In this third and final part of “extreme church makeover”, we will look at how a mainline, conventional church that doesn’t practice community of goods like the church of the apostles (Acts 2:43-44), can be transformed into a church that does practice community of goods like the church of the apostles. Because of my trip to the Jesus Army in the UK – that practices community of goods – in August I have already written a lot recently about sharing everything and explained why it isn’t impossible and why the example of the apostolic church in Jerusalem should be followed rather than ignored. Hence, I won’t go into that in this blog post.
Let us instead discuss the practical part – how can we deliver mainline churches from the claws of mammon so that they practice economic equality instead of inequality? In my previous posts, where I’ve talked about how to make a mainline church evangelize on the streets and how to transform a mainline church into an organic house church, the practical applications have come in the form of bullet points in the end, which honestly is because I felt it necessary to explain why these reforms are needed so that in the end, I didn’t have too much time discussing the practice (I usually don’t want to spend more than one hour on blogging per day).
What I think is important to note when it comes to all of these three reforms, or restorations rather, is that they are indeed entirely possible. That is, I am fully convinced that we could see thousands – millions even – of churches around the world going back to the apostolic structure of mandatory evangelism, organic simplicity and community of goods. Just look at the charismatic movement. 120 years ago, most Protestant churches believed that miraculous gifts had ceased, and very few included healing, prophecy or speaking in tongues at their meetings. Now, this is the standard in millions of Protestant churches around the globe. When the Holy Spirit spreads revival, the church can change very fast.
When it comes to community of goods, what we first need to do is bring people’s attention to the radical economic teaching of Jesus. The Scriptures are clear: Jesus doesn’t want us to be rich, but He wants rich and poor to share everything and thus establish economic equality (Mt 6:19-24, 19:21-32, Lk 6:20-24, 12:33, 14:33, Jn 13:29). And then we of course have the apostles, who practiced communitu of goods and criticized rich people for not living simple (Acts 4:32-35, 1 Tim 6:5-10, Jam 5:1-6). While many rich Christians try to ignore or argue against this, I’m sure that many Christians will realize that this is hos Christians should live when they simply read the Bible instead of just listening to rich preachers.
Then, propose that some people move into the church building to live there in Christian community, sharing possessions. As I wrote in my last blog post I think it would be best if mainline churches sold their buildings and gathered in homes and on public places instead, but many churches will refuse to do this, at least initially, and my biggest problem with church buildings really is that we spend millions on them but let them stay empty a lot of the time. If people sleep in them at night and are there in the day, praising the Lord, helping the poor and serving the church, I’m quite fine with it. The downside is that many church buildings aren’t too practical when it comes to sleeping in them, for example many have the unbiblical practice of having a big hall with a giant roof with hard benches that you can hardly sleep in, but at least it’s something.
Then, propose a common purse, and be the change you want to see in thre wold and share your possessions with some Christian friends for the rest of your life. Invite really poor people and some rich as well into the common purse, and see miracles happen as the poor are no longer poor and rich are no longer rich. Tell your church members that they should be a part of this or other purses, and encourage new community houses to pop up. At the Jesus Army, there are 500 people in over 40 community houses sharing everything in one giant non-literal purse. That’s equality!
And as always, most importantly, pray that God will send a renewal in the church, just like the charismatic renewal, that makes community of goods the norm rather than the exception, and that eradicates both poverty and wealth and establishes true, Christ-like equality.