How much more money must you spend?
How many more building projects must you initiate?
How many extravagant creative projects must you produce?
How much more will you invest in Christendom before you realise that it kills and doesn’t brings life?
I grieve about the church’s attachment to the unbiblical and apostate idea of Christendom. Christendom began when Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in the 3rd century and made Christianity a legal religion in the Roman Empire [EDIT: I had previously forgotten my church history and said that Constantine made Christianity the state religion – a mistake pointed out to me below by my friend Nick Schoeneberger] and became involved in the affairs of the church. This began a course of history in which everyone in the Empire became “Christian,” which meant that no one was Christian. When critiquing Christendom in this post, I am referring to the expressions of the new superior and imperial attitude that the church had obtained by marriage to the state in Constantine’s endorsement and promotion of Christianity. These new attitudes were expressed through extravagant and beautiful buildings, fine arts and monuments and other expensive ways of depicting the glory of the church (*cough* Roman Empire *cough*).
This new status that Christianity had obtained was to effectively crap on the biblical 1st century church and it’s holistic and sacrificial devotion to Jesus. Now, in Christendom, instead of the church’s money being used to help the poor, aid the suffering, and further the gospel, the church began to squander it on “furthering the gospel” by building grand cathedrals and monuments and commissioning great works of art “to the glory of God” (again, *cough* itself/the Roman Empire *cough*). Suddenly there was not as much persecution and there was less resistance against Christians. Life was a little easier for the church. The bishops now lived in privilege and safety as opposed to meeting in secret and praying for their lives and the advance of the gospel despite persecution. There was no need for that anymore. The Christians entered a life of comfort.
Sound familiar? Perhaps you live in a culture like this. Perhaps churches near you are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on the latest refurbishments of the church building or on building a few million dollar new one because the old one was just, like, so last decade. Perhaps you heard about a church that won an award for it’s modern architecture and trendy use of materials. Perhaps your church just got some groovy new pew cushions with hand sewn pictures cause the pews were too hard.
If any of this rings a bell, then perhaps the churches of your culture are still stuck in the illusion of Christendom. Perhaps your church is so obsessed with comfort and security, concepts rather foreign the 1st century church, that money that could (should!) be spent on mission and evangelism and social justice is spent on a new carpet because “the old one has a red stain on it,” or is spent on new pews because the old ones don’t have cup holders (okay, I haven’t actually ever heard that last one, but I’ve heard all those others!).
I heard an expert in Australian church history say recently that Australia is an extremely Christianised nation. By this he meant that churches of all varieties and denominations exist everywhere and many people in Australia assume “Christianity” of some form. I would suggest that this Christianisation has trivialised Christianity. You’re a Christian ‘cause you tick a box in the census every four years and go to church at Easter and Christmas, but only if you can fit it in around your other gods, like family, football, university, work, etc. And we, the church, help this understanding continue because we persist in the same comfort and leisure that they do, not taking risks (I’d hardly call a few hundred grand building project a risk), not getting amongst the mess, not challenging people in their sin like the 1st century Christians did, not preaching the radical gospel of Jesus in power, etc. We are more like the institutionalised church of the 4th century than the radical body of people following the Way of the 1st century.
We need to change. We need to return to orthodoxy (as in my last post, I don’t mean denominational orthodoxy, but the pure meaning of the word). Drop your projects. Rethink your spending. Refocus on real evangelism, on equipping people with the gospel. Forget the illusion of Christendom! It’s over, it failed, and it doesn’t work!
Die to self, to what we allow to pass as church, to the world, to dude-check-out-my-bubble-Christianity. Comfort is the enemy of biblical Christianity. Do what Jesus said and “go.” Furthermore, do what Jesus did. He embodied the imperative “go.” He condescended to our level, from heaven to earth, to live as the God-man among mere mortals. He lived a life of rejecting comfort for the sake of others. He lived with next to no possessions. He sacrificed and gave his life up for humanity. Have the courage to ask yourself hard questions: “Am I really following this man?” “Is this really all church is meant to be?” “Am I just chilling in my Christian bubble, in my comfort zone?” Think, pray, read, discuss – just don’t be comfortable!
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:34-38 ESV).
Are we as the church living the radical, uncomfortable, crucified life that Jesus calls us to?
What do you think?