Who decided what church has to look like? Who came up with the formula or business model? There are a few adventurous and unique individuals who come up with different approaches to church but then these began to be franchised as well. There is no doubt that there are certain elements of the Church that we have in common; worship, teaching, discipleship, service, evangelism. But the expression of these elements should not be shaped by a "box store" mentality and franchised around the world. The Church is a living organism that adapts to its environment.
There was no man with a greater revelation of the Church than Paul the apostle. It was through him that we understand as much as we do today and so we should see as much as possible what is revealed through him. Paul adapted his approach to the culture in which he found himself but in each culture he set up elders to give oversight to the Church in that city. There were no such things as cathedrals and church buildings, these were the invention of man in the years that followed. It was enough that people met where they could, often in each others homes, with attachment to each other and Jesus, not to a building. But meeting in homes wasn't a rule either, just a thing of convenience. In one city there would be many house meetings but still they identified themselves as the same Church.
Leadership was also seen much differently. It was understood that some people were set aside for specific callings, such as those who would spend all their days teaching and training. Scripture talks about how the Christians were to support these individuals who set aside their secular work to be available to the Christian family to teach and train. This support came in various ways, from providing shelter to giving food and money. These servants of the Church set aside their own personal goals and ambitions to lay down their lives for their fellow Christians with no thought that they would have any more material means than what was needed. They did not have personal financial gain or compensation in mind:
Not everyone could afford to do this and Scripture gives specific instruction about supporting the teachers and trainers in the Church but I think we need to re-examine our mentality toward finances, the work of the Church and those called to full time service. We are caught up in the "rights" of employees with pension plans, health benefits, car and housing allowances. Gone is the servant heart and in comes the employee mentality with pastors being the CEO of the church and the members being stockholders.
Do you know there are churches out there where pastors get a small amount of money from the church and the rest is raised in "tent making"? Do you know there are churches that meet in coffee shops and people's basements? Do you know there are pastors who take public transportation and ride bicycles? Is this because they haven't become "successful" in growing a "big box" church but their day is coming? No. It is because they are willing to do whatever it takes to spread the Good News about Jesus and to support Christians in their spiritual journey with no though to compensation or personal financial gain. Weird, eh?
There is something wrong with our "cookie cutter" mentality but I think there is a new season coming and all that is about to change. I think it is about to change because we are about to have a Jerusalem experience and the Spirit is about to scatter us in ways we could not at this moment imagine. May we remain strong in our faith and true to the Lord no matter the cost. May we experience a greater revelation of this beautiful living organism we call the Church. May we be willing to do whatever it takes to spread the news about Jesus. May we think outside the "box".