The pastor, at a recent church service, congratulated the congregation for ranking high among church organizations within their denomination in mission giving. He also praised them for meeting the financial needs of their local church budget. “Go ahead and congratulate yourself”. There was self-applause. Bragging, of sorts.
Now this pastor says his church would embark on a building program to increase their size, exposure and influence in the community – all for Jesus and the Kingdom, of course. (I cannot help but suspect it is also for his competitive stature and ranking within this denomination. I have seen pastors ‘glean out’ those who do not ‘support their vision, methods and ways’ and ‘humbly brag’ about their church’s accomplishments.)
An internet search will quickly show you this is nothing out of the ordinary, though. 179,000,000 hits on Google search show the undying popularity of building more and more church buildings:
AD 1 The Church of Jesus Christ, The Body of Christ, had no buildings, little money and no wealth. The Church was a Movement.
Matthew 16:18 “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth [p] shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” 20 Then He gave the disciples strict orders that they were to tell no one that He was the Christ.
Jesus said to make disciples; collect no money except to make your journey.
Although the penalty for becoming a Christian was often death. The Church grew exponentially.
AD 49 The Church expanded into Greece. The Church became a philosophy to many. The Church grew and size and influence.
AD 313 The Church expanded into Rome and it gained recognition. It grew in power and popularity. It obtained wealth, buildings, property and influence. It became an institution.
AD 380 The Church expanded into Europe. It was becoming a worldwide phenomenon. It grew in wealth, stature, power and influence. It had become a culture.
AD 1607 The Church reaches America.
AD 1681 The Church became corporate. It had became a business and incorporated. It became regulated by the government.
The Corporate Church grew. It needed money to support growth and expansion, which meant the Corporate Church needed more people.
AD 1777 The state of Virginia granted tax exemption to houses of worship.
AD 1894 The corporate church was granted tax exemptions by the Federal Government.
AD 1954 The Federal Government regulated what a church could and could not say in order to retain tax exempt status.
The church continued to grow, and in order to attract more people the Corporate Church lowered its membership and doctrinal standards. More people became ‘members’ and gave more money to support more growth.
The Church corporation is complete with leaders, boards and membership and a business model.
Local churches compete against one another for members (customers). The church is selling itself in “three line slogans”.
The Church members now have choices and have become religious consumers. Church people can shop around for the religious brand and standards that best suits them. (2 Timothy 3)
The Leadership (pastors and preachers) have become CEOs, disciples have become church leaders, growing their 501(c)(3) business models.
Record numbers of pastors quitting because of stress, burnout or are being fired by their congregations (some stats say 1500 – 1700 leave “the ministry” each month).
Church debt in America soars; church foreclosures soar.
AD 1968 The church ordains homosexuals as clergy.
AD 1972 The United church of christ ordains homosexual clergy
AD 2010 The Lutheran church ordains homosexual clergy
AD 2012 The Presbyterian church ordains homosexual clergy
Internationally, churches that have ordained openly lesbian or gay clergy include the Church of Scotland, the Church of England, the Church in Wales, the Church of Sweden, the Church of Norway, the Church of Denmark, the Church of Iceland, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, the Evangelical Church in Germany, the Methodist Church in Britain, the Protestant Church in the Netherlands, the United Protestant Church in Belgium, the Swiss Reformed Church, the United Protestant Church of France, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, Anglican Church in Canada, the Old Catholic Church, the Czechoslovak Hussite Church and the United Church of Christ in Japan.
Millions of people (approximately 52 million) “attend church” in one of the 300,000+ churches in America, at least once a week each month. However, when people were asked the topic of the “sermon” they heard after 24 hours, only about 10 percent could tell you. When asked to cite the most important lesson they received, most just shrugged.
An estimated 1.2 million hours each week (1) are spent in sermon preparations; it takes about another 300,000 hours in delivery of these sermons (2) at a staggering potential cost of over $750 millions dollars nationally, each week (3). Yet, only 5% of those hearing these sermons, remember anything about them after 72 hours.
AD 2021 The church is losing and has lost influence. The church in 2021 is losing members and adherents. (George Barna research; Pew Research)
AD 2021 The church is teaching and living a different Gospel than that of the Apostles.
Matthew 16:18 “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” 20 Then He gave the disciples strict orders that they were to tell no one that He was the Christ.
Look back a few verses and we can see “THIS ROCK” that Jesus speaks of:
“Some say John the Baptist; and others,
Elijah; and stillothers,
Christ, the Son of the living God.”
17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon [l] Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth [p] shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”
It is important to understand the nuance of the language Jesus uses here. He calls Peter by name, Pétros in the Greek language, which is an isolated rock or a stone as one would throw. But, the ROCK upon which Jesus will build His Church is the word “pétra”, which is a huge mass of interconnected rock, a “solid or native rock, rising up through the earth”.
This is important because Jesus is telling you, and all of His followers, about your position, your ability, your responsibility and your authority in His Church:
I will build My Church, you and others like you; and
the gates of Hades will not overpower you and others like you.
v19 I will give you and others like you the keys of the kingdom of heaven;
and whatever you and others like youbind on earth shall have been bound in heaven,
and whatever youand others like you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”
Finally, Jesus says He will give you and others like you, that is, His Church, the keys to the kingdom of heaven. We can pursue this as a metaphor, but, there are specific references to these KEYS in the scriptures.
A key indicates control or authority; therefore, having the Key of David would give one control of David’s domain, i.e., Jerusalem, the City of David, and the kingdom of Israel.
And (you) coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by people, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For this is contained in Scripture:
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a choice stone, a precious cornerstone, And the one who believes in Him will not be ]put to shame.”
This precious value, then, is for you who believe; (1 Peter 2:4-7)
You and I must take up our appointed positions. We must shake of the lethargy of the 21st century postmodern religion we call ‘church’ and take the Gospel of Jesus to the streets, the byways, the hedges and towns, into our neighborhoods, and as scriptures tell us, BECOME THE LIVING STONES, A LIVING SACRIFICE.
Your Brother and Friend,
FOOT & STUDY NOTES:
I “SAY” to you: 3004 légō (originally, “lay down to sleep,” used later of “laying an argument to rest,” i.e. bringing a message to closure; see Curtius, Thayer) – properly, to say (speak), moving to a conclusion (bringing it to closure, “laying it to rest”). Aorist active
You “ARE”: 1510 eimí (the basic Greek verb which expresses being, i.e. “to be“) – am, is. 1510 (eimí), and its counterparts, (properly) convey “straight-forward” being (existence, i.e. without explicit limits).
”PETER”: “4074 (Pétros) is an isolated rock and 4073 (pétra) is a cliff” (TDNT, 3, 100). “4074 (Pétros) always means a stone . . . such as a man may throw, . . . versus 4073 (pétra), a projecting rock, cliff” (S. Zodhiates, Dict).
Upon this “ROCK”: 4073 pétra (a feminine noun) – “a mass of connected rock,” which is distinct from 4074 (Pétros) which is “a detached stone or boulder” (A-S). 4073 (pétra) is a “solid or native rock, rising up through the earth” (Souter) – a huge mass of rock (a boulder), such as a projecting cliff.
I will build my “CHURCH”: 1577 ekklēsía (from 1537 /ek, “out from and to” and 2564 /kaléō, “to call”) – properly, people called out from the world and to God, the outcome being the Church (the mystical body of Christ) – i.e. the universal (total) body of believers whom God calls out from the world and into His eternal kingdom.