A friend wrote this plea under the heading: “New Covenant Grace”
Generation after generation of Christians who have grown up in “churches” have been given no other option as to throw their money into the offering plates that are passed around every Sunday morning. They have not been allowed to mature in the area of giving because they are never given the freedom of deciding WHERE they want to give. They can be led by the Spirit in almost every other area of their Christian walk, but not when it comes to WHERE to give. Only ordained people who are employed by the church system is allowed to decide where the funds are to be appropriated.
Seems like control, manipulation and abuse is still rife, even in places where they claim to preach grace…
To which I replied:
… on your posting on “New Covenant Grace” … perhaps church leadership is promoting a system of elite political leverage in the guise of extending the Kingdom of God? I am not saying that all church leaders today are consciously and intentionally guilty of this but I am suggesting that it is rife and mainly because it is too costly for them to even think about challenging it. Another reason is that in our present education system we don’t teach people how to think, we teach them what to think, and we in church ministry come through that very same system. As a consequence we too discourage individual thought and most forms of dialogue. Questioning is seen as dissension, even rebellion. We do this under the banner of unity and not wanting disharmony to develop and cause the ‘weaker’ brethren to stumble. We end up (perhaps unwittingly mostly) instructing the people to listen to us and to follow our teaching rather than to rely on the inner voice of the Holy Spirit (over 40,000 independent denominational groups globally all under the banner of one Lord and biblical text is glaring testimony to this).
Those who are in church leadership cannot afford to have them respond with questions or think critically for themselves in any significant way possibly because they surely would soon begin to see that the kings robes are invisible – even non existent and the position of power and privilege will soon cease.
In the scriptures we are challenged to not conform to the patterns of this world yet the church system as we know it now is essentially a political, power-based, money driven, consumer focused business model that serves the executive shareholders and not the stakeholders.
Interestingly there is nothing of this type of model even suggested in the NT texts. if anything the exact opposite is demonstrated. The example Jesus himself left is diametrically opposite to the present corporate business model used in the church.
It serves the leadership to persuade the masses that their primary act of spiritual worship is to attend meetings passively but regularly and to faithfully financially support the exploits and lifestyles of the executive members who are after all, the anointed of God above them. They are led to believe that this is their highest form of service to the Kingdom. Those who do rise up through the ranks are usually hand picked according to the criterion of obedience and submission to the present leadership and the doctrine they preach.
I have experienced for myself the tremendously alluring privilege and power that ‘full time’ executive ministry extends to the privileged in the system… I have also seen how easy it is to justify this status quo… and like the rich man who came to Jesus with all his spiritual credentials on display, but left sad and humbled, we would rather slip away silently and follow him no more in the ways he himself walked because we have great worldly wealth and what he seems to actually require of us would threaten our stature with regard to this. Sadly the people have learned well and seem to willingly accept this situation and like in the days of Moses at the foot of Mount Sinai they call out for a king, a ‘Vicar’ to stand before them, to hear from God for them and to mediate between them and God. This is in direct contradiction of what Christ and the apostles taught.
However, on a more specific point, the collection in the early church was for the poor and disenfranchised, the widows and orphans … for those who in some way were disinherited and persecuted because of their new found faith as it was seen to cut against their traditional cultures so severely. The collection of provision specifically to this end was placed at the feet of the apostles so that they could oversee the righteous distribution thereof. It was never intended to support and sustain the privileged life of the clergy. This essentially kicked in as an established tradition when Christianity became the State religion during the Roman era under the rule of the Emperor Constantine.
Yes, a labourer is worthy of his wage but there was never any obligation to pay those who preached the gospel. Paul’s personal dilemma’s is clear testimony to this. The support and sustenance of those who embarked on an exclusive quest to proclaim the gospel has always been according to an act of free-willed, self-determined generosity appraised and expressed individually by the giver and offered to those who served the extension of the Kingdom in this way.
A wage is an obligation.
Grace has no place for obligation.
We all embrace the concept of grace. As church leaders and preachers we proclaim it passionately …
… but we all proclaim grace according to how we interpret it
…and we interpret it according to how it serves us best.
But we don’t have to do it this way… we can do it otherwise…
But if we do we will need to have great courage.