Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation.” Mark 16:15
How do you answer these questions:
I view the church more as:
a. An organization to which I belong
b. A movement to change the world
I think the majority of parishioners in my community view the church more as:
a. An organization to which I belong
b. A movement to change the world
Perhaps the biggest gap in how things are and how they should be in the church is found in the answers to these two questions. Viewing the church more as “an organization to which I belong” poses a lot of problems.
First, if one views the church as an organization, we see it from a secular, almost business perspective. Organizations have officers and rules, budgets, fundraisers, etc. Organizations also have members. The members of organizations have obligations, such as paying a membership fee. Members also want rights—they have not only expectations but “contractual” rights. People who belong to organizations come and go—they may re-up their membership, suspend it or discontinue it. The organization has to cater to the members in order to retain their membership. Members become shareholders in an organization that now belongs partly to them. Organizations, at their core, are member centered. Without many members, there is no organization.
Perhaps the word “movement” is not the most appropriate word. After all, Christ coming into the world was not a political movement. However, it was a theological movement, a social movement and a revolutionary movement.
Christ’s message was theological because it changed the human understanding of God. God no longer resided in a temple, but could be worshipped anywhere. God did not require blood sacrifices. Christ shed His blood for us, and in return, we are supposed to live for Him. Death no longer consigned us to Hades, but because of the Resurrection, we to can inherit eternal life in the Kingdom of God. We can again be in the Paradise from which Adam and Eve fell. The focus on God shifted from a God of Law and punishment, to a God of mercy and forgiveness. Because Christ partook of our human nature, it showed us that even as human beings we can have access to God.
Christ’s message changed society. No longer was it enough to “check boxes” in adhering to the Law. The 613 commandments of the Old Testament, which had been summarized into the Ten Commandments, were further captured in two commandments—to love God and to love our neighbor. Love cannot be about checking boxes because love has no boundaries. In the words of St. Paul, “love never ends.” (I Corinthians 13:8) In loving our neighbor, we are to serve and to share. “There is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows His riches upon all who call upon Him.” (Romans 10:12) This means that we are not to distinguish between who we love and how we love. We are to love and to serve all, without hesitation and without distinction. Christ didn’t tell us to give away everything we have, but simply to give.
Christ’s message was revolutionary. It turned the world upside down. It took the focus off of self and put it on God and on others. Because so many people put themselves at the center of everything, the message was not well received by all. The Roman and Jewish leadership saw Christ as a threat to their power. And throughout the two thousand year history of Christianity, people have seen Christ as a threat, and have worked to extinguish Christians and Christianity.
In many ways, the world is this way today—Christ’s message hasn’t changed. The focus is still supposed to be on Him and on others. And because people seem to be putting themselves continually at the center of everything, the message of Christ is not well received by many. Because if I am going to follow after Christ, I will have to give up some of my own ideas and submit to His, and in American society anyway, any threat to my rights is a threat to be eliminated. So we try to suppress the message, even going so far as to say that the Christian message is the greatest threat to our way of life, our independence. And that’s precisely the message—true freedom is found in faith and dependence on God. True freedom is found in individual expression but in obedience. This message is revolutionary to how we are conditioned to think as Americans.
The Christian message is still one that can change the world, and the Church is supposed to be the deliverer of that message. The problem with seeing the Church as an organization to which we belong is that we all already have too many organizations to which we belong, too many obligations, too many things to do. If all the Church is is another thing to do, no wonder it is shrinking. Christ, through the Church, intends for us to change the world by spreading His message and serving others. His message gives form and purpose to life. There are many who feel they have no purpose or nothing greater than themselves. The message of Christ is actually very attractive because there are so many who feel voids that can only be filled with Him. But they have to be given an opportunity to know Christ, and that is what the Church does. It spreads the message of salvation to everyone.
We have to change our thinking regarding the Church from being an organization to which we belong, to a movement to change the world. We have to stop “doing” church in the sense of just keeping the doors open, and having activities that merely help perpetuate our organizations—fundraising festivals and so on—and instead help us to actually BE the Church, the Body of Christ which actively spreads the message to everyone.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change, through the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God will help her right early. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; He shutters His voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Come, behold the works of the Lord, how He has wrought desolations in the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow, and shatters the spear, He burns the chariots with fire! “Be still, and know that I am God. I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth!” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Psalm 46
The church is not an organization but a movement to change the world. Stop doing church and starting being the church.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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