“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” 1 John 3:16 (NIV)
In my preacher’s voice: Turn to your left and say, “Neighbor… Where is the love?” Now, turn to your right and say it again: “Neighbor… Where is the love?”
The more critical question, this morning, is: Where is the church’s love?
Instead of building up the people and repairing the village’s walls, we have built too many comfy-cozy worship theaters. To outsiders, we have become cold uncompassionate places, where “insiders” gather as a homogenous entity too often secluded from community. The church, it appears, has sacrificed her social relevance, her moral authority, her prophetic zeal, her soul.
Untold millions wasted on earthen temples of brick and mortar rather than to uplift temples of humankind. Not all, but too many churches-large and small.
Vanished are the tithes and offerings laid for decades at the altar. Still lingering in abundance: poverty, hopelessness, homicide and hurts that the church has yet failed to heal-or even address.
What would I do with 25 or 50 or 100 million dollars given by the people of God? Not put it into a sinkhole, like a church building, then claim it is all for the glory of God.
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;” 1 Corinthians 6:19
Misplaced priorities. Displaced treasures. The people perish, languish, inches from the church’s front doors.
After another Sunday shindig replete with professional band, worship tweets and the hoverboard praise dancers, the question begs: What is the church’s true purpose?
In the early church, people sold all they had — not for the erection of grand temples or apostles’ salaries. To help the widow, the poor, the orphan… They understood that “the church” is the ecclesia — the living, breathing body of believers. Not a place, but a people.
Today, peering through the haze of “Churchianity,” I see the saints’ financial sacrifice lying in waste — squandered on vast worship centers with neon signs and giant crosses that will surely fade away.
I see their sacrifices spent on preachers’ suburban homes, luxury cars, private jets, jewelry and other bling-bling more than on housing for seniors and the disabled, or transitional homes for families. I see some but hardly enough evidence of corporate partnerships that bring jobs to poor communities in a church-led, economic self-healing.
Churches should exist for the people. Not the people for the church.
Too many churches, strapped for cash, paying hundreds of thousands a year in mortgage alone, can no longer afford to do what the church is called to do. Too many members are tapped, carrying the church’s financial burden that will be passed on to their children’s children.
The “storehouse” is full. And yet, it is empty. And many in need are left wanting.
Given the church’s neglect of the community from which it has extracted a mere fortune, maybe we ought to boycott Sunday service — until the church regains its prophetic zeal and its commitment, even to the least of these. Perhaps we should call for a “No Tithes & Offerings Sunday.”
Until, once again, we see her love.
For: “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2
Now, let the church say, “Amen.”
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