-By Adolf Mathebula
“Ninety-nine percent of everything that goes on in most Christian churches has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual religion. Intelligent people all notice this sooner or later, and they conclude that the entire one hundred percent is bullshit, which is why atheism is connected with being intelligent in people’s minds.” ― Neal Stephenson,
There was once a time when I thought the Churches in South Africa do not have a voice and a platform. But recently I have come to learn [that] ; that notion is far from the truth and reality. The media and people are paying attention to what is happening in the Church because it matters. The Church is a very important part of how our nation is built and structured. The nation’s leaders and activists are aware of the power that the Church has. This power is known more by activists; they do not fail to get the embarrassing things about what’s happening in our Churches trending on social media by reasons to ‘influence’ people about the Church and its position in their lives.
Some celebrities also feel the need to stay close to some Churches and show their support from time to time and also comment on the issues happening in the Christian circles on social media platforms. The issue of Dag Heward-Mills ‘comment’ on homosexuality revealed a lot about how celebrities can influence the Church negatively or positively. This answers the question; ‘why some celebrities often chose the big Churches?’. It is all because of the influence platform it provides, the comfort to do as you please and get away with it.
If you have a big Church in South Africa the last thing you want to do is to find yourself arguing and quarreling with a celebrity about what is right or wrong; you are going to lose miserably. In doing so – you have a lot to lose; because in South Africa the Church is expected to behave in a certain way when it comes to how it treats the public figures. One of those things is not challenging the lifestyles and decisions of celebrities. This has given a lot of people an opportunity to find comfort in mega Churches and use their presence there to weaken the Church’s standing on different issues.
“The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.” ― William Shakespeare,
It is safe to say that the gap between the ‘world’ and the Church is narrowing and those on either side are doing their best to maintain their position without being swallowed by those on the other side. The whole situation is getting tricky because the leaders in the Church seem to be more concerned with seeking for ways to build “worldly acceptable Churches”. That is; Churches that are not in conflict with the ‘world’ and what the world promote as acceptable morally and as far as righteousness is concerned.
Whereas the ‘world’ wants the Church to rethink its position on certain matters and changes how it does things.
It might seem small but the ‘world’ seems to be winning when it comes to degrading the ‘Church belief’s foundation’. As a result the Church is weakening on its position of being one of the institution that has influence in the direction the nation should take on current matters. The Church is more concerned with making sure people keep coming but in the process it is being silenced and being dictated on what it should say and do without realizing it.
Some pastors have lost the fight. They are going with whatever keeps the people coming in the Church because that’s what pays the bills and keeps them comfortable without having to do what God wants them to do. They just want to build a large Church where they can flourish in being worldly acceptable pastors and also be able to get away with doing as they please.
That is the danger of having a big Church that depend a more on the ‘world’ for its position, existence and influence than it does on the actual Christian members of the Church. The leadership of the Church ends up worrying more about what they need to do to keep being relevant. They forget that God has given the Church a mandate and command to preach the Word and win the souls of the world for Jesus Christ. This in actual fact is what keeps the Church relevant as far as God is concerned.
The leaders of today’s Church accept everything. They are scared of the public’s opinion more than the God they profess to fear and follow. Let’s not get into debate about who God is; as clearly as it is stated in the Bible – a lot of pastors have shifted from their views about who God is and what the Word of God is to be in the lives of people. They have done a good job in making sure people do not see its true authority in their lives. All because they want to be accepted and build big Churches.
Leadership is all about influence; but today’s Church leaders are the ones in the hand of the influence of others. It seems to be what happens when the Church gets bigger; the people start influencing you [the leader] more than you do.
The Church members are also to blame. We have allowed our pastors to do as they please – hence allowing the ‘world’ to gain more influence inside the Church’s walls; because we stand by our pastors even when we know they are wrong and are breaking the laws and principles of God as revealed in the Bible. We have taught them not to worry about accountability. Some Christians actually do not see anything wrong with their pastors regardless what they do. They will stand by him till death but they will never die for anything that Jesus commanded them to do. It amazes me and a lot of ‘worldly’ people on how foolish we Christians can be sometimes.
If the Church fails to discipline its own leaders the world will eventually lead the Church. Just because a pastor has built a big Church it does not give him the right to do as he pleases. The bigness of the Church is not God’s forever approval on the uprightness of the pastor. At any level the pastor should be able to be held accountable by other Church leaders. There should be no fear to hold responsible a pastor for the actions they take with the lives of people.
But as it stands; some have built these big Churches to make sure no one gets to them. They are using them as defense and protection from the responsibility of having to explain themselves and being accountable. Sometimes I do wonder if people do respect some pastors or they just respect what the pastors have managed to build around them.
There is nothing embarrassing than hearing a pastor defends the nonsense he did saying “Jesus told me” knowing even through the Scriptures that ‘such’ is not acceptable for Christians.
Let me make it clear that I am not saying that big Churches are a problem; the issue is the system that gets built when these Churches starts growing. Most of it has nothing to do with running a godly institution but it is more concerned with protecting the interest and motives of the leaders and making sure money keeps coming.
We do not expect the pastor of another Church to mingle in the affairs of another Church and control what is done there but no pastor that is meant to be a single independent entity that no one can advice or correct. Every pastor is part of the Body of Christ and do not have special rights that any other member of the body do not have. Their position earns them respect but once they abuse that position they should be questioned. Hence even in the Bible; we are taught that the leadership of all Churches should be plural; of which the lead pastor is equal with others in his position but with more authority to lead and direct. Those in leadership with him should be able to hold him accountable.
This is me saying; let’s stop treating Church leaders based on how big their Churches are and what they did in the past and hold them accountable for their action if they are wrong. If we fail to do so; the world will step in and influence them and us; in the process they will start running Churches. We have the Word at our disposal; lets stop acting as if we are unlearned. Because to be honest; we can really act stupid sometimes.
It is hard to address these issues without sounding judgmental or feeling the need to exaggerate. Even at the end of this article I did ask myself if my motive is right in writing about this issue. But one thing I do know is; it would be great if all the Christians would have this moment in their lives where they access their motives when doing the things they believe are for God. The comfort of what we have built around us should not make us think God is with us and approves whatever we think is right. The counsel of the Brethren is a very safe place to be; all the pastors should seek to be there. Amen.
Let me leave you with this quote:
“The church exists primarily for two closely correlated purposes: to worship God and to work for his kingdom in the world … The church also exists for a third purpose, which serves the other two: to encourage one another, to build one another up in faith, to pray with and for one another, to learn from one another and teach one another, and to set one another examples to follow, challenges to take up, and urgent tasks to perform. This is all part of what is known loosely as fellowship.” ― N.T. Wright,