A strange thing seems to have happened over the course of church history...
Didn't Jesus send his disciples into all the world? Have we been obedient to his challenge? Have we saturated the world with his transforming presence?
Martin Luther reminded his generation that Christians belong in the larger marketplace of ideas to be "a sort of Christ" there. However, a good case can be made for the claim that we have turned churches into Christian ghettos and isolated ourselves from the world.
Could any of the following be true?
We tend to put our hope in Sunday morning worship in church-owned properties rather than in the power of the Holy Spirit to disperse us into all the places we live, work, and play to demonstrate that the One in us is greater than the evil one who is prince of this world.
We have built churches that are monuments to egos and structured them on the model of a failed General Motors and a struggling McDonalds. We thought bigger is always better and franchised is best of all. Then, if we did not get big enough to be recognized and praised, we could argue that smaller means purer, more faithful, and persecuted.
We need to implement an authentic priesthood of all who believe. Go into our various homes, offices, classrooms, and workplaces as Christ's servants. Go there in the humility of the Son of Man. Offer no judgments or directives; be confessional about our own inadequacies and modest about our occasional accomplishments. We should hesitate to speak; instead, we should be Christ's presence so authentically that we will be asked to explain ourselves. Then we can bear gentle, faithful, and credible witness to the one who is our Lord.
Such Christians would be called anything but self-righteous hypocrites. In their reverent use of the name of Jesus, they would receive a more respectful hearing than is the case in so many venues where the Church of Sanctified Religiosity intrudes today. Where it shouts loudly and judges severely.
If the claim that the earliest church was "turning the world upside down" was true in its time, it certainly is not true today. The church is often viewed as nothing more than an irritating irrelevance by our world. So perhaps it is the church that needs to be turned upside down — divesting itself of a pagan style of leadership that puts the powerful few at the top and embracing the Jesus-style of leadership that understands serving as leading and humility as greatness.
May it be so in our time — and until Christ comes. Only then may we be said to be praying with authenticity the words of the Lord's Prayer: "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
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