For many centuries established Christian churches have attempted to assume the status and function of ancient Israel's Temple worship. From massive buildings erected to inspire, to stained glass windows or elaborate decor intended to tell stories, from the priesthood of authoritative pastors/leaders who separate themselves from 'laity,' to injunctions to tithe into the storehouse of the church or risk being devoured by the devil, the modern church looks more like Old Testament Israel than early followers of Christ. The crystallization of the institutional church into Jewish modes of worship is not limited to Roman Catholicism or even unorthodox Mormonism. Baptist churches, though shouting loudly 'no creed but the Bible,' have ignored the New Testament teaching on the nature of the true church and have replicated Israel's hierarchy of priestly authority (pastors), Israel's emphasis on worship at a specific place (the sanctuary), and Israel's obligation to an 'if-then' covenant with God ('if we will obey God, then God will bless us'). The freedom of a sinner who personally, intimately and spiritually trusts Christ and experiences the power of God at work within is substituted for a form of behavioral control imposed by a spiritual authoritarian (usually a pastor) who uses Old Testament passages of Scripture to bind believers. The pastor who operates in this manner may not realize that God abolished the Old Covenant system of worship and that the early Christians were known for their radical departure from dependence on a worship place, authoritarian priests, and any religious performance through ceremony, holy days or sacrifical 'offerings.' As Adolph Safir reminds us in his brilliant work on Hebrews: “The Greeks and the Romans were not merely astonished at, but felt irritated by the worship of the early Christians, who without image and altar, without priests and vestments, appeared to them as atheists, men and women ‘without gods’ and at times felt threated by the mysterious power Christians possessed as they rejoiced in suffering and met with calm courage the tortures of death itself” Adolph Saphir.That is just great stuff. He even makes comments sure to horrify many of his fellow pastors when he says that giving should be directed as led by the Spirit, not by misapplication of the Old Covenant "bring your tithe to the
The church is changing. There is a reformation taking place. The church has left the building(s). And any pastor who tries to reinvigorate the institutional church through Old Covenant principles is destined to fail.
This is just good stuff and it comes from a guy who is a traditional pastor in a traditional church, Emmanuel Enid in Oklahoma, but at least on this issue he seems to get it and embrace it. Read and be encouraged!
(A hearty tip of the hat to Aussie John for linking to this!)