When God converts us, he changes our attitudes to everything. Our attitude changes to the Bible, entertainment, dating, politics, work and money. Before we became Christians money was a god to be worshipped at any cost and we would sacrifice all before the altar of success, but now we see all we have as entrusted to us by God. We see the value of being content and we seek to be generous just as God has been generous to us. Being a Christian changes everything. In fact, the Bible tells us there is a fundamental connection between our spiritual lives and how we think about and handle money.
The medieval church was steeped in suspicion, false teaching and wrong doctrine. Many people had a false assurance of salvation, a wrong notion of the church and a totally distorted view of the gospel. The dominant false teaching was Roman Catholicism. The Roman Catholic Church taught a salvation by works. As long as you said the right prayers, attended the right services (like the Mass) and said your confession to the priest, you were right with God. Into that dark world God shone his light and raised up men and women who would read the Bible and be gripped with its message. John Calvin was one of these men. He was born in France in 1509, the same year that Henry VIII was crowned King of England. Calvin was raised in a Roman Catholic home. Father sent him to the University of Paris to study Romish theology. While in France Calvin seems to have come across some of Martin Luther’s writings.
Sometimes we are surprised when we find sin in the church. We are shocked and disappointed. I am often comforted by what Bishop Frank Retief once told me, “Where there are sinners, there you will find sin.” These are wise words! Some Christians are forever searching for the “perfect”, sinless, pure church and end up wandering from church to church in their never-ending quest.
Paul’s greeting to the Corinthian church may be very encouraging to us. The Corinthian church was a community of Christians where there was sin; there were factions and disagreements; some were taking each other to court; and some where living in sexual immorality. Yet Paul addressed them as “the church of God in Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2). Despite all their failures and wrinkles they were still the church of God. We see in 1 Corinthians 1:9 that it’s because of God’s faithfulness, not theirs.
It’s trendy in Christian circles to say things like, “You don’t go to church, you are the church”. A great number of books have been written to show how we should live as the “church” in our non-Christian communities.
With this emphasis on “being the church” in your “community”, you might even start feeling bad about gathering in a dedicated building on a Sunday. Home churches seem all the rage.
While I’m overstating the case to be controversial, what I do hope to show is that we can indeed go to church on Sunday and that we are not “the church” as we live as scattered Christians in our non-Christian communities1.
Before you accuse me of heresy please read further.
We live in an age of professionalism and specialisation. If our air-con breaks we phone the air-con specialist. If our child is sick, we don’t go to the GP but the paediatrician – who sends us to another specialist. If the bulb goes in our car’s headlamp, cars today are so sophisticated, we often have to take the car to the specialist at the dealer to replace a simple bulb.
Even in the church, the minister is seen to be the professional. The thinking is that we need ministry done – so we pay the minister to do the ministry. If he does his job well we are happy and might put more money in the thank-offering.
Ephesians 4:11-12 breaks this Christian professional mindset. It says,
(v11) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, (v12) to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…