From time to time well-meaning Christian brothers and sisters hear my story, and feel sorry for me. They think I was just unlucky in my legalistic church experience, and go on to inform me that they are part of a Bible based church – ah yes, Bible based…
I normally smile, and politely decline their invitation to join one of their services. You see, this was exactly what I would have said when I was still a senior pastor. My church was a “Bible based church” and I said this with great satisfaction. Upon reflection I realise I was absolutely right – for all the wrong reasons.
My church was a building where everyone would come to once a week to worship God – just like the Temple in the Bible.
I encouraged everyone it was God’s will that they bring their tithe to this building – just like the Temple in the Bible.
I organised musical worship, that placed God high up in heaven and the rest of us far away on earth – we were always ‘reaching up to him’ – just like the Temple in the Bible.
Ah yes, we were certainly Bible based – that was the problem, and it was a big problem. It pulled everyone, inch by inch, into the Old Covenant mentality.
What a church really should be is gospel based, not Bible based. Not everything that is in the Bible is the gospel. Most of the Bible is the Old Covenant, and we, as Christians, are not part of that covenant. When we fail to understand that, we cause a great deal of harm to our church community. But, well, you know the tithe is part of the Old Covenant, and that one law is probably responsible for more pastors wanting to keep things ‘Bible based’ than allowing the community to be ‘gospel based’ than any other. I understand why. You need a lot of money to keep a Temple running… but again, should we even have a Temple-like-building to begin with?
Jesus did describe what the Church looks like, did you know that? He talked about the community who were born-again, that of course being a reference to the body of Christ, the Church. How did he describe the Church then? He compared it to the wind. He said:
“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
This is what I realised was my major mistake. My church community was meant to resemble the wind, but instead I worked hard (and made others work even harder) to make the church resemble the Temple. This to me now is shocking, but back then I honestly didn’t see a problem with it. I though it was commendable even! The Church was meant to seem invisible, and yet I was actively spending huge amounts of money on publicity and advertisements, doing everything in my power to make my church known, famous, “here we are: we are the church, look at us!!”
I don’t blame other pastors for doing the same things I did. I understand it’s not done with a false motive. It’s done with zeal, with passion – but, I also believe it’s done with a wrong understanding. Like the Apostle Paul said,
For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Romans 10:2
So, how can we as a church community move away from the Old Covenant ‘Temple’ model and start living int the New Covenant ‘Wind’ model of church life? … well, that’s something I’m still trying to figure out myself. It’s a walk of faith, and I’m just taking it one step at a time.