On Facebook, on this day after the election I posted, “Maybe the reason we have a welfare state in America is because we have a welfare church in America. It’s all about WIIFM in both church and state.”
I was challenged with the question “What does a welfare church look like?” and what do I mean by welfare state. I’ll address the first question in this post by telling a story about the Christian poverty mentality of which I speak. Keep in mind–I love the church! She is the bride of Christ! However…
This little mission church in Addy, WA is not what I mean by a welfare church. You really can’t tell the prosperity of a church by its exterior. It’s really all about how a church body has processed Romans 12:1-2. I have a feeling they get it! You don’t work with drug addicts for very long if you don’t get it!
Here’s the story. When I was a little girl, I remember testimony time at church and one woman in particular who would lean forward, grab the back of the pew with her work-weary hands, and let out a groan as she hoisted her heavy body upright to give her testimony. You knew what was coming. It was always the same. She would recite how Jesus helped her make it through the week while detailing all the dismal particulars of raising a pack of kids in the early 60s while living with a man who was not a believer. The conclusion given each and every time was “Pray that I hold out to the end.” – with a special emphasis on “hold out.”
And no, I’m not talking about this little church in the North Cascades of Washington that feeds 25% of the population in the eastern part of their county through their food bank. They just happen to have pews! I chatted with this pastor on our trip across America and watched him discipling a young believer right before my eyes! I heard his heart for awakening in America! This church may be small but it flows from a flourishing and prosperous heart.
Now as an impressionable young girl I tried to picture what holding out to the end looked like. What was I supposed to hold onto? What was I in jeopardy of letting go of? Was there a ropewalk suspended between earth and heaven where I might dizzily fall if I got distracted and did not properly hold on? I may have wondered how many prayers it took to get someone to hold on until she got to the other side. In my adolescent mind, I decided I wasn’t interested in that brand of Christianity. I certainly didn’t want to live like that and I certainly did not want to die like that.
If you’re curious, this is the foot bridge over the Kootenai River in Montana where you’ll want to hold on to the end!
Unfortunately, much of the church is like this church member from my childhood. She, the bride of Christ, does not know her identity or her position of being seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. She does not know her citizenship is in Heaven. She does not know that Christ has all authority, delegated it to her, and she can use it to disciple nations, baptize them and teach them to obey his commandments. She does not know that being in Christ’s body is all about being committed to the Kingdom of Heaven. Instead she plunges forward hanging on for all she’s worth and when things look particularly bad, she pulls out her get out of earth free –“rapture card.” I know! I have beloved now-deceased family members who did this every time things got rough! That may be part of our problem today! The church did nothing for too many decades and in too many cases did not even bother to vote.
About her local church, if she doesn’t get her needs met at a particular congregation, she’s out the door to find another one that will serve her like a pleasant social club with something satisfying for all ages. I’m a preacher’s kid. I know! I watched them come and I watched them go. Statistically most church growth today is simply the flock rearranging herself around town inquiring who is the biggest Santa Claus in town? You don’t read that in the Bible. Apostle Dutch Sheets says the Jesus said nothing about building a family church. If you can find his messages on Ekklesia you will glean much from this Greek scholar about the governing body of ancient Greece and how it applies to the church today.
The church simply does not realize she is just as much a part of an army as she is part of a family. She’s been called to boot camp—not a Sunday school picnic—and she is invited to step up, decree and declare, “as in Heaven, so on earth.” The Lord’s Prayer is not something to fill time on Sunday Morning. It is a military decree! Oh, did I mention she is to disciple the nations for the Kingdom of Heaven while she loves those who theologically disagree with her pet doctrine. Big order, I know! Don’t forget I chatted with church goers all across America for 90 days this summer! In many cases it was most unpleasant particularly when we discovered a variation in doctrine. Trying to bridge the gap and hang onto the unity was like trying to maneuver two unicycles coming in opposite directions across that swaying bridge without a collision!
This is the short answer on what I mean by a welfare church. More later to show how the one just might be responsible for the other one.
And don’t forget, I LOVE the CHURCH–she is the bride of Christ! I love fellowshipping with other believers. I love worshipping together. I love taking Communion with the Body. But right now I see the words “CLUELESS” on her forehead in big letters! Remember, you have to forgive me!
On the way to Your Flourishing Life in Christ!