How would you describe a country club? They have members. Members meet in a specific (usually pretty big) location. They have food and fun and programs and events for members. Members pay to be a part of it. The money collected by-in-large goes towards activities, programs and services provided to the members of the club. Members receive a certain social status for being members. They have the appearance of being somewhat exclusive. Members spend a lot of time there. They have paid staffs whose job it is to take care of the members. They sell the benefits of being a member and often point out how they are different and better than other country clubs. Members sometimes invite guests. They have certain expectations about how members will behave themselves.
If all that sounds really familiar (even if you’ve never been in a country club) it’s probably because everything listed above also holds true for what a lot of Americans would call Church. Think about it. Read through the above list again, point-by-point. Is it really any different than our “churches” today?
Something seems amiss here. Jesus was all about going to the unwanteds of this world, the people who were the outcasts of society. He purposefully avoided being identified with the religious in-crowd and He was actually persecuted by them.
Jesus told us to deny ourselves and yet a big chunk of what some refer to as Church actually does the opposite. Like Burger King, members often get to have it their way. Jesus said it is more blessed to give than to receive yet all the money goes into a pot and then we “receive” it right back in the form of stuff paid for that we get to enjoy. It is said that right at 99% of all money collected in church buildings stays right here in America and the majority of it stays right within the walls of that particular building.
The bible instructs us to go into the highways and byways and compel others to come into the Kingdom of Heaven and tells us we are to go into the fields because the harvest is plentiful. Ours is the only “religion” whose God comes to us. Jesus met us where we were. Yet we usually do the opposite. We hole up in our buildings and ask the outside world to come to us.
If anyone does visit the building they soon discover they are expected to pay in two ways—money put into the plate and time put into the activities and programs of the building. People in the building refer to this as churchmanship among other things. Being a member in good standing means spending a lot of time there and giving a lot of money.
Members of this thing referred to as Church also can frequently be heard telling others about how their staff and their building and their way of doing things and their beliefs and their activities and their programs and their members are so great and perhaps better than what could be found in other places. If these people choose not to join or to become members elsewhere, then any hope for a meaningful relationship between them is all but dashed to pieces—sometimes with animosity.
Perhaps you’ve never thought of it like this and you can see how “off” this concept of Church really is. On the other hand, it could be that you see no problem with it and in fact think it’s a rather good thing. You’d probably never refer to Church as a country club per se, but it’s all you’ve ever known and so it has become rather comfortable and…quite enjoyable.