Dismantle Church — Part 1

During the pandemic, most of us were busy purchasing Oximeters. When the first lockdown started, the price was around Rs.700 per unit. During the second wave, the price went to over Rs.4000 per unit. But, all those who could find it and afford it bought it. I also brought one.

That was because of the understanding that when my SpO2 (per cent saturation of oxygen in the blood) levels drop below 96, I am in trouble, and I need to seek medical attention. But until then, I am fine.

During the second wave, Dr Mathew Varghese of St. Stephen’s hospital in New Delhi released a video on specific findings. He explains how the virus invades our human cells, how our immune system fights back, symptoms, timeline and medication. Dr Varghese insists on watching for the timeline from the first symptom and consulting the doctor when the disease takes a dangerous turn. Then, he explains how we can identify that turn. In the end, he warned not to sit at home with the Oximeter checking SpO2 levels.

That is because the saturation level fell way after the disease took a dangerous turn. By then, three-fourths of our lungs are already damaged. He says Oximeters are helpful in hospitals, not at home. When we rely on Oximeters and wait for the SpO2 level to fall, we have to head to ICU on oxygen support and eventually a ventilator to save a life. We have witnessed during the second wave that chances of recovery from a ventilator are bleak. We have lost many people.

We have made our Sunday gatherings like these oximeters to tell us that everything is OK even when spiritually dying. Our professional rockstar preachers are good at keeping us happy and consistently show 100% saturation every Sunday with great music, excellent sermon and friends to chat with over a coffee. But, unlike physical death, we may not even know when we have died spiritually.

The problem is not solely the rockstar preachers; we have built our churches entirely on a different foundation. We have built them on our idols: our pride, ego, and self-interest.

We have built them on our idols: our pride, ego, and self-interest.

We “go to church” on Sundays to show up, give our tithes, display our self-righteousness, and get emotionally motivated, thinking it makes us worthy before our imaginative god who will strengthen our ego and meet our self-interests. Christian Smith rightly called us “moralistic therapeutic deists.” So to satisfy our religious moralistic appetites and still have some good time, we created a “Sunday Show Business” where we all come to show off and feel good.

Sadly, many left the Church and even their faith after experiencing its emptiness, hypocrisy, pride, and abuse.

King Solomon built a grand temple for God in Jerusalem. God’s overwhelming presence filled the temple during the dedication. But, when the days passed by, he loved many foreign women. They turned his heart to their gods. This great king who built God’s temple has also built high places outside Jerusalem for Chemosh, Molek, and other gods of his foreign wives.

Today our Church is no different; the world feels at home in the Church and the Church in the world.

When Moabites or Ammonites visited Jerusalem, they would have felt at home seeing their gods worshipped there. Today our Church is no different; the world feels at home in the Church and the Church in the world.

God said to Solomon, “I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates.” What would he say to us today? It is more likely that Christ has removed his lampstand from many local churches. (Revelation 2:5)

In my opinion, today’s Church at large is more like the church in Sardis, to which Jesus said, “I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.” (Revelation 3:1–6)

In John 2:19, “Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Here Jesus was not only talking about his death and resurrection on the third day but also establishing the fact that he is the new temple, and with his new covenant, he is making the old covenant and the temple obsolete. (Hebrews 8:13)

Why do I say that? Because anything that is not built on Christ has to be removed.

Jesus knew how the priests and the religious leaders had become so corrupt that he rebuked them for turning the temple into a den of thieves. Eventually, he brought his judgement on them in 70AD. The temple was dismantled. Today we have made the Church a den of selfish, apathetic and idolatrous people. Why do we think that God will not judge us? (Hosea 4)

Unfortunately, Sunday Show Business is resuming after COVID. It may flourish more than ever because many have found it lucrative. But, it is foolish to remain silent if we seek to obey God. Unless faithful disciples genuinely seek the truth, ask the right questions, and are willing to dismantle our shallow conception and traditions of the ‘Church’, Christ will remove his lampstand.

Five hundred years ago, God raised a few disciples to dismantle the corrupted church as they sought His word. Their rediscovery of the doctrine of Justification by faith provoked them to dismantle corrupt traditions and seek God for spiritual renewal and rebuild on Christ. Many paid with their lives for this reformation.

With this vision, we have created Sunday Show Business, where my pride, ego and self-interest take centre stage.

Are today our churches Christ-centered? Or is it Christ and something else? An altar to God and an altar to Molek? One to satisfy our religious sentiments and the other to exercise our worldly appetites. With this vision, we have created Sunday Show Business, where my pride, ego and self-interest take centre stage.

When I say Sunday Show Business, I mean a church that enjoys the gathering on Sundays to exalt their pastor/preacher, brand, music band, doctrine, denomination, building, programs, or performance, but Christ, his kingdom and righteousness doesn’t matter much. Instead, we make our version of christ to cheer for us, to gain position, control, wealth or popularity in the name of God. Sadly, many who come to know Christ from other faiths in India show discomfort in joining it.

Think about it. What is your local church like if you remove Sunday gatherings? Hasn’t God allowed COVID lockdowns to tell us something about it? If there is nothing much left outside Sunday, we can be sure it is Sunday Show Business. There is no room for fellowship, discipleship or worship here. For them chatting over a coffee is fellowship and singing songs is worship.

God has no delight in it because it deceives us about our spiritual condition.

“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.
“When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations — I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.”
(Isaiah: 1:11–14)

We have lost our identity, worship, calling, and hope in Christ.

So what will you do next Sunday? When will you and I dismantle these altars and return to God and his Word, pleading with him to restore his church? I suggest we put aside our oximeters and observe the symptoms. What is our church like from Monday to Saturday? Then we may notice the problems. I see we have lost our identity, worship, calling, and hope in Christ.

Dismantling church means abandoning the altars of Sunday Show Business to love God and our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and the lost world. So let’s eliminate any signs of self-interest, ego or pride in associating with a preacher, music band, denomination, theology, building, or even your connections. Instead, desire to seek Christ by serving fellow believers, considering them better than yourself. (Philippians 2:3)

But firstly, I want to ask you this. Are you troubled with the way Church stands today? I am not asking about particular people you do not like in the church. But, as a member of a local body of Christ, are you troubled about the church’s spiritual condition? Are you praying about it and seeking answers? If yes, then there is good news.

Even if our Oximeters had led us to our coffins, God’s word gives us hope. And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” So I answered, “O Lord GOD, You know.” Again He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the LORD.”’” (Ezekiel 37:3–6)

There is a lot to unlearn and relearn from the scripture to help us identify the symptoms. In the following parts, we will look into four aspects to help us observe them.

When we return to God by examining our hearts, seeking to be renewed in our minds, filled by His love, praying, and studying the scripture together with fellow believers, asking the right questions, speaking the Truth in love, and being willing to remove anything that does not stand on Christ, God will surely restore us as his body.

So that by the Church, the manifold wisdom of God is made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.

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Mark Raja

Mark Raja

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I mostly write to clarify my understanding. You will find my articles on themes like beauty, faith, hope, culture, and common good.