Richard Rohr writes, in his book Everything Belongs: “Cheap religion teaches us how to live successfully in a sick system. Sometimes therapy teaches us how to live successfully in a sick system. Sometimes therapy teaches us how to accommodate ourselves to a world based on power, prestige, and possessions. That’s why many people need more and more therapy or addictive religion as they ‘adjust’ to a sicker and sicker environment. If we do not question the underlying lies, we can psychologize and theologize forever. As a general rule, we need more and more of what doesn’t work. If it worked, we wouldn’t need to keep increasing the fix. ‘The way things are’ must somehow be interrupted. The system must somehow be deconstructed. That is the job of the prophet. The prophet leads us out of normalcy, dismisses it, debunks it.”
1 Corinthians 1:10
Somehow we have gotten to a place where it is deemed inappropriate for honest people to ask honest questions about the state of the Church in the United States. The contemporary notion of a "prophet" has, in many cases, been reduced to a non-sensical babbler who scares people with his end-times rants. While it is true, biblically, that prophets had the ability to foresee events hundreds of years in advance, they actually spent most of their time speaking for God or on behalf of God. Prophets would challenge the status quo and call people back to God and back to their divine responsibility.
If we rewind 3400 years ago to Exodus 19, God tells Moses that if the Israelites will agree to a covenant with Him, they will be a holy nation, a kingdom of priests, His special possession to be His representatives to the nations. What we see as we read through the Old Testament is that from generation to generation, after that the Israelites began defaming God through idolatry, they began neglecting the poor, oppressed and the weakest in the society through injustice and lack of mercy.
Interestingly enough, Peter uses the same language 1400 years after Moses to the present and future Church when he says that the Church is a holy nation, a royal priesthood, God’s special possession (1 Peter 2). Which ought to make one wonder if the Church is a holy nation, a royal priesthood and God’s special possession, ought we be examining what exactly the Israelites did to lose their special distinction so we don’t do the same? Again the Israelites forsook their first love (God) for idolatry and began neglecting justice and mercy to the powerless, poor and oppressed.
In a time when so many churches have forsaken their first love of God with the idolatry of money, power, politics, possessions, buildings and building plans and neglected the least in our society, one may further wonder if we should be asking for prophets to come on the scene to call the Church back to its holy designation?
The problem is that prophets are never welcomed. They are often eschewed, shunned, mis-labeled, misrepresented, hated, mocked, castigated and lied about. You get the picture. It’s because they challenge the status quo. In the Bible, many prophets were just killed. People do not like what a prophet has to say, even if it is spoken from God.
Many times prophets are just labeled trouble-makers and divisive, which is very interesting. Jesus was a prophet (among other things), and the religious establishment called him a trouble-maker and divisive and then mis-labeled, misrepresented, hated, mocked, castigated, lied about and then killed Him.
It is curious how "the way of Jesus" many times challenges the religious establishment.
Jesus was not afraid to challenge hollow, legalistic religious leaders who were more interested in putting on a good show than producing good deeds or standing up for justice, mercy and faith.
The norm, for followers of Jesus, should be to always question how we are individually and collectively following the way of Jesus. Unless we are always asking questions about what it looks like to embody the Kingdom of Heaven (which always looks like Jesus), we may start looking and acting a lot like the religious establishment of Jesus’ day which we should absolutely guard against.
The question then becomes with so many denominations and differing opinions on what exactly is the most important elements of the Christian faith and doctrine and then subsequently determining how those things are embodied and expressed in our culture (i.e. priority on Sunday service and programs vs. integrating into the world). How do people who are interested in breaking free from a hollow religious establishment and simply following the way of Jesus collectively unite behind and reclaim our divine designation as a holy nation and a royal priesthood and become Jesus to the world?
A beginning point is to realize that Christ is the head of the Church—not church organizations. God does not want a million and one denominations that are in competition with each other for money and "members." He does not want a church of just old people. He does not want a church of just young people. He does not want a church of just white people. He does not want a church of just black people. He does not want a church of just rich people. He does not want just a church of poor people. He does not want "liberal" churches or "conservative" churches. Instead, God wants united followers. He wants a group of broken and different-looking pieces which crafted together make a beautiful composite that is simply called the Church. He wants a holy nation, a sacred priesthood, led by the Holy Spirit embodying and manifesting the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.
But how do we start that process and what does it look like?
Let us know what you think. Sound off in the comment section below the article.