The Christian Dilemma: Relationships Versus Religion

 10 Ways The Church Might Change:

Point 5 – Part I

[In previous blogs I have outlined 10 possible changes the Church may face in the future. This is point 5 in the series: Church offices will be replaced by leadership built on relationships, not position.  Because of what one does, will one be respected or rejected. This will not be based on works, but on grace, mercy, and obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Leadership will be established by those who are willing to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and be obedient to that voice.]

“The Word of the Lord”, the voice, is greater than the messenger.  “The Word of the Lord” can be written, as in the Bible, or spoken, as in a sermon, a testimony, or a prophetic utterance.  The message is always more important than the messenger. Ask John the Baptist who is “least in the kingdom of God” according to scripture, yet he was the messenger of a profound message ushering in the Messiah, the Priestly King, the Son of God.  The same is with relationship in relation to leadership in the kingdom of God. The relationship is more important than any office or position.

Even though Jesus built relationships with each of his twelve disciples, they had trouble at first understanding this principle, for they wanted to know who would be positioned on Jesus’ left and right when establishing rank in the kingdom of God.  Positioning of rank is secondary in comparison to the relationship one has with the person.  Your relationship to Jesus Christ is always more important than any position you hold in his kingdom or in church, yet we have twisted that principle when it comes to church leadership.  In our current church structure position and influence based on profession and offices trump relationships. Church “boards” are often composed of people with job positions and titles: ie. elders, deacons, pastors, pastoral staff, etc.  Often “boards” do not function out of relationships as brethren in Christ, but out of politics by position.  Church politics supersede the washing of one another’s feet when it comes to church business meetings. Like the Jewish Sanhedrin of old, they often become instruments of passing judgment rather than extending grace. I know; I have attended and been part of them on both the passing and the receiving of judgment!

I believe the 21st Century Church will be confronted by the Holy Spirit on how it conducts it’s “business”. American churches often follow American business models when conducting church budget operating out of projected budgets rather than having “storehouses” (Malachi 3:10). Almost every local church seems to always be begging for money to meet its budget rather than operating fiscally from a “storehouse” mentality. Joseph’s recorded wisdom of storing 7 years of plenty for seven years of famine not only saved the Egyptian empire but made it great and powerful. A large part of many church budgets go toward financing staff and building maintenance. Benevolence and missions has remained only a small percentage of most church budgets.  Often we have treated benevolence and missions as a tithing, only 10% of the budget for things outside our institutional needs.  The way a church conducts its business tell a lot about its ministry.

Twice I have been part of a small home church where almost all of our tithing went to benevolences and missions since we had no staff nor building.  We bought “underwear” as Christmas gifts for the needy families in our group.  Because we had “relationships” with them on an everyday basis, we knew their needs, not only spiritually but physically.  “Relationships” were central to all we did or accomplished since we had not become an “organization” or an “institution” with “institutional needs”. 

I grew up at New Fairview Church of the Brethren where the “free ministry” of seven uncompensated “elders” with lifetime commitments lead their congregation. Their commitment not based on monetary pay has allowed their congregation to give large portions of their finances to benevolent needs and missions, and I have never heard of their leadership ever being in need. The only difference between their leadership and those professional “pastors” in their denomination is pay and benefits.  Another difference is in respect.  New Fairview people respect their leaders because they have committed their lives and ministry to them physically and spiritually for life.  There is consistency in leadership because it is home grown, built on relationships, with a lifetime commitment.  They do not have a “professional” change in leadership every five to ten years. Their change comes upon the death of older elders, and a “calling” of new leadership from amongst their ranks.

In the next blog we will continue to look at this theme in light of the 21st Century Church