Right in the centre - What is being asked of us?


By Ken Waddell

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The following verses are listed in The Bible as The Great Commission. Matthew 28:18-20 states, “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”

The Christian church universally acknowledges that this is the most important verse in scripture as a model for the church. Over the 2,000 years of the Christian church, this dictum has been followed in varying degrees. It’s hard to argue with both its content and its directness. It should be hard to argue with, if for no other reason; it’s a direct instruction from Jesus Christ.

It’s worth pondering why the Christian church has, for so many centuries wandered from this statement. It has always been the basis of Christian doctrine but it’s a bit like someone going on a trip and taking so much baggage with them that they forget where they are going or how to get there.

If one examines the architecture of church buildings for example, how many billions of dollars have been spent on constructing buildings that have little to do with making disciples. For that matter, Christ never did instruct his church to construct buildings. Most buildings are not a tribute to God or Christ, but monuments to architectural achievement and to deprivation of the common people. To put it most bluntly, what part of making disciples is accomplished with elaborate buildings. 

It’s recognized that in order to gather and in order to administer a church organization, a group needs a building, but it certainly doesn’t have to be as elaborate as many churches have grown to be. A tour of Europe will easily find church buildings that are collapsing or have fallen into absolute ruin. They weren’t and aren’t sustainable. Locally, every church is crying out for repairs and every dollar that goes into repairs is a dollar that doesn’t go into helping people.

Church architecture was never ordered up by Christ and it does little to serve Christ’s commission. Christ never asked for the thousands of churches that have been built and crumbled.

The actual work of Christ is more readily done in humble surroundings or at least in ordinary places. Christian groups could, and should, meet in public places or if they own a building, it should be multi-purpose. The best church buildings I have ever been in are schools and the large group meetings are held in the gymnasium. It’s a good model. Many towns need another gymnasium, maybe a church group should build one. Many towns need seniors and low income housing, maybe a church should build some.

Church attendance, in general, is falling off. More and more, church is becoming a place for older people and with more women than men attending. There is a simple answer to this. Church attendance has become less important to people in comparison to sports, working, auction sales, family gatherings and travel. 

One thing churches should do is meet at more than just the 11 a.m Sunday time slot. Whatever became so special about 11 a.m Sunday? It’s an awful time for young children. Up since 6 or 7 a.m., growing tired and on the verge of noon time hunger pangs, an 11 a.m. service is an awful time for kids. Sitting still for an hour or hour and a half is also tough for kids. Children aren’t wired for still and while disciplined sitting is a good skill to learn, it’s just another thing that Christ didn’t ask us to do. Christ talked about going and helping and giving but never said much about sitting.

Christ asked us to believe in him, to accept his gift of salvation and while we occupy our time here on earth, he asked us to teach, to give, to help but he didn’t ask for a lot of buildings or rules and regulations.

Church organizations and all Christians need to examine daily what they are doing and what they are missing. We used to post little WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) signs. Maybe it’s time to bring back those little reminder signs.