First things first, sorry for the generic title to this entry!
The above link points you towards a news story that documents the arrest of a Mother and Son crime ring. They were recently found stealing food from a church and were arrested for burglary and petty theft. As of yet, I am not sure if the Church will be pressing any charges against them.
Not knowing the heart of that Church and whether or not they would have freely given that food to the family if they had asked, and especially not knowing the mother and son, I certainly don’t want to judge either too harshly. Its not this specific circumstance that I would like to speak about either. This news article, however, represents a greater problem within the church and the society that we live in.
Churches that have a fairly large population, lets say over 200 members, are usually run like a business. In other words, there is an office, a secretary, a book keeper, and pastors. The church itself is on PRIVATE PROPERTY(no trespassing) and has assets that it needs to protect like media equipment, sound equipment, computers, kitchen stuff, etc… Many churches, especially the larger ones, hire 24/7 Security Guards. There is a clear, business-like organization.
This is not, in essence, a bad thing! I believe that we must keep intact a certain level of relevance in our society, and in fact maintain a high level of excellence in everything that we do as the Body of Christ. I believe, however, that the Church has lost the essence and radical nature that Christ released into the world by the Holy Spirit in the First Church. In the early church, we see several instances where people were “moved” by the Holy Spirit and that compelled them in turn to do certain radical things such as releasing rights to their own personal property(in order to further the Kingdom) and committing themselves to discipleship, helping the poor and community, in the book of Acts we see several instances where this is true. For instance, Acts 2:38-47 shows how the early church was baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit and then was compelled to act upon that in a very radical way. I would also urge you to read early church father writings from people such as Tertullian, Justin Martyr etc… The Church existed in many ways in direct opposition(not violent opposition) to the Roman Empire. They were persecuted and many lived in poverty. The purpose of this writing, however, is definitely not to compare the church today and the early church. Though I feel it is very important to bring up these facts to give as a foundation for my main point.
In the History of the Church there has always been a few blips on the screen of Christendom’s radar where certain radical individuals stood beyond the walls of Christendom and embodied that spirit of the first church. People like St. Francis of Assisi or Mother Theresa for instance. Although there existed a definite organization to their lives, the organization provided a clear path towards the freedom of ministry to the poor and building the Kingdom of God. In America it seems that our organizational systems prohibit the Holy Spirit from compelling people to give, to build and to have everything in common with fellow believers. News article’s such as the one I am citing, show in some light how far we have gone away from the radical nature of the Church. From a very young age I have perceived the Zombie-like church members fill in the chairs on Sunday mornings with no zeal, no passion, no struggle. The church often resembles a prison, certainly this is far from what is intended by the Pastors/leadership and it is not necessarily their fault. It is a direct effect of the organization and institutionalizing of Christianity however. We have done away with our Mustard Seed faith that can move mountains (especially the mountains of our heart) and replaced it with a predictable, manageable monster corporation.
Life is very intense, it is filled with many events that shape and define us as people. For many, life is a struggle from start to finish. Millions in this world live everyday faced with incredibly harsh, impoverished situations. They live in places where there is no church to steal from, there is no grocery store or market to steal from either. They simply have to wait.
Imagine a Church where Community, loving your Neighbor, giving up your hold on property and being filled with the Holy Spirit was allowed to happen in its very essence. Where Pastors did not drive a Mercedes-Benz(unless it was a 1980’s diesel running on veggie oil!:)), where people attending the church actually love each other enough to lay down their own lives and rights for each other. A Church where every day, those who had needs were free to express their needs and they were fulfilled immediately. In all reality, these sort of practices would not be very hard for the Church to realize, in fact it is really just a small step forward. People, should never have to steal food from a Church again:)