The Cost of Being the Church


A year-long series of weekly essays re-imagining the Reforming Church.  This is not a scholarly effort, crafting neither an ecclesiastical nor a theological system.  Rather, it is simply a futurist’s snapshot –  it is how I imagine the church proceeding forward through the next decades in the tradition of the Reformation.

I have said on several occasions in these essays that it doesn’t cost anything to be the church.  And yet, congregations make decisions that are costly.

Still, I affirm that it doesn’t cost anything to be the church.  Of course, Followers of the Way should expect discipleship to be costly, as Jesus anticipated; but that cost is not necessarily financial.

I admit that I am naive at this point.  And yet, I expect the church to be the church – the Followers of the Way of Jesus Christ, gathering to encourage one another in love and good works, offering praise to God, and pouring their lives out in the name of Jesus Christ for others in their community and the world.  I fail to see what part of that has any financial implication, necessarily.

Consider, is it possible to gather 10 or 12, or 15 or 20 in the home of a Follower of the Way to worship God and to encourage one another in service?  There is a New Testament model for this (Acts 12:12; 16:40; Romans 16:5; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 2).  Of course, Jesus would have been familiar with the Temple cult, which at its highest was beyond elaborate, taxing its supplicants dearly.  But then, there was only one Temple.  Jesus was also familiar with the local Synagogues, which were not nearly as elaborate as the Temple, I don’t expect, and probably they were often quite humble.  Still, I imagine, there was likely only one Synagogue in a village.  The Temple and Synagogues may have been the antecedent location for Followers of the Way to gather.  And as the first Followers of the Way were Jewish, I imagine they probably expected to find a home in the Temple and in their Synagogues (Acts 2:46).  But that was not to be the case, as the new Followers of the Way of Jesus found a place to gather in the homes of those who had space and room, as a gift.

I find it difficult to leave this essay at this point.  Certainly, I’ll be visiting the matter of the cost of being the Church again.  To be sure, the cost of providing a facility is not the only decision congregations the Reforming Church will have to consider.

To the glory of God, there is inspired beauty and creativity which can be described only as priceless.

Intent upon serving faithfully in their communities congregations will find it necessary to pool their resources to serve effectively.

Congregations will find it necessary to call and fund servants who have gone to much effort requiring time and expense to prepare and equip themselves to serve.

But in the Reforming Church, it does not cost anything to be the church in its most basic form.  In the Reforming Church, there is no financial impediment to a few Followers of the Way gathering to praise God, to encourage one another in love and good works, and serving in their local neighborhoods, villages, and cities.

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