Circa 2015 – 2019
No More Lambs and Sheep
The Holy Spirit continued to talk about the adverse impact from the misuse of tithes, this time, on members of the Church. In the last post, He showed me that, flushed with more money from tithes, some churches flourished and embarked on more ambitious programs and grand ideas.
In the Old Testament, all Levites and Priests were full-time workers paid by the Temple, which was supported by various types of offerings made by the remaining 11 tribes of Israel who worked and produced food and income outside. With the increase in the scope and volume of work in Church, pastors turn to the pulpit to recruit unpaid workers and volunteers from the congregation, who have full-time jobs at home or in the marketplace. Members of the Church now have to wear many hats and multi-task.
I used to serve as cell leader, teacher, counsellor, intercessor, helper and so on. On top of managing my investments and home, I was parent, spouse and caregiver for our old folks and my handicapped brother. I spend up to 5 days of the week serving or attending church meetings. I also had to conduct training for new believers whom I have led to Christ and accompany them to a 2-night weekend encounter meeting at a local hotel, followed by more training sessions to groom them into leaders.
To be honest, I was very happy and pumped up in those years although it was exhausting as I witnessed so many saved and touched by God. But I soon realised that, Instead of being treated as lambs that need to be fed and cared for, new believers are quickly roped in to serve and to recruit others to come to Church.
My teenage daughter gave up on going to church. After a gruelling week of daily sports training and demanding school work that lasted from early morning to 10 pm, she was pressured at her youth cell meeting to meet her ‘quota’ in bringing more people to their Church every weekend. She was so stressed until she couldn't take it anymore and decided she had to leave or go mad. It took her so many years to overcome her anxiety around the Church.
But thank God, she did not give up on God. We did not give up on God.
Maybe all this drivenness is really to fulfill the Great Commission. But, I wonder, could it also be because money and resources are now abundantly available to serve the Church leaders' personal aspirations and ambition?
Slaves and Orphans
Once, the Senior Pastor at my church preached that we were first and foremost full-time servants and workers of God; our families and work rank behind commitment to Church and their meetings. I soon noticed that the study and teaching of the Word focused on serving God and justifying the Church’s agenda. I am thankful for the many years spent studying the bible independently from the Church and for my personal understanding of how God is like that I knew this cannot be right.
This is not how God is like. Not why He saved us.
Many founding members were hurt and dumbfounded when the Pastor embarked on an all-out quest for exponential growth. Years later, faced with the exodus of some key leaders, he declared that if anyone opposed his plans and direction for his Church, he would take up his sword and cut them off. Claiming to be divinely appointed as their spiritual father, he added that those who had already left were not his true sons.
Many more left this once passionate and God loving Church. Sadly, some never recovered and have stopped going to Church to this day and some have left the faith, even ex-pastors. It was at this point that my husband decided that it is time for us to leave as well because as a father, he would never cut off our children just because they do not see things our way.
One ex-leader commented, “He says we are his spiritual children, but the truth is that we are like slaves in an orphanage which he rules with an iron rod.”
In COBS, we do not allow anyone to call themselves spiritual fathers or mothers. We have only One Father, a great and loving one. An Almighty Father who loves mankind so much that He gave us free will to stray and then sends His Beloved Son to pay for our sins and to reconcile us back to Him. He never cuts us off, never leaves, never forsakes. That is the gracious and loving Father we have, as written in John 3:16. He alone is enough. With God, we will never be orphans.
Churches Left Behind
I am sorry if I am generalising based on my personal experience with the churches I have been led to join. I do know of some churches which uphold the purity and simplicity of the gospel, but unfortunately, I find that many are losing more and more members to market-driven churches, which ‘wow’ their audience with seeker-sensitive messages, fancy programs and a dazzling display of opulence and wealth. But then again, it is also because these forlorn churches have become irrelevant to the needs of the congregation, especially the younger generation.
There is nothing wrong with engaging the audience and with doing things well. But the point is, where is our God in all of this? Is He still the main and only reason to go to church – so that for six days we work, and on the seventh day, we spend the Sabbath with Him? Is the Sabbath, whom God says is holy, and commanded to be a day of rest, restful?
Is winning souls more central to our Christian walk than walking with Christ himself, slowly, unhurriedly and restfully, as he asked of us in Matthew 11:28-30, where the yoke and burden He desires to place on us is supposed to be easy and light?
August 10, 2016
I spent a day with my newly wedded niece and her husband who are in town on a visit, teaching them about marriage. After we finished, I shared how God showed me the problems with the church model we use today, which was more or less imported from the USA. Interestingly, this is what her husband, Jarred, sent me the next day (Quote extracted from barrypopik.com):
“Dr. Richard C. Halverson (1916-1995), chaplain to the U.S. Senate, was credited in 1984 for a speech before the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (emphasis mine):
“In the beginning the church was a fellowship of men and women centering on the living Christ. Then the church moved to Greece, where it became a philosophy. Then it moved to Rome, where it became an institution. Next it moved to Europe where it became a culture, and, finally, it moved to America where it became an enterprise.”
How interesting, I thought! No wonder we are feeling so overworked, driven and stressed in Church. I thank God for this insight. America has pushed Christianity far and wide in the last century, and we in Asia are recipients of this blessing. But we are also facing many problems in Church now - because it is financed and run like a profit making enterprise!
I believe that the Lord is waking up more of His people to see what is not quite right. If you are one of the “UnChurched” like us, having left the (institutional) Church, I pray you never will leave the Lord. God will turn brokenness into power if you let Him lead you back to what it was like in the beginning… a fellowship of men and women centered on the living Lord, our Saviour – Jesus Christ.
Peace be with you.
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