The Under Reformed Church – By Thomas Koester

“…men don’t follow titles; they follow courage.”

The problem is the Reformation didn’t go far enough. It left too much Greco-Roman pagan ritual within the Church and its traditions. This decentralized the message of the cross and resurrection as the focal point of preaching, teaching, and evangelism.

The Cross of Christ, the Resurrection, and the birth of Christ have become nothing more than religious Holidays for Churches to put on shows to capture new parishioners. These religious holidays are no different for Hallmark, Target, and Best Buy; they spruce up their stores and adds to attract consumers, just like many churches do.

Most pastors and religious leaders are no longer wearing long flowing robes loaded with phylacteries or the priestly liturgical vestments with golden threaded sleeves. These religious garbs were used in their day to separate the clergy from the laity, to hold the learned in higher esteem than the unlearned, commoner, or laity class.

Today, the learned clergy rely on postnominals to separate themselves from the laity. Postnominals are letters placed following a person’s last name to indicate education qualifications, the title of office, decoration, or honor. White wigs, long flowing robes, and liturgical vestments may be passe among evangelicals and fundamentalists, but postnominals are not; these letters and titles grant them hierarchy.

“Your title gives you claim to the throne of our country, but men don’t follow titles; they follow courage.” William Wallace

Courage means action. It means to serve the interests of others. To risk. To venture. Titles separate us from one another, but courage, courage is contagious. It makes us all brave and inspired.

Real courage and bravery is sharing Christ in a world that hates him. Being a true disciple of Jesus Christ is loaded with risk, but only outside of chapels and steeples. In reality, the call to discipleship is more like Jesus saying, come die with me for the sake of the Gospel and the Kingdom. Heaven is where all things evil are vanquished and the real potluck begins.

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” – Deitrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

We must break free from the religious trappings of safety, comfort, and convenience.

Too much of this “tradition” of orbiting the pulpit, the building, and the alter, is to the detriment of local and world evangelism. To the equipping of the laity and the average believer. To the expansion of the Kingdom of Heaven. Frankly, the high expectation of the clergy doing all of the work of ministry leaves most parishioners disengaged with their faith, their calling, and the development of their spiritual gifts.

The offices gifted to the Church from Christ were not for the clergy to do all the ministry but would equip and train the laity (saints) to do the work of ministry so that all may reach maturity in Christ. Equipping the saints is for the maximum productivity in the body of Christ and the Gospel. (Eph. 4:11-16)

Being the audience once or twice a week does not forge men, women, and children into saints; but faith put into practice and action with one’s spiritual calling and giftedness does. Far too many well-seasoned believers are simply benchwarmers, an audience to a game they don’t play, in an arena where they’re not needed, and with no other purpose but to spectate.

Brothers, we don’t reach maturity in Christ Jesus as spectators or simply being faithful to a 90-minute program. Weekly services without the exercise of spiritual gifts create weak Christians.

In many churches, people run out as soon as they hear the final amen. In less than five minutes, the parking lot empties. Just like at the movie theaters, as soon as the screen fades to black and the credits roll, the theater and parking lot empties. What about fellowship, relationship, and koinonia? This proves that the service or show is more important than true fellowship and connectedness.

We believers must have a vital connection and role within the local fellowships, whether in commercial buildings or homes. This is why there are so many transients believers; they’re searching for belonging, meaning, and purpose.

The more risk and challenge for believers to exercise their faith and practice their spiritual gifts, the more spiritual growth and maturity, will be realized. And if this is allowed, improvement will become mutual among the laity and not exclusive among the clergy.

For example, I moved from the Bay Area to a lake community in the Sierra Foothills. There is a substantial lack of spiritual urgency up here. It was a culture shock and frankly still is. Spiritual complacency is a real danger, and the 21 Century Western Church structure is responsible for it — sadly, it is what they are producing, spiritual complacency.

I have the privilege to speak with pastors and evangelists in India, Pakistan, and the Philippines. Do you know what they tell me?

They tell me they want to be like America’s big successful churches. This breaks my heart. We don’t risk our lives as they do, preaching the gospel or passing out bibles among Muslims and the Taliban. We aren’t threatened by Hindus, ISIS, or Boko Haram.

Here in America, we’re too scared to share the gospel with strangers, neighbors, or anyone shopping at Walmart. Our greatest threat here in America is getting jailed by Face_book, canceled by Twitter, and de-platformed or demonetized by Youtube. Our Americanized, homogenized, and pasteurized form of Christianity has been genetically modified to produce seedless fruit. We should not be in the exporting business.

I encourage them not to mimic Western Christianity and not to model their Churches and ministries after American mega-churches, TV evangelists, our wretched prosperity gospel pontificators, or the NAR movement.

I suggest they follow the authentic biblical model of Christian practice and the ecclesiastic men of Scripture. Christianity needs Indian, Pakistani, and Filipino believers and pastors to be themselves, not an Americanized version. I encourage them to study what the Holy Scriptures instruct and to listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to their Churches. Follow Christ Jesus, not American pastors.

Perhaps the First World Churches need a Bible lesson from our brothers and sisters in the Third World.

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