When I visit a web site, page, or post that is ministry related, I am thrilled to see the creative ways in which people are organizing and carrying out their perceived gospel-driven mission. I read every word with interest until I get to the point where the organizers post their particular doctrines, creeds, or statements of belief.
Up goes their wall! Click goes my finger! I’m out!
In essence, the organizers are saying, “This is who we’ve become. You cannot be part of our organization unless you think like we think.” This is the outdated trademark of the church – the very reason that people are walking away from the institutional model of organized religion. The organizers don’t realize that their right-believing statements erect tiny, sound-proofed cubicles that exclude many healthy, wonderful, robust, intelligent, reasonable, excited, enthusiastic voices! Therefore, while their organizational efforts might sound, look, and feel fresh and innovative, they are still creating a church of like-minded souls who are willing to commit themselves to doctrines of right believing.
Is this a Jesus thing? Are doctrines, creeds, and statements of belief essential to the gospel message?
No! They are nothing more than dogmatic expressions that serve as stumbling blocks within Christianity! These documents serve as police officers, driving spiritual traffic in a certain direction, while stopping people from choosing their own pathway to God. Such documents mirror the 600+ laws that the scribes and Pharisees added to the Ten Commandments! During his earthly ministry, Jesus stood against this type of cumbersome thinking because the additional laws hindered God’s children. Rather than helping people discover an easy, uninhibited pathway to God, these additional man-made laws intimidated people, causing them to think it was nearly impossible to have a right relationship with God.
Jesus placed himself between the hindered people and Pharisaic rule to give everyone easy and direct access to God. He reduced the Ten Commandments to two summations: love God, love neighbor. Then, he gave his life in defense of that message.
Today, by placing doctrines, creeds, and statements of beliefs between people and their relationship with God, well-intentioned leaders are acting just like the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus day. Such leaders are, in fact, hindering God’s children. Doctrines, creeds, and statements of belief were written to clarify and define Christianity at one point in human history, but the human spirit has out-grown the need for such clarification. In fact, hanging on to these verbal habits will prevent us from moving into the church of tomorrow!
No magic ticket is needed to participate in the work of the church of tomorrow. No special prayer is necessary. No verbal statements are required. No one is obligated to take part in a ‘buy in,’ a contract, a pledge, a waiver, or a disclaimer of any kind. These man-made practices of yesterday have hindered God’s children . . . and we must be willing to let them go!
Moreover, adherence to man-made confessions violates the spiritual gifts of discernment and freewill. These prescribed formulas of belief give people an excuse not to think for themselves. After all, if someone else already figured out the correct way to believe, why not go along with those who have plowed the path. That’s easy and direct access to God, right?
No, it isn’t. It’s just easy and direct access to a path chosen by someone else.
During this intense time of spiritual change, people are waking up to the idea that doctrines, creeds, and statements of beliefs are, in fact, stumbling blocks that are not part of the good news of Jesus. People are no longer willing to obey police officers who try to direct spiritual traffic. People want to navigate their own way to the heart of God. Organizers of the church of tomorrow will honor such desires.
Thoughts along the way,
Carol Wimmer is the author of the acclaimed poem When I say I am a Christian, and three books entitled: The Net—An Organizational Vision for the Church of Tomorrow; The Clock—A Timekeeping Tool for the Church of Tomorrow; and The Key—A Spiritual Language for the Church of Tomorrow