no skimping either on quality or quantity
of oak and mahogany, granite and marble. The foundation
is rock solid. The problems are readily traceable to a different
cause. All throughout the house, there is not a single nail, not
a dab of glue or concrete. As unbelievable as it sounds, the beams
and boards, stones and masonry are held together with chewing gum.
What incompetent builder would ever construct a house like this? What crazy eccentric would ever agree to live in it? We American christians are the builders, and we are the residents. For the mansion I have described is the American Church.
The American Church is constructed of separate denominations, associations, and congregations with virtually no cooperation nor even contact. To be sure, there is a lot of jawboning about the unity of faith, and occasionally we stage showy events to "demonstrate" we are one in Christ. But the show is far more than the substance. Practically, the time and effort we use to connect with Christians outside our own churches is what's left over in our schedules after most of the flavor has been chewed out. Day after day Christians live and work alongside each other, never praying nor sharing together, often completely unaware of each otherís faith. Even relatives who believe are often spiritual strangers to each other.
The American Church is a ramshackle structure. Since different churches/congregations do not bond together spiritually, each has its own doctrinal angle, its own slant on faith. Sometimes the different worship styles are so estranged from each other that they appear to be worshipping different gods. As a result, there is no overall balance, wholeness, or symmetry. Because of the loose connections, the Church provides inadequate shelter. It's not a safe place. It lacks stability. And it's ugly.
The Church's weak connections are not only horizontal, but vertical. We have created a class of "professional" Christians, who perform the lion's share of key spiritual functions such as preaching, teaching, counselling, administering, and vision-casting. On the other hand, they often have only a second- hand knowledge of the majority's daily life experience. Meanwhile, "non-professional" Christians have far fewer opportunities to exercise prominent spiritual gifts. Though we often receive assurance otherwise, it is hard to escape the feeling that we are lower-class Christians.
What may we do to address these problems?
Church members, particularly church leaders, should reorder their priorities, and redirect their energies. Rather than each pushing separate agendas for their own congregations, they should facilitate cross-congregational fellowships, whose agendas are set by the Great Commission to "go and make disciples of all nations". Jesus said "We are the light of the world": so the lights who live and work together must stop scurrying off to separate churches, and start shining together. Neighbor and co-worker Christians should gather to sing, share, and pray together. as one. The vertical clergy-laity gap should be consciously narrowed to make their worlds are less separate and their tasks more overlapping. It wouldn't hurt for pastors to take "sabbaticals" and get short-term "secular" jobs every few years. It also wouldn't hurt to allow lay people to take over the Sunday pulpit on a more frequent basis.
Copyright © 2001 CrossPollen
Last Revised: June 1, 2001
CrossPollen Main Page || top of page || CrossPollen e-mail