The Church is on a mission. Christ came preaching the kingdom of God and repentance for the remission of sins. This is the primary calling of the Church. The Church is to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom that God's king, the Lord Jesus Christ, has come to earth, lived as Jesus of Nazareth, and is the Messiah and Lord. His death and resurrection open the way to God and unite all peoples on the earth in one humanity. Christ died for the nations. This is the theology of the Church, and the mission of the Church is to teach this theology, as noted in an earlier post.
For the second part of a Philosophy of Ecclesiastical Structures, we understand that the local church therefore is to have a mind of mission on a local and global level. Locally, this means a faithful teaching of the whole counsel of the word of God, and offering subsistence to local people in terms of humanitarian aid. The Church is the voice of God to the local community, commanding all people everywhere to repent of sin and turn to God in faith, embracing the Savior Jesus (Acts 17:29-31). A church on a mission is also concerned with improving the biosphere in which it is located. This means the church is to promote culture, which means promoting science and technology, literature and the arts, economic prosperity, political freedom, and social well-being. In all of these is the teaching of human responsibility, and the blessings of a loving Heavenly Father who wants to bless his children with good gifts: the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13), as well as material blessing (Matt. 7:11).
This means the Church is to have a healthy disdain for a Gnostic approach to life, which in evangelical and especially Baptist circles, means that missionaries, pastors and those in "ministry" have a "sacred" duty, while the rest of the "laity" busy themselves with "non-spiritual" things like...work. For example, I once told a doctor that I was thinking of becoming a pastor (I'm not one), and he said, "Oh, spiritual work eh?!" Meh. The Church needs to affirm to its people (itself) that work is good and ordained by God. Adam was given work in the Garden, and the Lord gave special talents to men to build the tabernacle. God Himself was a worker. Remember what Jesus did before he started preaching? Notice I didn't say, "Before He started the ministry"?
Local churches in America need to repent of the sin of "building stuff." I remember meeting a young man--a pastor--in Barnes and Noble (in the religion section, where else?) and after telling me he was a pastor he went into an immediate strut about his million dollar building project. Great. But I ask you, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is purported to have said "My persistent and constant question to you is, 'What are you doing for others?'" Many of the few people who read this blog know that I have been to Ethiopia twice, visiting a slum there, and seeking to help in some small way, the widows and orphans there. Most of these are female, and most of them are subject to sexual slavery.
So what I want to know is, why are churches spending millions and millions of dollars on building projects when we could be purchasing homes and orphanages for these helpless girls?
Don't you see the tears in their eyes after having been paid 20 cents for being used? Do you really need a new worship complex? Here is a vision I learned from a pastor I met while over there who has planted a church in Charlotte NC: he said that every dollar from his church that goes to a building project is match by a dollar for missions. Now that is a good plan. For, prosperity and wealth are good, and the Lord God is not a stingy killjoy. He wants the world to progress and prosper. We can't hold our own children in contempt for having fun while on a swing because they don't know the plight of others half a world away (but now so prevalent in our own cities). Rather, we should desire to give our children what we desire for other children in poor countries. Notice I didn't say that the other way around: desiring to give to other children what our own children already have. Of course we want our own children to laugh and play, and we strive to that end. But my persistent question to you is, "What are you doing for others?"
Jesus teaches us in the parable of the Sheep and the Goats that "whatever you did for the least of these, you did unto me." The Goats don't help the poor and are cast to hell. The Sheep, however, feed the poor and clothe them, giving them water and visiting them in prison. Are we Sheep or Goats? What's your priority?
I'm reminded of a friend from high school who told me he didn't want to sponsor a child in Ethiopia because he was of a certain kind of Christianity different from the ministry of the sponsorship. Maybe he helps children through the ministry of his own sect (a major one) within Christianity. But please. "I'm such and such and therefore I do not want to sponsor a child"? Tshh.
A Local, Global Vision
What I would like to do is purchase a large home in Addis Ababa and give the girls trapped on the street a place to rest, eat healthy food, get medicine, education and clothing. They would learn the Scriptures, Songs and Catechism. They would learn skills like sewing, hair-dressing, arts and crafts, and have enough money for a college education. We could hire a woman or two to run the home and manage it, and everyone could help with the cooking and cleaning. It's painful to see so much affluence here in America, despite our economic turbulence, and not see churches with projects like this front and center. This is my prayer before God Almighty. I have no idea how to bring it to pass, and I'm going to need some help.