The analogy suggested by the title has a number of interesting possibilities. The hen is the 20th Century Church, the eggs are the church members and the rooster is the preacher. Ordinarily the hen lays the eggs while the rooster struts and crows. (Is there a lesson in this somewhere?) Sometimes the rooster crows and the hen does a lot of loud cackling, but does not lay any eggs at all. Worse and more accurately, the picture today is this: the rooster crows, the hen cackles loudly and lays many eggs – most of them ROTTEN.
An honest appraisal of the typical church member of the 1990's shows him to be outwardly, superficially religious (white like an egg and just as fragile) but inwardly, spiritually corrupt (like a rotten egg). Ugly as it may seem, this picture is not much overdrawn. It is in fact very much like the one prophetically painted by Paul in 2 Tim. 3:1-9, where he described the character of certain religious people who would later appear. Limited space forbids elaboration on this point, so please examine that passage carefully.
Now it is true that under the best of conditions good eggs can turn rotten. There were a few bad eggs among the first disciples, and that in spite of supernatural nesting. But what we see today is a hen that regularly LAYS rotten eggs! Under these circumstances we ought to grow suspicious of the hen after a while. Personally I am convinced the old bird is sick, sick, sick. One thing sure, she seldom hatches out any golden eggs.
Well, enough nonsense. The point, in case it has been missed, is that something is necessarily amiss in contemporary Christendom. This conclusion is unavoidable. A system that perpetually produces masses of uncertain, uncommitted, superficial, nominal believers whose religion consists mostly of "attending services" now and then cannot be good, right, or healthy. So with these background thoughts in mind I propose to examine briefly the more salient features of the modern Church. Perhaps this review will provide at least a partial explanation for the poor quality produce so often displayed by today's religious establishment.
As a final preface let it be added that the outstanding features of the modern Church to be noticed are for obvious reasons more prominent, and consequently more noticeable, in large Churches than in small ones, and in older denominations than those of recent origin. Yet their relative size does not alter their essential character. It probably should be mentioned also that most of these thoughts were originally written with the whole religious community in mind, rather than just people with a "Church of Christ/ Christian Church" background. But since so much of what can be said of the denominational world can also be said of the modern Church of Christ, I see no reason to make a big distinction. Most of what is said fits "us" all too well.
Surely the most discernible, therefore most conspicuous feature of the modern Church is its organization. For this reason we will look at this characteristic first.
Churches have come to be intricately structured, highly systemized operations, with every spiritual activity carefully programmed by and through the organized establishment. There are myriads of departments, offices, officers, committees, channels, holy orders, fraternities, societies, associations, agencies and agents. This highly organized condition of Christendom is a matter of record. What we have is religion crystallized into an institutional form.
Each religious party today comes with a complete and separate set of organizations, both functional and governmental. There are special organizations designed to take care of all items on the spiritual agenda. To preach the gospel to lost sinners, Churches have their various missionary societies and/or programs; to relieve the sick, the suffering, the indigent, they have their organized charities; to teach their young and develop religious leaders, they have their parochial schools and seminaries; to supervise this vast network of institutions that have the necessary governmental power structure. In short, Churches have evolved into complicated corporation-type organizations characterized not by the faith and love of their members, but by red tape, departmental policy, personnel management and all similar elements that necessarily inhere in a highly organized complex.
No doubt to the casual observer the organized religious system, because of its enormous size if nothing else, appears to represent strength and success. To the more thoughtful observer it is evidence of weakness and failure. The corrupted state of contemporary Christendom is never more vividly demonstrated than in its desperate need for an abundance of organization. Consider this carefully.
The excessive presence of sophisticated Church machinery is ample indication that professing believers IN THEIR INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY have no serious intention of practicing the faith they have publicly espoused. Personally, to any significant degree, they are NOT going to teach the lost about Jesus, they are NOT going to relieve the indigent, they are NOT going to train the young in the right ways of the Lord, they are NOT going to get intimate with any daily devotion. And Church leaders know this! How well they know it. Therefore to compensate for this failure they are forced to construct an organized system that will accomplish FOR nominal disciples the righteousness they are unwilling to practice in daily life. Thus each Church works to develop enough organized arms to perform the necessary functions, to dispense with all the difficult obligations. It is a convenient system certainly, but hardly the faith described in the New Testament. While the accumulated muscle of organized religion is never enough to make up for its lack of heart, it does produce readable statistics that make Church people proud. In the language of Paul, however, they "are proud of what they ought to be ashamed of." (Phil. 3:19.)
"The more organization we have the more effective we can be" is the popular point of view. This is the human reasoning that has produced the organized system in vogue today. Yet there are reasons to suspect that excessive organization may be an impediment rather than an aid to true faith. In the first place, a highly institutionalized faith is deceptive to those who embrace it. It offers a false feeling of relief from responsibility. Many "wonderful works" are performed through a variety of Church agencies, and although individual members are not involved personally in these works, and have no interest in being involved, they do help pay the bill. Therefore they have a sense of satisfaction, a "look-what-we-are-doing" pride. But this is very deceiving. For although these organized "works" may prove something about the policy and performance of a church organization, they prove nothing at all about the personal faith of any individual Christian, which is what counts.
Above all else the Christian faith is revealed in the Scriptures in terms of personal involvement. The organized approach shifts the emphasis from the personal faith of individuals to the impersonal functioning of organizations. It tends to equate righteousness with the successful operation of religious programs. This is great folly. It is in fact tragic in that it undermines the personal nature of the Christian faith, and in so doing destroys its very heart. True faith has two basic relationships; one upward between the believer and God, and the other outward between the believer and his fellowman. To insert a maze of organization into either of these relationships cannot help but interfere with, and eventually disrupt these two relationships the gospel of grace was designed to effect, affect and perfect.
This is not all. Existing Church organizations are the major producers and perpetuators of religious division. They present the chief obstacle In the way of the much sought after unity among professing saints. These facts can hardly be disputed. After all, how could world-wide disunity and division exist in the religious community without world-wide Church (sectarian) organization to produce and enforce it? It could not. The lines of religious demarcation separating men are ALWAYS drawn along the lines of established ecclesiastical organization. Right?? Remove these manifold denominational structures (they are unknown to the N.T. anyway, and are totally unnecessary to the faith of any individual) and traditional division would be practically impossible to maintain. The first giant step toward unity would be achieved.
It must have been because of considerations such as these that the faith taught by Jesus and the apostles was not cumbered with elaborate organization. It was instead a simple, personal, practical, practicable faith. All it did was work with astonishing success. Given a chance no doubt it still would.
The religious community has been thoroughly pervaded, if not invaded, by professional religionists. This is not unexpected, however, since professionalism is the immediate need of any complex organization. Just as a complicated machine requires a skilled machinist to operate it, a complex religious organization requires professionally trained personnel to make it work. As Church structures have grown in size and sophistication, professionalism has naturally developed at a comparable rate. Consequently those who are "pious by profession" are very much with us; their number is legion, and growing.
The current procedure for entering the "Ministry" as a learned profession is fairly standardized. Each denomination has its seminaries where aspiring young professionals go to learn their trade. There they are taught all the skills necessary to the holy life and occupation that lies before them, especially the techniques needed to make the Church machinery function smoothly. In school, or in time, they acquire a professional manner, professional manners, professional mannerisms and (usually) a distinctively professional brogue. They emerge from seminary ready to be employed. They are Doctors of Divinity now qualified to doctor the souls of men – for a stipulated fee of course. Nothing about this business-like approach to the faith is new, or un-anticipated by God. Jesus described the character of the "hireling" shepherd in John 10. Peter foretold of teachers who in making merchandise of the gospel would exercise their heart with covetous practices. (2 Pet. 2:3,14). Paul called such men "peddlers of the word of God." (2 Cor. 2:17, RSV). The New Testament sounds out so many warnings along this line it would be bard, and we would be foolish, to ignore them.
Now all this is not to suggest that "men of the cloth" all are money-minded time servers. They are not. Many clergymen are sincere, deeply dedicated men who are making severe sacrifices in an effort to serve the Lord. They are caught up in a system not of their making or liking, but one they cannot change. So they do the best they can. In some ways they are to be admired, in some ways pitied. Yet the plight of these good men not withstanding, the uglier side of religious professionalism remains a reality not to be ignored.
While preaching in particular has become almost the exclusive domain of professionals, it is by no means the only phase of contemporary Christianity that has been turned over to the "pros." Practically the whole program has been surrendered to them. Churches not only have their professional orators to do their exhorting, teaching and defending for them, they also have their professional musicians, personal workers, educational directors, fund raisers, social workers, public relations experts, etc. Such are the FACTS of professionalization seen everywhere on the religious scene. With such a large staff of salaried specialists on hand to perform the necessary labors, the modern church-goer has little to do but patronize his favorite Church system by paying the various salaries, and sit back on the pew and applaud the performance. "The priesthood of ALL believers" did someone say? Surely no one would be so bold.
The truth is, now that the Christian religion has come to be a mechanized program, it has ceased to be a daily way of life lived by common people; it has become instead a rather technical field open only to the qualified few who are professionally trained to enter its holy precincts. It was not intended to be thus. The New Testament offers absolutely no support for this kind of professionalism. It is true that there were those in apostolic times who received money while engaged in spiritual pursuits. Paul said he received "wages" from various congregations and the record shows he did. (2 Cor. 11:18, Phil. 4:14-16). But it is not true that Paul was "paid to preach" like one being compensated for professional services rendered. He would have preached the gospel had he not been paid. He did, in fact, many times. So did many others. (Acts 8:4.) Back then they did not have a few salaried members looked upon as professionals, while the rest were considered to be amateurs. They were ALL Christians by vocation in those days. It should be so today.
The unhealthy consequences of professionalized religion are self-evident. As the role of the professional increases, the role of the "common" member decreases. The more hired help, the fewer volunteer workers. The more hired help, the greater the demand for money. The more money involved, the greater the attraction for mercenaries. The more mercenaries, the greater the corruption caused by greed and ambition. So, on and on it goes.
To show the folly of a religious system that has pure professionalism at its foundation, let me make a final observation. You and I may belong to the most efficiently organized Church ever constructed by men, one with the most dedicated and talented staff money can buy. Our chief Speaker may be an orator of such uncanny eloquence that he makes the flesh crawl with his weekly declamations. Our Minister of Music may be an artist par excellence who creates angelic sounds when he performs for us on Sunday. Our Social Worker/Counselor may be an absolute genius at solving the problems of the downtrodden. Yet despite all this, the fact remains that if our faith does not touch us as individuals and cause us to PERSONALLY teach and live out in daily life the truths we claim to believe, WE WILL BE CONDEMNED. The fact that we have helped subsidize good professionals will help us not one bit.
All of which is to say that professionalism is not the answer to the question of personal responsibility. Unfortunately, today's wonderful world of Christendom has chosen to think otherwise.
The profit motive gainfully applied to man's religious life is by no means a novelty peculiar to this century. Profiteering, not to mention racketeering, has throughout history played a prominent role in religious proceedings. The Jewish money changers of long ago set up shop in the temple of God itself, and apparently were doing quite well until Jesus came along and ran them out with a whip. (John 2:13-17). The obvious abhorrence Jesus felt when he saw the Father's house turned into a "house of merchandise" evoked from him the only physical violence the meek and lowly lamb of God is reported ever to have exhibited. This must be somewhat significant don't you think?
In total disregard for what Christ did that day in the temple, Churches of the modern stripe have gone into business in a big way. At the moment I mean this not as a figure of speech, but as a statement of fact. Churches today are literally and commercially IN BUSINESS! Farms, ranches, dairies, schools, parking lots, grocery stores, hotels, restaurants, apartment houses, breweries and insurance companies comprise only a partial list of the various business ventures that religious organizations are currently involved in. As one observer frankly put it, "Churches are active in the temples of finance. They have gone to Wall Street – not for converts, but for cash."
This great and growing involvement of Churches in enterprises of a purely commercial nature, because it is so extensive, and because it often puts tax-exempt Churches in unfair competition with secular businesses that do not enjoy such advantages, has become a matter of serious concern to many government leaders. Some have begun to question the tax-exempt status of "the Church" in this nation. Considering that Church-owned real estate in America is valued at well over 100 billion dollars (the last old figures I saw), their concern is quite understandable.
In face of facts like these, any attempt to deny the rank commercialization existing within the contemporary Church would hardly be worth the effort. Commercialization in the most literal sense is both real and a growing reality. How would Jesus Christ react to these modern houses of merchandise? Over the jingle of coins one can almost hear the whistle of his whip.
Bad as it is, however, this direct involvement in commercial business presents only a partial picture of the monetary nature of modern Christendom. Churches are pretty big businesses in their own right. The ingredients previously noticed, organization and professionalization, create an ideal foundation upon which commercialized Christianity is built. A large organization requires the professional personnel to run it; this makes huge sums of money necessary on a regular basis; and this, in turn, makes for commercial methods of raising money and commercial procedures for spending it. Therefore the modern Church has learned its lessons in business administration well. It had to; not only because it operates so many kinds of commercial enterprises as mentioned earlier, but also because it has itself become less of a spiritual relationship and more of a business operation.
The similarity between a modern Big Town Church and a commercial business is striking. Hold your pocketbook tightly while we take a look at it. The Church of today, like any business, has gross income, operating expenses, financial reserves and building funds. The distribution of income is typical of any business. First, local salaries get approximately half; utilities, supplies and other operating costs are taken care of next; a smaller part is then sent to subsidiary businesses which in turn follow the same pattern of distribution. Whatever is left goes into a fund for expansion of facilities that will eventually increase the income of the company. Under such circumstances a Big Business "image" is difficult for the Church to avoid. I am afraid it is more than a mere image. In this businesslike setting Church leaders serve as little more than a board of directors for the corporation. Their role is not that of spiritual leaders whose function is to instruct the unlearned, exhort the erring and protect the weak. No! Their role is primarily that of business administrators whose function is to oversee the raising and dispensing of funds, supervise departmental policies and procedures, hire and fire personnel, etc. This explains why Church leaders are selected today more on the strength of their business accomplishments than by reason of their deep spirituality.
Like any business, the Church has a product to sell. The Church Building is where the product is marketed, the professional clergyman is the primary salesman, and the members are the customers. The product sold is a special kind of "righteousness" which the organization is in the business of producing. Thus the bargain is made. In exchange for the customer's regular weekly payment and his occasional presence, the organization, through its many employees and subsidiary agencies, will perform his religion for him and, upon request of family at his death, will gladly give him a receipt insuring his immortality. Frankly, from a scriptural point of view it is a most unholy transaction.
To be found in this commercial brand of "Christianity" are all the sound business principles that make for any commercial success. A beautiful building in a choice location is considered absolutely essential. Rich customers are courted with much more industry than poor ones. The Church cannot afford too many customers on whom it loses money. To stay in business it must operate on a cost effective basis. Of course the customer is always right. You have to keep them coming, so prices are continually adjusted to meet the competition. New customers have to be brought in. This means advertising, especially advertising with "celebrity endorsement." It works. Churches have learned to copy the commercial world in capitalizing on the fame of movie stars, sports heroes etc. The reflected glory of worldly fame is thus used as a tool for selling the glorious gospel of the Son of God. It all adds up to a dollar-dominated, semi-spiritual business operation that looks unlike anything remotely suggested by the New Testament.
Now pause and reflect a moment. All this commercializing might be perfectly proper if the gospel were just another good deodorant going on sale. It isn't. It is a FAITH received into honest and good hearts and acted out in daily living. Nothing about it resembles a business venture. While those "good business principles" mentioned above may be legitimate in operating a dry goods store, are they really conducive to creating genuine faith? It looks doubtful to me. What we have is good business, but poor Christianity. Paul once said, "The kingdom of God ... is righteousness, and peace, and joy." Today it may well be said, "The kingdom of God is a good organization, a good professional staff and a balanced budget." Times have changed!
One other point before leaving this section. The faith of the early Christians touched their money deeply. They were taught to help the poor and to support those who proclaimed the good news. In doing this, money changed hands often among the early Christians. Yet as far as I can discover, nothing spiritual was ever bought or sold. Nor was there an employer-employee "business relationship" ever developed among them. When money was involved, they were encouraged to give, not pay or purchase. They did not pay dues, they did not buy services rendered, they did not rent righteousness by the week. They GAVE! They gave as they prospered and as they determined within themselves. They gave liberally and cheerfully. But mainly, "they GAVE THEMSELVES." (2 Cor. 8:5). This is the missing element today. Very probably this missing ingredient is what makes all the commercialization we have discussed so necessary.
No character sketch of the contemporary Church would be complete without including its final protruding feature – its secular nature. Although this overlaps some of the areas previously discussed, it covers new territory sufficient enough to require separate treatment.
By secularization I simply mean that the modern Church has become more and more worldly and less and less spiritual in its interests and endeavors. This is not just a private opinion. It is a fact recognized and commented on by observers both in and out of religious circles. Whereas the church of the past, even in its corporate sense, was concerned with the eternal salvation of souls, the Church of the present has a host of concerns, most of them of a very temporal nature.
For an initial illustration take the matter of entertainment. The once unheard of department of recreation has now come to occupy a BIG place in the modern program. Look around and witness this evidence. Ping pong tables, swimming pools, tennis courts, roller rinks, bowling alleys and fully equipped gymnasiums. This is not enough? There are also TV dens, party rooms, coffee houses, drama workshops and hot-rod clubs. This is not enough? There are also courses taught in arts, crafts, beauty culture, gardening, cake decorating, millinery and modeling. All "to the glory of God" to be sure. If this is not enough E. T. (Entertainment Tonight) to satisfy secular appetites, there may even be a Hollywood Film Festival to replace midweek prayer meeting. And of course the MENU is always excellent. Kitchen and dining hall are now REQUIRED facilities in the up-to-date "House of the Lord," not because a lot of poor hungry people are to be fed, but because so many breakfasts, luncheons, afternoon teas, dinners and banquets are necessary for successful secularizing.
What is wrong with wholesome entertainment? Not anything. But did God call us unto the fellowship of His Son for the mere purpose of supplying us with social niceties? Surely not. That New Testament Christians, as the Lord's "called out," frequently assembled there is no doubt. But why did they come together? To build better physiques? To edify their muscles? To learn to play parlor games? To enjoy a humorous after dinner speech? The answer is an evident and resounding NO! (Read 1 Cor. 14). Somewhere underneath all this fun and frolic perhaps a portion of eternal truth lies buried; but at the moment everyone is having too much fun to look for it. This, among other things, is what makes the future of the secular Church so hopeless.
The secular activity in today's Church does not end with the food and fun department just touched on. It begins there, then goes in all directions. Observe: "The chief purpose of the Christian Church in the past has been the salvation of individuals. But the most pressing task of the present ... is to make over an antiquated and immoral economic system. Our inherited Christian faith dealt with individuals; our present task deals with society." So spoke one of the early formulators of the secular gospel. This theory has been so widely accepted and fully implemented that proclaiming the "good news" has been replaced by theorizing on social problems; gospel preachers have become social reformers (or revolutionists) and Churches have been turned into semi-spiritual social service organizations. In a word, the matter of saving souls has just about had it.
The arena of action is now social, not spiritual. Churches are concerned about better government, better and fairer housing, full employment, higher wages, unpolluted air and water, population control and highway safety. Church agitation in these areas is common, extensive, increasing, and practically unchallenged. No one seems to consider the fact that Jesus did not write a secular script for his followers to follow. Bear in mind, if you will, that the Roman world of the first century had a few mild social inequities in it too. (Slavery for example.) Yet if the first Christians had the solving of such problems as their primary purpose, the N. T. is amazingly silent about it. Nowhere is it suggested that the connection into which believers were brought by the gospel was ordained to be the regulator or the reformer of existing social institutions. Christians back then were simply taught to be Christians! They were instructed in righteousness and were encouraged to put what they learned into daily practice in whatever social capacity they occupied. Though the effect of the way they lived was eventually felt by the world at large, their emphasis was always eternal rather then temporal. The application of the truth was to the individual, not to the social establishments of the world.
The plain truth is, Jesus did not go to the cross to separate unto himself a people whose task would be to purify the drinking water of Palestine. Nor did his disciples ever celebrate National Safe Camel Driving Sunday. This is not to suggest water pollution and unsafe transportation are not serious social problems, but it is to say that N.T. Christians were concerned about problems deeper and different than these. It is my firm conviction that the direct involvement of "the Church" in secular affairs has not helped society nearly as much as it has hurt the cause of Christ. It has succeeded in turning the divine ecclesia into just one more well-meaning social organization, and in so doing has disarmed it of its distinctive message and thereby effectively nullified God's eternal purposes embodied in the gospel.
To round this out, let us look at one more secular side of the picture. The modern Church has moved its corporate self into the POLITICAL arena. This move had to be made, not because of any Bible truth, but on account of the Church's tremendous involvement in secular affairs. An organization that seeks to reform men by controlling and regulating the social systems of the world sooner or later MUST get into politics where this game is played. Is the Church of today in politics? Absolutely. The evidence? There is not a sizable sect in America that does not have its lobbyists in Washington presenting its case to the government. And its "case" is just as political as the next fellow's. When Church conferences and conventions convene the "issues" discussed are often identical to those being debated on the floor of Congress. Even those groups who have no representatives in Washington will work hard to "get out the vote" for God's side, of course, in a local election. The facts speak for themselves. Clergymen may praise the principle of "separation of Church and State" all they please; but let no one suppose they really believe the principle. They merely want the State to stay out of Church affairs; they have no intention of keeping the Church out of the affairs of State.
Was the ecclesia of the New Testament involved in politics? Not that I can detect. Jesus plainly said his kingdom was different from the kingdoms of men. Early Christians were not formed into political pressure groups, but into spiritual associations. They came together to pray, not to pledge allegiance to a flag; they sang hymns, not national anthems; they studied the Scriptures, not political party platforms. There was a "conference" in Jerusalem once (Acts 15), but the topic discussed there concerned the right application of God's law, not Roman law. Such evidence makes it clear (to me) that Jesus did not intend for his disciples to be advocates of a specific political system of ANY description. "Our citizenship," Paul said, "is in heaven." That wise old fellow, "Anonymous," put it this way: "We are sent to preach Salvation, not Society; Evangelism, not Economics; Redemption, not reform; Conversion, not culture; Pardon, not Progress; a New Birth, not a New Social Order; Regeneration, not Revolution; the Gospel, not Democracy; Christ, not Civilization." To this I can only add a hearty amen.
In this rather hurried survey of the contemporary Church world we have taken a peek at its four major features: organization, professionalization, commercialization and secularization. Briefly, here is what we have seen.
Churches today are profusely organized structures. They are operated ("run") by professional religionists whose business is to perpetuate the particular system with which they are affiliated. Churches are directly involved in every kind of secular activity imaginable. Hard core commercial methods are employed to secure financing for the whole arrangement. For sake of the record I wish to repeat that nothing about this grotesque system resembles anything found in the Scriptures. To put it mildly, the "church" has been changed. Its definition has been changed, its nature has been changed, its form has been changed, its function has been changed. True, the name of Jesus is still invoked over the proceedings and men insist on calling it "Christianity." But is it really?
The real tragedy of the "religion" we have looked at lies in the fact that there is little about it calculated to inspire personal piety in its adherents. Instead of producing greater spirituality in them, it tends to create less. Its lack of effectiveness in the personal life of those who embrace it is clear testimony of its corruptness. In the passage with which we began (2 Tim. 3:1-9) Paul describes a class of men common to the last days. The people he so vividly pictures are without doubt church-going people. They have "a form of godliness." Notice that they are not murderers, thieves, adulterers, drunkards, etc. Read the description again and note what a "respectable" list of iniquities it really is. These are very nice people. Yes, indeed. They are "lovers of God" who maintain their "form of godliness." The only problem is, they "DENY the power thereof." Or better translated, "They preserve an outward form of religion, but are a standing denial of its reality."
So it is with so many who are immersed in the Church system of today. They too have a "form of godliness." In fact, the "form" is growing larger every day, the structures are getting bigger and bigger. But the form is obviously having little effect on the people. As Christianity has been organized, professionalized, commercialized and secularized, it has likewise and for this very reason been neutralized. It is a system almost totally ineffectual in producing true faith in an individual. Some may be righteous before God in spite of the system, but few because of it. The mutated Church, like most mutations, has become sterile, unable to reproduce itself in spite of a population explosion. A few children are baptized, some marry into the faith, and there is much "member swapping" among the sects. But this is a far cry from converting the masses. Hence the greatest single indictment against the type of "Christianity" existing today is simply that 1T DOES NOT GET THE JOB DONE! It has a show of wisdom about it, as human arrangements are wont to have (Col. 2:20-23). But how much genuine faith, or faithfulness, shows up in the daily life of the people? This is the big question with the sad answer. The answer is a loud shout to all who will hear that something is wrong with the system. Let it be said again – something MUST be wrong with a hen that lays rotten eggs.
Organization – professionalization -- commercialization -- secularization. As we have seen, these are the four pillars of Protestantism, the primary props supporting the enormous structure of denominationalism. Without them the system could not survive. Truly these are the "vitals" of the 20th century body of Christ. Organization is the backbone, professionalization the arms and legs, commercialization the heart that pumps life into the organism, and secularization the field of labor.
What would happen if these vital elements were suddenly removed from the religious community? My, what a terrible, terrible thought. Horrors! Take away all the non-Biblical organizations? Get rid of the hirelings? Do away with commercial methods and procedures? Cease all secular activity? Horrors! What would remain? Without these artificial props to support it, the whole structure would fall flat on its ugly face. There simply would be nothing left to hold it together. It would collapse. Yet the ruin might not be as irrevocable as it might seem. At first the people, not having any ecclesiastical system to identify with, would no doubt be utterly lost. But the truly concerned ones would soon get their bearings. Not having a great ecclesiastical system to relate to, they would have to seek a real, more meaningful relationship with the Lord and with those of like faith. Not having any spiritual voices of authority to tell them what to believe and do, they would have to take up serious Bible study on their own. Not having any Church statistics (of good works done) to point to or rely upon, they would have to commence a PERSONAL practice of those "good works" that glorify God. In other words, the Christian faith would simply return to where it originally lived and thrived; in the hearts and lives of individual believers. So from the ruins of a corrupt Christianity MIGHT revive the true faith of Jesus Christ.
In a small way I have tried to present the difference between two very distinct systems; the faith described in the New Testament, and that which poses as the Christian faith today. The contrast is great, far greater than these few words have been able to depict. Over against the complex organization - stifled, showy, money-minded, status conscious, unspiritual system of today stands the amazingly simple faith taught by Jesus. In its simplicity is its beauty and its power!
A sinner hears the gospel story and is convicted by it. He is constrained by his new faith to turn from his sinful ways and to obey the universal command to be immersed in water. He puts on Christ. As a child of God he assembles with those of like precious faith to enjoy their fellowship and to remember his Savior. In the assemblies of the saints he is instructed, exhorted and encouraged. He goes out into this present evil world to implement his faith in daily life. He strives to keep himself clean from sin, does good to all men as time and opportunity permit, and tells others of the new way of life he has found in Jesus. He lives in hope of a better world to come. With this hope in his heart he dies, and is buried in the earth where he awaits the coming resurrection. If in its practical application the faith of the gospel is more than this the New Testament record is altogether silent about it.