I used to believe that wherever the Gospel of the Kingdom was systematically preached, the surrounding church culture of that locale would eventually, inevitably reflect it. Now, not only am I persuaded otherwise, I’m very concerned that our imperial church paradigms (e.g. clergy/laity distinction, hierarchical power structures, pastor as cornerstone of church polity, sermon as centerpiece of church gatherings, etc.) create conformity-based cultures where the Sunday sermon, however “Christ-centered” and well preached, can actually inoculate us from the Gospel. The cognitive dissonance of what is functionally experienced on a weekly basis is just too overwhelming. And it’s been this way for well over 1500 years. Let’s repent. – James Paul
This thought from James Paul caused me to look back over the last three decades of following Jesus and I’ve found his thought to be true. What I’ve experienced and heard from others is the cheering on of the extravagant Sunday experience as though it is the truest of Christian experiences. I’ve also heard the many arguments for the current institutional church systems and hierarchical structures. Some of you will argue otherwise, but many of our fellow Christians have been inoculated and lulled into a false sense of security and safety with a message that is usually far removed from the good news of God’s kingdom. Many have been lulled by the notion of power and control. That doesn’t resemble the sermon on the Mount.
When it comes to Sunday morning’s, the question for me is why are we “preaching” the gospel to Christ-followers? Should that not be lived out together as a community through the making of disciples? Again, we’ve been lulled into the assumption that the activities of Sunday are all we need. Keep in mind the proclamation of the good news of the kingdom was first given to the marginalized, lost, broken-hearted and least of these in search of someone and something in which to hope. This cognitive dissonance has created a dangerous and deadly environment controlled by clergy, while laity are expected to buckle-up and enjoy the ride. The hierarchy tells us who the experts are in church, which means only they can dispense of the sacraments. It’s assumed only they can discern the Scriptures.
Mind you, I despise the terms clergy and laity, because they create division. Also, not all church leaders are controlling. I have many dear friends who are “pastors” and some would agree the Christian life is not about the Sunday service. Nor do they place an emphasis on the clergy/laity divide. Some have have turned the Sunday gathering into one of many days to celebrate an encounter with the Spirit of the Lord. I commend them for the work they do by investing into people’s spiritual journey through discipleship relationships, as opposed to fruitless, religious activities.
With that said, many of you know I listen to many preachers on the radio (#RadioDudes) throughout the week and sadly, they rarely speak of good news. Instead, they speak of doom and gloom because they’re hung up on apocalyptic prophecy of end times, all the while neglecting the kingdom in the here and now. They perpetuate a moralistic message that leaves one wondering why God hasn’t wiped us off the earth already. It seems as though they make little effort in understanding humanity. Rather, these men speak with malice and discontent through dogmatic irrelevance.
The paradigm of Christendom has not shifted…yet, but it’s coming. The curtain has not been pulled back fully on Christendom to reveal all who are causing the dissonance. As a result, we put pressure on pastors causing them to wonder if they’re good preachers or not, or whether they are successful or not, when those aren’t even the issues anymore. Sadly, they usually don’t understand their role within the context of Ephesians 4 and in relation to Jesus the Good Shepherd. As a result, we have what we have and it perpetuates cognitive dissonance.
I ask this of God often: “Lord, when will the scales fall off our eyes to see you with greater clarity?”
What good news are we proclaiming?
Are we making disciples as Jesus made disciples?
Will the new year be different and more kingdom like?
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