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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Parallels between The Church and Government

I grew up in a Conservative Baptist church.  I went to a Baptist college and Seminary. I studied Baptist History. I know that as Baptists we are to have a separation between The Church and Government.  They don't mix.  They follow different paths.  Separation between Church and State has also had a long history. Yet, the more I have learned about Government (I use the capital G to refer to our Federal Government) the more parallels I see between it and The Church (I use this term to refer to all those who are Christians or the "call out" by God to be his children as the New Testament describes them).  I could focus on only negative aspects and I could write a lot. I could focus on only the positive aspects and still write a lot. I am going to attempt to be fair-minded.  But why do this? Is it necessary? I do this to put those nagging thoughts away that constantly pop up.  It is not necessary but perhaps is helpful for me.  Maybe it is just catharsis for me. Maybe they will help others. Maybe it is a way to see Government and The Church from a different perspective. Ok. Here it goes.

1. Both Government and The Church have their beginning in God. 
Most of us won't deny that The Church is God's idea and not a human invention.  The Church as defined in the New Testament are those who have been redeemed, saved from their sins and called out of the world to live for God.  This community was established by Jesus himself ("I will build my church").  Government, according to the Bible is "ordained" by God.  Here there are some disagreements I’m sure.  Some would hold that not all governments are established by God. All are established to keep order.  I can live with that.  But I will limit this to our government here in the United States.  Our Government is clearly established in the presupposition that we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights (The Declaration of Independence).  So there! The connection is made whether we believe that our Government is "established" by God in the proper sense of the word or not.
The application here is that both the Government and The Church must understand that they don't have any authority except that which is given by God. They are not intrinsically self-existent or have any power unless it is given to them. Yet we see the abuse of power in Government and The Church.  Yes, I know I said the Church.  If I could sit down with you I can give you my personal narrative of how The Church does abuse its power, I would.  It would take hours.

2. Both Government and The Church have a purpose for its existence.
The Government’s purpose is to protect and establish rule of law so that its citizens can live peacefully.  The Church exists to glorify God by proclaiming the Gospel to all nations and make disciples of them.  The application here is that the Government and the Church are not an end in itself.  They exist for a purpose and when they cease to carry the purpose for which they have been called, they lose the authority for which they have been called. I do believe that both the Government and The Church are losing (if not already) their way as to their purpose of their existence. Is the Government focusing on protecting its members’ freedom and well-being? Read the news.  Is The Church making disciples of all nations? Visit one close to you and see for yourself where their emphasis is.

3. Both Government and The Church have officials that are called to serve the community.
  This cannot be denied. Ministers, pastors, deacons, etc... and Government officials are elected (many churches have "elections" by voting and also have appointments made by boards) and some are appointed to serve (the discussion as to ministers being called by God is not necessary since validation is still required by the Church or by a Board of leaders). Who do both serve? They serve its constituents.  The Government provides protection and resources for the people.  The Church (i.e. the officials) serves its members by caring for them and reaching out to the rest of the community.  Today, we see how Government has forgotten its call to serve. To listen to the people. To help the people.  They are doing their own thing. The Church has forgotten that they are called not only to serve each other's needs but its community needs as well. How many churches are blind to their surroundings and don't acknowledge those that live around them.  Many of them exist in neighbourhoods that have completely changed ethnically but are not been reached by the Church.

4. Both Government and The Church have Sacred Documents that serve as their road map.
Our Government has the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as its "sacred" documents.  These documents are the road map for the Nation. The Constitution is the document that serves as the foundation of Government. It outlines its powers and responsibilities.  It is to be carefully read and interpreted. Some believe that it needs to be interpreted in its original intent and it is not meant to be a document that can be changed. Christians have the Bible. It is our road map.  The Bible needs to be interpreted properly as well. Some of us believe it is to be interpreted according to its original meaning and intent and applied carefully.  We believe it is inerrant (a whole topic all by itself). We see how both Government and The Church have changed the meaning of their documents.  Proof? Study up the history of the Separation of Church and State in our government and see how far we have gone from the original intent of the Constitution.  The Church? The meaning of what the Bible says about certain issues have totally being altered. But even Conservative churches are making the Bible say things that it doesn't say (especially those that are very legalistic.  They have rules derived from the Bible to avoid its members from becoming "worldly"). I know I haven't given many specific examples, but do I need to?
There's much more I could say. But the point is made and I feel better. Well, not really. But I've shared it.

P.S. I am currently finishing up a book called "Mere Churchianity" and have found that Michael Spencer who recently passed away had some of the same thoughts I have had for quite some time now. I don't agree with everything of course, but I will write a review later.         
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