Big Issues for Today's Church
by Dr. Henderson Ward
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Throughout its history the Church has been called upon, time and again, to deal with big issues and it has done so with commendable success. The united church, before the Reformation essentially but more accurately during its first millennium, dealt with such issues through the Ecumenical Councils that today is no longer functional yet the church is faced with a barrage of issues, some longstanding, that has the church ill at ease and not functioning as God intended it.
The plain truth is that any powerful organization inherently attracts the wrong people; people gravitate to it in pursuit of selfish goals, are often void of sympathy of the organization's aims and objectives, although they will never admit to that, and it is only through time, and often after the harm is done, that their rascality is revealed.
There is a saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely; a saying that holds true for all generations and every country, kingdom and people have been scarred by this existential fact.
It is for this reason that all countries, even backward countries living in a time warp, seek to remove or restrict the power of absolute monarchs or whatever the title adopted for people holding comparable positions.
In the United States of America the President is not all powerful; even if he wins all 50 states and his party controls the Upper and Lower houses of The United States Congress. That is because the Supreme Court is independent and the third centre of power. If the President misbehaves he can be impeached and removed from office as happened before.
But in the United States of America history shows that many of those who held high, powerful office were undesirables; crooked, physical and sexual abusers, charlatans and plain criminals.
In Europe, most countries have systems of parliamentary democracies and constitutions where the domination of power is not absolute and where checks and balances keep the state from becoming the personal fiefdom of any single person or party.
Yet in these parliamentary democracies of Europe people holding the highest offices have turned out to be just like their American counterparts; slanderous, lovers of money, boastful, abusive, brutal, high-minded, corrupt and without self-control.
In some parts of the developing world dictators overthrow the constitution and come to power acting in exactly the same way as absolute monarchs. While some dictators may have good intentions initially they, in time, display all the corrosive characteristics of their European or American counterpart.
The plain truth is that all these manmade organizations are expected to carry the hallmarks of the people who created them in the first place; they come into being by flawed minds are maintained by unsound systems and are run by people of questionable character.
Alas, the church is a powerful organization too, and everything about it should be the opposite from its secular counterparts, but history has shown that some of the holders of high office in the church were more like the dictators and absolute monarchs of yesteryear than the early church model of first century Christianity.
Wrong people have been attracted to the Church from the very beginning as evidenced by the deceptive pair of Ananias and Sapphire whom St. Peter had to denounce and purge from the assembly (Acts 3: 4-6) and the man Diotrephes (possibly a bishop) who caused mayhem in an assembly under St John's oversight and was severely rebuffed (3 John 1:9-10)
The wrong people are still joining the leadership of the church, people who are not saved, not been called, have no personal contact with the Holy Spirit, have never had carnality purged from their lives and as a consequence are not born again and converted to God's way. Such leaders are a source of continuous humbug to the church, will cause it deep and prolong agony and will take every opportunity to carry out Satan's agenda. Priests abusing young children, paedophile predators in the pulpit, are just the tip of the iceberg of such polluted, extremely evil leadership.
It is the leadership of the church that is charged with sorting out its ongoing problems but how can it do so effectively when the very leadership itself is part of the problem.
Take for example a recent case of the installation of the new Archbishop of Canterbury, the token head of the world-wide Anglican Church. His installation was officially called his enthronement; he was enthroned as the head of the Anglican Church in a spectacle on par with the crowning of an imperial monarch of a bygone era. The word throne and priesthood form a clear oxymoron; no wonder they no longer practice washing believers' feet as instructed by Jesus Christ (John 13:14-15).
One can make a list of the problems facing the church and end up with a very long list but the really big problems are few and can be listed as follows:
The first big problem is Corruption. This is one of the problems that fractured the church and gave rise to the Protestant Movement. Priests were selling indulgences and getting rich out of people's misery and fears. The senior clergy were as crooked and corrupt as any landowning gentry and the mess came to a head when challenged to reform, by the venerable Martin Luther, in the year 1715. As they say the rest is history. All aspects of corruption affect the church today, i.e. filthy lucre and giving of inducements impacting decision making right across the board even influencing what and how the word of God is preached.
The next big problem is Celibacy. While this is confined to the Roman Catholic Church yet its effects are widespread because the Roman Catholic Church is so large. There is always a danger when a church demands something that God does not require and celibacy is not a Biblical requirement for anybody; priest or layman. It is manifestly the case that some of Jesus' apostles were married, like Peter (Mark 1:30) and one of the requirements for a bishop was that he should have one wife (1 Timothy 3:2). Celibacy is good if one chooses it for the gospel's sake (as Paul did) but when it becomes mandatory, as a requirement for the priesthood, then it becomes destructive, burdensome and ultimately spiritually and morally debilitating. It was imposed by a Pope and a misguided Magisterium and can be cancelled by the same process.
Another big problem is Child baptism. Everyone who understands the significance of water baptism knows that for it to be meaningful is has to be consciously asked for (Acts 8:36). There can be arguments made for the form baptism should take but baptism is for adults only. Nowhere in the Bible is an infant baptized. Any allusion to the household of the Philippians' jailor's household containing infants (Acts 16:33) is pure speculation. Protestant churches do not, cannot and will not accept Child baptism as part of the faith that was once delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3)
Gay priesthood and Gay marriage are big problems. In all the history of religion whenever the world sets the agenda and religion follows the end result is always problematic. There is no convergence between the secular world and Christianity. What the world wants is the opposite to what God wants. There is a popular rebellion against God and Christianity that is seeking by any means to destroy or to make ineffective anything to do with God or Christianity. Under the guise of human rights they are pushing all kinds of issues to undermine and destroy the church. Gay priesthood and Gay marriage are their latest obsession and some church leaders are falling for it. No believer or church leader has authority to endorse that which is clearly rejected by the Bible for to do so makes him a liar (Jeremiah 29:31-32) who misrepresents God. The sad truth is that some in the church has long lost their faith and are only too glad to jump on any satanic bandwagon that comes their way.
So is there anything that the ordinary believer can do to help solve these big problems confronting the church? The answer is yes for God never leaves the believer without good and effective solutions.
First believers need to call on God to remedy the situation. Believers are God's children and his ears are always open to their cry (Psalm 34:15). In times like these believers need to get back to basics and do what the Bible says, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14)
Next we need to uplift holy hands. If you are spiritual then you are perceptive and can sense those who are on God's side and doing right. Encourage them by word and deed and strengthen them to stand firm in the faith and do God's will. Remember how believers helped Moses to gain the victory (Exodus 17:11-12).
Finally we need to become involved. Believers should not stand idly by and see their beloved church fall into disarray; they should fight to preserve it (Jude 1:3). Remember the poem by pastor Martin Niemoller (1892-1984):
First they came for the communist,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the socialist,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionist,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.
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